The Mexicali craft-beer industry is in hot water after a Tuesday, June 30, meeting of the Consejo de Alcoholes de Mexicali: the regional alcohol council's members expressed opposition to issuing new permits to artisanal brewers.
Council coordinator Ramiro Peace Hernández commented that the opening of these establishments represents a public health risk because micro-breweries allegedly do not take appropriate hygienic measures, La Crónica reported.
Other members suggested that increasing Mexicali’s alcohol supply is itself a health risk, in addition to a lack of cohesive policy regarding production, packaging, tastings, and sales of craft brews. However, Irak Nava, organizer of the Mexicali Beer and Music Festival, says he isn’t concerned about the statements.
“The article that La Crónica wrote about the city alcohol council is just a media strategy to get views,” Nava says. “In some ways, it doesn't affect us at all. The movement is alive and running. The thing here is that the council is trying to discredit craft brewers with arguments that make no sense. They don't even take the time or interest to visit brewing companies in their own city.”
Nava calls the argument against an increased supply of alcohol “ridiculous,” alleging that they are motivated by established, multinational beer conglomerates who are concerned about declining sales.
“For them, the craft-beer business is a real threat,” says Nava, whose festivals draw an average of 1500 attendees to city centers quarterly. “[The macro beer companies] have a voice in the city alcohol council. Fortunately, at the same time, there are a lot of people on the local congress who are aware of these reprehensible demonstrations from the council.
"They are also aware that the craft-beer movement is a huge business opportunity for a lot of people, not just brewers, but everyone involved in arts and culture in Baja as well as the people who love all of this, which are not few. They also know that the festivals are an important part of putting Mexicali on the map. It invites an important economic flow into the city and encourages tourism from the rest of Mexico and the U.S.
"Luckily, the legislation supporting craft beer in Mexicali is up and running, and we are not going to stop for a few people with hidden interests.”
In July 2013 the Comisión Federal de Competencia (the federal government’s fair-competition commission) ruled that the macro duopoly breweries, which previously controlled 98 percent of Mexico’s beer market, must reduce their exclusivity contracts to 20 percent of total establishments over the next five years. The ruling was intended to open up the market to craft breweries, which now number around 50 in Mexicali alone and over 90 throughout northern Baja.
(revised 7/3, 10:30 a.m.)