Cervecería Minerva and the Promise of Mexican Craft Brewing

Let's try a game.  I say "Mexican beer" and you say ...?

"Minerva," right?  No?

There is a tiny craft beer movement in Mexico--even "micro" makes it sound bigger than the statistical error it appears to be.  Collectively--collectively!--all the craft brewers in Mexico account for just .008% of all beers sold.  So the fact that I have been able to try three beers from Jalisco's Minerva brewery makes me one of the very special few.  (Follow that link if you want a backgrounder on Mexican beer).

All of which makes my comments on those three beers pretty much useless to you.  You have a better chance of getting your hands on Westvleteren.  Nevertheless, if you're still reading, the idle thought may have crossed your mind: is Mexican craft beer any good?

Minerva is.  It's not amazing, but it's solid.  I've tried Blanca, Rila, and Imperial Tequila Ale, and they all clock in at quite respectable.  The Blanca is apparently a collaboration beer with homebrewers (or other small craft brewers?) and not a part of their regular line-up.  As the name would suggest, it's a witbier, made with coriander, tangerine peel, and star anise.  A pretty nice example, with delicate spicing and a soft, bready base.  Very light at 4.5%, but I imagine that would be just about right under the Jalisco sun.

Rila is a red ale, more in the mode of an Irish beer or, perhaps, an ale-y evocation of Vienna lager.  It has a curious provenance (translation courtesy of the Goog):
Guadalajara's Minerva Brewery, along with the group Collective Bikla Make Beer, launched the first special beer for the cycling community in the country.  RILA is a seasonal product developed jointly by independent brewers and local cycling groups with the aim of promoting beer culture.
The bottle we had was a touch old, so the flavors had gotten slightly oxidized.  Seemed otherwise like a fine if prosaic beer. 

The last one was the most interesting--Imperial Tequila Ale.  It was aged in barrels formerly containing anejo tequila.  Minerva isn't the only brewery to attempt this--Cucapa Brewery was the first to try it with their barley wine.  Unfortunately, it seems tequila offers only subtle character, and I had to really work to detect anything at all (and it may have been my imagination doing the detecting).  An otherwise quite tasty, malt-forward strong ale that stood easily on its own, un-tequiled legs.  It does make me think: might this experiment not work better with a much lighter beer?

The upshot is not so much a review of beers as a review of one brewery's attempt at craft brewing.  If Minerva is at all representative, Mexican craft brewing shows a lot of promise.