It can feel like there’s little point waxing lyrical about Mexico City these days, given that it's become North America’s latest long weekend destination du jour. However, there is one aspect of the city’s food and drink scene that’s worth a thousand words or so, one that visitors tend to overlook in favor of tacos and mezcal: craft beer.
Despite craft beer currently making up just 0.1% of the market, the number of registered breweries in Mexico has skyrocketed in recent years. In few places is that more apparent than Mexico City. Now, you can barely walk a block in La Roma without stumbling across an artisanal watering hole, decked out in communal biergarten picnic benches and pegboard tap lists. And if you didn’t know where to look—namely, past the bearded, leather jacket-wearing men—it would be easy to think of Mexico City’s brewing industry as a man’s world.
Adelitas, a women-led beer collective, is set to change that. Established in 2018, the now 90-strong, country-wide collective is pushing to make visible the work of women within the industry, from those on the taproom floor to the marketers, brewers and founders. Meanwhile, in 2021, Mexico City will host the 2nd International Meeting of Women Brewers in Latin America, but in the meantime, here are six women-led breweries to keep an eye on.
Cervecería Dos Mundos
Cervecería Dos Mundos (“Two Worlds Brewery”) does what it says on the tin, brewing British-style beers—including a trio of porter, red ale, and pale ale—with a Mexican touch. It also pays tribute to the British-Mexican co-founder couple Caroline King and David Meza.
Unlike most Mexico City brewpubs, Dos Mundos is situated in Iztapalapa, a neighborhood that most outsiders probably can’t even pronounce, let alone point out on a map. There, in and among vast factories, a discreet door offers access to a bright and airy taproom where the beers go for less than $3 a glass. Launched in 2019, it’s early days for the taproom, but the brewery has been working to establish itself since 2014.
“It was just something fun that David and I wanted to do together as a couple really,” King tells me of their homebrewing beginnings back in 2012. And what they wanted was to make balanced English-style beers, they type that were “not overly hoppy, not overly alcoholic.” Appropriately then, their 5.4% ABV Inframundo porter is all too easy to drink and will surely appeal to a country of drinkers broadly unaccustomed to beers that go beyond light (clara) and dark (obscura), while the fresh pale ale combines British malt and American hops. “You can enjoy a few of them, as if you were in a pub,” says King.
Talking to Lucía Carrillo, the animated co-founder and brewer of Cervecería Itañeñe, feels like chatting with the beer world’s equivalent to Willy Wonka. She finds the biochemistry of fermented drinks “awesome,” advocates for a pint over an electrolyte drink any day, and toyed with studying to become a sommelier (“wine’s great and I love it but it’s just grapes and yeast”) before accepting that she was crazy about the complexity of beer. “Everything about the history of beer, how it was created, the theme of women [in beer], the fact it was a means of sustenance … everything just fit for me.”
Since brewing her first beer in 2011, Carrillo has been infusing her beers with ever more unusual flavor profiles, but it was the official inauguration of Cervecería Itañeñe two years ago that really allowed her to indulge her beer-making “madness.” Alongside her chef co-founder, Carrillo (who has a degree in food engineering and is also a qualified beer judge) has made special edition beers their “thing,” she tells me.
Memorable names (like Pink is the New Black) and bizarre-at-first-glance combinations (like cassis and lemon verbena) mark Cervecería Itañeñe’s smorgasbord of beers. Most recently, they collaborated with Cervecería Colorado on a limited edition rosita de cacao beer and they hope to continue experimenting with regional ingredients. And if Carrillo has her way, Cervecería Itañeñe might even look to produce a taco beer in the near future.
Casa Cervecera Madrina
Eavesdropping on the owners of a Patagonian bar first opened up Antonieta “Tony” Carreón to the idea of making beer her business. “Listening to that conversation was the point at which I said ‘wow’, beer could become my job,” the psychologist-by-trade tells me.
But after six years in Buenos Aires, it was at the family home in Mexico City where she first began brewing, fermenting batches in the chimney breast. (“It was the only place warm enough,” her mother tells me.) Now she produces Casa Cervecera Madrina’s four-strong range of year-round beers (including the signature Coco Stout, a dark chocolatey beer with a hint of coconut) right across the Mexico City border, in Huixquilucan, the State of Mexico.
“When I started [in 2015], there were really very few brewers, at least here in Mexico City,” says Carreón, adding that she was probably the first woman to be both sole owner and brewer of a cervecería in the capital. Carreón is also one of the founding members of the Adelitas beer collective and, contrary to what you might think, believes being a woman in a male-dominated industry gives her an edge. “There aren’t many of us [women] so people are surprised, and they seek you out to learn the brewery’s backstory.”
And that female-forward name? “I love that the word [Madrina] lends itself to a double meaning. ‘Madrina’ like godmother, but also madrina de golpes (‘hell of a beating’).”
“Beer is a genderless product,” says Elizabeth Rosas, co-founder of Cervecería Calavera and head of branding and marketing. “[But] there’s still this concept that beer is something made by men, for men … an idea that’s been very difficult to try and eliminate.”
Eleven years ago, Rosas and her husband Gilbert Nielsen were living in Copenhagen when they decided it was time to upend both of their careers, move back to Mexico City and turn their craft brewing hobby into a legitimate craft brewery. At the time, Rosas tells me, Mexico City’s craft beer industry was in its infancy and Cervecería Calavera was able to get in at the ground. Now, it’s considered one of the country’s craft brewing pioneers.
And despite Rosas’ Norwegian husband overseeing the brewing, everything from Cervecería Calavera’s name to the flavors of its nearly double-digit selection of beers finds influence in Mexican culture. The name Calavera (skull) “speaks to transition, change, new things,” Rosas explains, while their special edition beers take seasonal cues: La Ofrenda, a Day of the Dead special brewed with sugar skulls, pumpkin, and cinnamon; hoja santa-infused Sanctum; and the Christmastime Yule, inspired by the flavors of ponche. Aside from limited edition beers, Calavera also has a half-dozen year-round brews, including Mexican Imperial Stout. At 9% ABV, it’s likely heavier than most Mexican beer drinkers are used to, but it’s their bestseller.
After moving from her home state of Hidalgo in search of work, Estrella Flores (a food chemistry graduate) started out at Mexico City brewpub La Graciela. “Something really funny is that all the job requirements seemed made for me [at La Graciela],” Flores explains. “The only one that I didn’t fulfill was that they were looking for a man.” Now, at just 30 years old and with six years of brewing experience behind her, Flores is one of the most experienced women on the capital’s craft beer scene. And, since late 2018, she’s one of the few with her own Mexico City taproom-slash-brewery, La Metropolitana Cervecera.
Technically named for its location within the Metropolitan Zone of Mexico City—more specifically, at the upper reaches of the Narvarte neighborhood—La Metropolitana also takes inspiration from the institution that is the Mexico City Metro. Take Metro Obrera (obrera means “worker”), an English Porter that the name of which pays homage to the style’s working-class roots. Others are gifted metro monikers based on their color, although sometimes inspiration fails to strike, Flores says. and “so I’m like, ‘Right, tell me a metro station, please!’”
Jessica Martínez has been immersed in the beer world since 2007. “If I like something then I get really involved and really obsessed … And with beer that’s exactly what happened.” Since then, she’s given regular tasting workshops, become a certified beer judge, and helped grow the Adelitas beer collective.
It would take her seven more years to launch her own microbrewery, though. Cervecería Malteza is the very definition of a passion project. “What I wanted was to make beer to understand the processes. I didn’t want to sell beer,” says Martínez. But it wasn’t long after winning an amateur brewer’s competition on her first attempt (a strong Scotch ale called Brownie, now named Morrigan) that she began to do just that. While she also makes one-offs and collaborations—Martínez was also part of the brewing team behind Adela, the Adelitas’ special edition American Pale Ale spiked with habanero chili and chocolate—it’s Morrigan née Brownie, a sweet and almost nutty wee heavy, that remains her standalone signature.
But Martínez, who has been subject to a flow of harassment and mansplaining over the years—“people are really surprised when they realize I’m the brewer”—is averse to the idea that she should get ahead simply for being a woman. “Seek out beer from men or from women. The important thing is that it’s good.”