The Story of Mexican Beer

The Spaniards were the first to introduce barley and wheat based beers to Mexico although production was limited in the early days, in part due to the lack of available grains.

The first official concession to brew European-style beers was issued by the Spanish authorities in the middle of the 16th century; however, despite the brewers’ attempts to expand the business by growing more crops locally to increase the supply of barley at a lower price, heavy regulation and high taxation imposed by Spain on locally-produced beers and wines stymied the industry’s growth.

After Mexico’s War of Independence saw-off the European regulators and their taxes, beer production began to flourish in Mexico. During the latter part of the 19th century, an influx of German immigrants brought additional knowledge and expertise to the field which caused the local market to diversify and improve its products.

By the turn of the 20th century, beer had become big business in Mexico, helped also by prohibition in the United States at that time, which gave rise to a brisk and profitable trade of beer and other alcoholic beverages along Mexico’s border towns and cities.

By the time the Mexican Revolution was over, there were more than thirty-five breweries operating in Mexico.

Consolidation of the industry began in the early 1920’s and kick-started a process that brought about the beer market we see here today. During the period of consolidation, smaller breweries were absorbed into the one of the “big-two” breweries, Grupo Modelo and Cerveceria Cuautehmoc-Moctezuma, which emerged as the dominant players of the Mexican beer market.

Successful beers were mass-produced and distributed regionally or nationally, and less successful beers disappeared from the market altogether. Smaller breweries that were not bought-out were forced to close as they could not compete with the economies-of-scale brought about through consolidation.

Between them, Grupo Modelo and Cerveceria Cuautehmoc-Moctezuma now control over 90% of the Mexican beer market, with annual domestic sales totaling some 6 billion US dollars—exports add around 1.2 billion US dollars to the total.

The majority of beers sold today in Mexico are lagers, pilsners, Vienna-style light and dark beers, as well as Munich dark beers. A small number of local micro breweries produce a limited range of ales, sold in niche markets.

Beer in Mexico is served cold, or taken as a Michelada: beer with lime juice, or lime juice mixed with a variety of spicy sauces like Worcester, chili, or soy sauce.

The beverage is still regularly supplied using returnable bottles, although disposable cans and bottles are becoming increasingly common. If you are visiting Mexico and purchasing beer from a local store, choose the disposable bottles which don’t require a deposit and can be recycled after use.

When you’re living in Mexico, it’s worth building up a supply of returnable bottles which you can take back to the store when you want refills. Building up a rapport with your local store keeper might earn you the privilege of being able to take beer bottles without paying a deposit, as the store keeper trusts that you will return the bottles and, presumably, buy more beer from that store.

Most beer bottle sizes are 325ml, although some brands of beer are also available in larger 925ml, 940ml and full 1-liter sizes. In Mexican slang Spanish, the larger bottles are called to as caguamas (sea turtles) or if you’re in north-eastern Mexico you might hear them referred to as ballenas (whales); in Mazatlan, ballenas refer specifically to the Pacifico brand of beer sold in the larger-sized bottles.

For a detailed guide, further information and a summary of the principal beer brands sold here, read the Guide to Beers in Mexico.

June construction up in Portugal

Construction sector output in June fell 0.5 percent in the Eurozone and 0.2 percent in the European Union as a whole, while output in Portugal rose 0.6 percent, figures released by the EU’s statistics office, Eurostat, show.

Construction output was up 3.4 percent from June of last year in the Eurozone and 3.6 percent in the EU as a whole; in Portugal it was up 3.1 percent.
According to Eurostat, the largest month-on-month drops in output were in Germany, down 1.0 percent, with Belgium and France, both down 0.7 percent. The largest increases were in Slovenia, up 12.1 percent, with Spain and Slovakia, both up 2.2 percent.

According to Eurostat, the largest month-on-month drops in output were in Germany, down 1.0 percent, with Belgium and France, both down 0.7 percent. The largest increases were in Slovenia, up 12.1 percent, with Spain and Slovakia, both up 2.2 percent.
Hungary enjoyed the largest year-on-year increase in output, at 27.2 percent, followed by Slovenia, with 21.2 percent. Romania and Slovakia suffered decreases, at 6.3 percent and 0.5 percent respectively.

Hungary enjoyed the largest year-on-year increase in output, at 27.2 percent, followed by Slovenia, with 21.2 percent. Romania and Slovakia suffered decreases, at 6.3 percent and 0.5 percent respectively.

The Roman Occupation of Portugal and Conimbriga

The modern name of Portugal was not used until the 11th cen­tury.

The names in italics are the ones that were used at the time of the Roman Empire.

In 210BC the Romans entered the southern Iberian peninsula and quickly subdued the Mediterranean coast and the south of Spain and Portugal. In the central Iberian region they met great re­sistance and in 193BC the Lusitani rose up in arms. Based in central Portugal between the Tejo and the Lima rivers the Lusitani were known to the Romans as ‘Strabo’ “the most powerful of the Ibe­rian peoples, who resisted the armies of Rome for the longest period”. Under the rebel leader Viriato, possibly born in the area of Loriga in the Serra d’Estrela, they held up the Roman advance for 50 years, only finally losing in 139BC.

In 60BC Julius Caeser established his capital at Olisipo (Lisbon) and then built significant settlement at Ebora (Évora), Scallibis (Santarém) and Pax Julia (Beja).

Under the Emperor Augustus the Iberian provinces were reorganised in 27BC, with everything but the north of Portugal governed as Lusitánia. The Minho area formed part of another province which was added to northern Spain to become Gallaecia, with an important regional centre at Bracara Augusta (Braga).

The Roman influence was greatest in the south, where they established huge agricultural estates ‘litifundia’ (many of which survive today in the Alentejo).They introduced wheat, olives, barley and of course vines, to Portugal. The Romans ruled for 6 centuries under the emperors Tiberius, Trajar, Hadrian (he of the famous wall in the UK) and Diodetian. They have left many roads and bridges which are still in use today, 2000 years later. The Portuguese lan­guage is heavily based on Latin, which was the language of Rome, and one of the biggest influences that survives to­day from the Roman Empire, through­out southern Europe.

Conimbriga is one of the largest Roman settlements in Portugal and is classified as a National Monument. It lies 16km south of Coimbra and is well signposted from the main road. The site has a mu­seum that displays objects found by ar­chaeologists, including coins and surgi­cal tools, and you can walk around the site virtually unrestricted.

Excavations were first recorded in 1899 but real systematic excavation work started in 1936 and is on-going. In the museum shop they sell an excellent book ‘Guide to the Ruins’ (available in English) which you should get before you tour the site.

The name Conimbriga derives from an early, possibly pre-Indo-European ele­ment ‘conim’ meaning “rocky height or outcrop” and the Celtic ‘briga’, signifying a defended place. It was first conquered in 137BC by Decimus Julius Brutus and remodelled in the Roman style by Au­gustus.
Although Conimbriga was not the larg­est Roman city in Portugal, it is the best preserved. The city walls are largely in­tact, and the mosaic floors and founda­tions of many houses and public build­ings remain. In the baths, you can view the network of stone heating ducts be­neath the now-missing floors.

Like many museums in Portugal there is a small entry fee but on Sundays and Public Holidays it is free. There is a café/restaurant in the museum where you can sit on the balcony overlooking the ruins, and a small gift shop.

Other roman sites in Central Portu­gal include The Rabaçal Roman Villae, which was situated close to the Roman Way that connected Olisipo to Bracara Augusta, on the road between Sellium (Tomar) and Conímbriga. Here there are some excellent mosaics displaying dol­phins, ivy leaves, the seasons, and more. The ruins are open Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm but closed between 1pm and 2pm for lunch. In order to visit the ruins you must first visit the museum. The collections here came from the ex­cavations that have been carried out since 1984 in the Roman Villae and in the farm, both dating from the 4th cen­tury A.D. There are displays of ceram­ics, metals, glass and wall decorations made of marble.

At Santiago da Guarda, North West of Ansiao, it is also possible to see pre­served roman remains and mosaics, in a museum in the centre of the town. Here part of the visitor centre has glass floors and viewing areas to allow you to get the best views of the excavations.
At Bobadela north of Coimbra there is also a Roman Arch in the town along with numerous other pillars and fea­tures and Amphitheatre in the church grounds.

The decline of the Roman occupation of Portugal echoed its decline throughout Europe. The Roman Empire was already disintegrating when the first Christians landed on the southern shores of ‘Lusi­tania’ around 200AD.

In the early 5th century Lusitania was attacked and occupied by the Suevi and the Visigoths (Germanic peoples), and in 410 Rome was sacked by the Visig­oths led by Alaric I.