Hop Take: Are Mexican-Style Craft Lagers Exploitative?


3 minute Read

Hop Take: Are Mexican-Style Craft Lagers Exploitative?

As Cinco de Mayo approaches, we’re seeing muchos Mexican-style lagers from American craft brewers hitting the shelves. This year’s releases include Good People Muchacho Mexican Style Lager; Full Sail Sesión Negra Mexican Style Lager; Ecliptic Espacio Mexican-Style Lager; and Boulevard ¡Vamos!

Add this to the existing list of Mexican-style lagers that were released last year and earlier: 21st Amendment El Sully; Oskar Blues Beerito; Ska Mexican Logger; Ex Novo The Most Interesting Lager in the World; and a host of others.

We love Mexican-style lagers, but the onslaught of their existence is beginning to beg the question: Are we celebrating or co-opting?

Exploring the brewing traditions of other countries and regions is great. It’s why we have German-style lagers, Czech-style pilsners, Belgian-style everything, and even the much-beloved, British-originating IPA. But making a lager and calling it Mexican because May 5 is around the corner — which, by the way, is not a holiday in Mexico — is no bueno.

Part of me thinks this is more of a media problem than anything else. We journalists like to have timely pegs for our coverage, and what better time to explore Mexican and Mexican-style lagers than a Mexican-seeming holiday?

What gets problematic, though, is when writers, readers, and drinkers ignore the origins of a cool phenomenon (e.g., Mexico’s brewing traditions) for clicks — or in brewers’ cases, sips — or self-promotion. We don’t have to American-splain why Mexican lagers have nothing to do with the Fifth of May. If you want to drink one on that day, go for it. They’re tasty and refreshing! If you think American brewers should be more careful about trying their hands at Mexican brewing styles, don’t buy their beer. Or, ask them about it — chances are there’s a story behind the beer that you don’t know about.

Let’s enjoy our beer and our differences respectfully, on Cinco de Mayo and always.

Craft Brewers Conference Says Brewery Closures a ‘Complex Story’

This week marked the Brewers Association’s 35th annual Craft Brewers Conference (CBC), held April 30 through May 3 in Nashville. At a press conference on Wednesday, organizers sited 14,000 attendees, 726 exhibitors, and the largest World Beer Cup to date.

According to the BA, this year’s top accomplishments included the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, which lowers the federal excise tax for breweries, wineries, and distillers. Craft beer grew overall, too, with a record 997 brewery openings. And 3,367 small and independent breweries adopted the BA’s Independent Craft Brewer seal.

The CBC press conference also covered several issues the craft brewing industry is facing, such as the growing number of brewery closures. Last year 165 breweries shuttered, comprising 2.6 percent of the industry.

“We’re in a place to provide resources to help [breweries] make their business decisions, and we do that in a lot of ways” Bart Watson, the BA’s chief economist, said during the conference, “ But every brewery is going to need to find their own strategy.”

Watson referred to the increased number of brewery closings as a “complex story.” The culprit, he suggested, is increasing competition and decreasing category growth. Still, he described the category as “healthy.”

Paul Gatza, BA director, added that the organization is “seeing more taprooms being attached to regional breweries,” which can help them stay afloat as taproom and draft sales have become increasingly significant for breweries.

Like Watson said, we’re in a complex time for craft beer. We have more breweries than ever — more than 6,300 at last count, according to Pease — and more beer styles than anyone 20 years ago could have imagined. As Pease also pointed out, the BA is continuously working to make legal and cultural strides to promote and protect the craft beer industry.

It may seem like breweries are opening every minute, and beer styles are invented every day, but industries don’t change overnight. The real challenge will be consumer-facing: Converting more drinkers to beer and, even harder, to independent beer. I think we’re all trying very hard to make that happen, but the numbers don’t lie. We still have a long way to go.

New Realm Brewing Takes Over Former Green Flash Virginia Beach Location

We may see some regional brewers suffering, but others have money to blow, er, grow. The former Green Flash Brewing facility in Virginia Beach has been passed on to New Realm Brewing, which won an auction for the equipment three weeks ago. New Realm, based in Atlanta, will resume production and reopen the taproom “as soon as it receives the required licenses and permits,” Brewbound reports.

“When the opportunity came up to partner with The Miller Group to lease the Virginia Beach facility, purchase newer, high-quality brewing equipment at a great value and create jobs in Virginia Beach, we knew we needed to seize it,” Carey Falcone, New Realm CEO and co-founder, said in a press release.

In these trying times for craft beer, as brewers like Green Flash shut down overextended locations and pull back their sales forces, let’s not forget there are still some brewers with significant financial backing. And now, as always, money talks.

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