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Craft Beer Crawl in Cancun

Craft Beer Crawl in Cancun

It used to be that a trip to Cancun, Mexico meant tequila shots and buckets of Corona beer.  Now, the new flavor on Mexico’s Caribbean coast is all about the country’s flourishing craft beer scene. From brewpubs to tasting events at all inclusive resorts, here are some top spots in Cancun and the Riviera Maya to sample Mexican craft beer.

Mexico’s beer revolution

Although Mexico has long been a nation of beer lovers–its tradition of beer making dates back to 1542 when Emperor Carlos V of Spain granted a permit to Don Alfonso de Herrera to establish a cerveceria in the Americas–in modern times, giant producers have dominated the beer industry. Big labels such as Modelo, Sol and Victoria have become synonymous with good times. Although brewery giants still dominate the market, there’s growing interest in small-batch, craft beer.

Why the interest in artisanal beer? One of the reasons for its growing popularity is diversity of taste. In Quintana Roo, microbreweries are tapping into Yucatan’s vast network of limestone-filtered underground water to help create the signature pure tastes of their artisanal beers. Others are enhancing the flavors of traditional ingredients such as malted barley, hops and yeast by adding locally-sourced fruit, spices and flowers.

Cervezeria Minerva, one of the leaders in Mexico’s beer revolution, drew inspiration from its location in Guadalajara, Jalisco, to develop the unique character of their artisanal beers. In addition to their award-winning English-style Pale Ale, they crafted an Imperial Tequila Ale that was aged in oak barrels formerly used for aging anejo tequila. The robust, amber beer offers a subtle hint of agave, an inventive twist welcomed by beer aficionados.

Where to find Mexican craft beer

Around Cancun and the Riviera Maya, craft beer fans can explore small-batch producers such as the Independent Brewing Co. and Mundo Maya Brewing Company. Mundo Maya’s flagship beer The Warrior is an English style Indian Pale Ale infused with fruit juice, which adds refreshing citrusy notes to its malt base. You can try it on tap at the Club de Cerveza (World Beer Club) on Playa del Carmen’s popular 5th Avenue. To help guide your palate, Club de Cerveza’s handy beer menu features tasting notes on its 75 international beers and ever-evolving selection of Mexican cervezas artesanales.

Increasingly, you don’t even have to leave your beach lounger to try one of the new craft beers. A growing number of resorts on the Riviera Maya now offer artisanal beer on their menus. Both the Viceroy Riviera Maya and Rosewood Mayakoba often carry Bocanegra, a microbrewery in Monterrey, Mexico that produces the easy-drinking Bocanegra Pilsner and Bocanegra Dunkel, an earthy dunkelweizen style brew. Although craft beer is not typically a part of the all inclusive vacation package, increasing consumer demand and availability will lead higher end resorts to add this option.

Craft beer fans will also be happy to learn that the tiny island of Isla Mujeres, a short ferry ride from the mainland, will soon be home to a permanent microbrewery. The Isla Brewing Company is putting the finishing touches on its new brewery and will offer a starting line-up of European-style Ales such as Sleepy Iguana, a Caribbean pale ale, in Spring 2015.

Or, you can take a cue from the locals and head to The Beer Box located on Avenida Nichupte in downtown Cancun, 25 minutes from the Hotel Zone. Here, you can look for Tempus, a traditional-style German altbier brewed by Primus Brewery of Mexico City, as well as Cucapá (from Mexicali) and 7 Barrios, a craft beer from San Luis Potosi. Also worth scouting out is Teufel, Oaxaca’s first nano-brewery. Their line of award-winning beers include Babalao, a medium-bodied ale featuring malted blue corn and Chica Mala, an Imperial Red Ale featuring the fragrant aroma of rosita de cacao, an ingredient more often seen in the chocolate-maize drink known as tejate.

Beer on tap at Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival

The spotlight will also shine on hops during the Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival, Mexico’s acclaimed culinary celebration. The four-day mid-March festival (March 12-15, 2015) features 35 chefs and 50 wineries during its program of interactive seminars, tastings and networking parties with culinary superstars such as Juan Mari Arzak, Daniel Boulud, Enrique Olvera and Ferran Adrià. Serious foodies should check out the Gourmet Tasting Village, an afternoon event held at Moon Palace Golf and Spa Resort where participants can sample inventive dishes from top restaurants and enjoy wine pairings, artisanal mezcal and Mexican craft beer. In 2015, the tasting village will feature beer by the Maya Brewing Company and Cerveceria Real, both crafted in Quintana Roo.