Finding Beer Beyond Corona & Dos Equis in Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Relaxing on the white sand in front of bathtub-warm turquoise waters, shaded by a palapa, beer in hand sounds ideal. You know what could make it even better? If that beer wasn’t one of the fizzy yellow lagers that Mexico is best known for.

Both Jess and Josh make it no secret that they aren’t huge fans of clear or light lagers. But only Jessica had the opportunity to go down to Cancun (for work – tough job, we know), so it was up to her to do the hands-on beer research in finding the good stuff.

Tulum Swing Bar

With palapa roofs and swings at the bar, the Mayan Riviera’s drinking establishments can’t be beat. And it’s not all yellow and fizzy cerveza. The main alternate styles seem to have a certain taste profile: darker, heavy on the malt, light on the hops, but still easy drinking for the beach. There’s dark/dunkels, Vienna style lagers, and amber lagers.

To find these guys, keep your eyes out for the words:

  • o(b)scura
  • negra
  • ambar

Some of the more easy to find aren’t craft/microbrewed, but they are still unique to Mexico – or at least we’ve never seen the dark malt-bomb of Bohemia Obscura, the Munich-style dunkel Leon, or others up here in Ontario, Canada.

Beyond the Mexican macro. . . where’s to find the craft? Well, we have a few recommendations.

PLAYA DEL CARMEN

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Club de la Cerveza 

5th Ave, between Calles 34 and 38, Playa del Carmen

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Right on Quinta Avenida – or 5th Avenue, PDC’s main tourist drag – Club de la Cerveza is an oasis of casual tables for sipping beer amid the fluorescent lights and thumping bass of the other shops and bars along 5th Ave.

 

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The beer list is a full book, with pages of Mexican microbrews and interesting craft offerings, as well as a good list of imports.

Just a single page of the menu
Just a single page of the beer menu

And the fridge is packed full, some familiar up here, and some delightfully less so.

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Jess wasn’t there for food, but the free popcorn was a bonus!

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Elsewhere in Playa del Carmen

Jessica didn’t get to visit, but she strolled past the delightfully German-looking  Manne’s Biergarten (Calle 4 Norte, between 10th ave and 15th ave) which apparently has a decent selection of Mexican beers beyond the standards, plus German imports. 

 

CANCUN

Casa Tequila

8.5 km Kukulkan Blvd | Next to the Convention CenterCancun

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Since Jess was in Cancun for a conference, she didn’t have much time to escape the hotel zone and head to Ciudad Cancun, so she went on the hunt for a place to get some local beer. Surprise, she found a place right beside the conference centre: Casa Tequila.

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It might be a  touristy place and the food is probably more on the side of what tourists expect over authenticity. But hey, that beer list is pretty decent for central hotel zone, and the food (authentic or not) was good!

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Elsewhere in Cancun

The big grocery store in the Hotel Zone, Selecto Super Chedraui (Blvd. Kukulkan 9) has a pretty large beer selection – craft, imports and macros – so even Josh was able to partake in the batch that Jess brought home.

Jess didn’t make it out to Ciudad Cancun, but heard that Estadio Cerveceria and The Beer Box are also good places to grab a cerveza! Just call ahead for Beer Box, because a lot of the reviews or posts we saw online had people disappointed that they showed up when it was closed.

Carvings at Tulum
Carvings at Tulum

 

Beer Touring in Burlington, Vermont

When people think craft beer, it might be Colorado or Oregon springing to mind. But you might be surprised to learn that it’s Vermont that has the distinction of having the most craft breweries per capita.

Burlington, Vermont, the state’s largest city, is a student town with a hippie vibe. The downtown is extremely walkable, particularly the pedestrian-only Church Street Marketplace, lined with shops and twinkle lights, the big white church steeple overlooking it all. The sun sets over Lake Champlain. And the craft beer culture is hopping.

THE BREWERIES

In a brief trip to Vermont, we visited 10 breweries in and around Burlington. Due to our short timeline, we had to miss some great breweries around the state. But we’ll just have to save them for another trip.  Here are our top 5 of the ones we made it to:

  1. Zero Gravity Craft Brewery, 115 St Paul St, Burlington

Downtown, but hard to spot – it’s inside American Flatbread, a wood-fired pizza restaurant. It has an extensive beer list, inspired by all sorts of Old World styles. There was a special push for IPAs, though there was enough beyond that for the non-IPA-lovers. We went home with a growler of Whole Lotta Lov, a cream stout. And by the way, the pizza is outrageously good.

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Lake Champlain Waterfront in Downtown Burlington, VT
  1. Fiddlehead Brewing, 6305 Shelburne Rd, Shelburne

They had just two brews on tap: their flagship Fiddlehead IPA, and our favourite, Hodad, a porter with chocolate, toasted coconut, and vanilla bean. You can actually taste each flavour in the porter, and we both fell in love with it. We didn’t stop by the attached pizzeria, but it smelled delicious.

  1. Citizen Cider, 316 Pine St, Burlington

A hip little bar with food and a friendly buzz. Jess was in cider heaven, as she’s a fruit fiend. We ended up trucking three ciders home with us: Unified Press (their flagship, quite dry), The Dirty Mayor (a ginger cider, named for the mayor of Fort Ethan Allen), and Americran (a cran-apple).

Growlers from Queen City & Burlington Beer Co.
Growlers from Queen City & Burlington Beer Co.
  1. Burlington Beer Co., 25 Omega Dr, Williston

It’s in the back of a loading dock, with mis-matched couches, ping pong tables, and a bar. And it was overflowing with patrons. We’d hang out there too if we lived nearby! Beer styles – and names – are creative, and it was good stuff. We ended up with Mason Jar Mild (brown ale), Chasing Rabbits (American pale wheat ale), and Barista (coffee porter).

  1. Queen City Brewery, 703B Pine St, Burlington

There’s a pub-style atmosphere where you can see right into the brew works, and a beer list that focuses on English and German styles. We went home with one of their English bitters – 7 Oaks, plus a smoky Rauchbier, and the Munich Dunkel (classic Bavarian-style dark lager).

MORE DRINKING IN BURLINGTON, VT

There’s Drink, an aptly named place on St Paul in downtown Burlington, with excellent cheap pint deals and in-shop infused liquors. Small and simple, but exactly what you’re looking for in a casual bar.

And there’s Three Needs Tap Room’s “Duff Hour” weekdays at 4pm, where they open their doors and there’s $1 pints of some mysterious light beer until the keg is kicked, then $1 pizza slices for an hour. We made sure to be there at 3:50, and stood in line with a bunch of university students, feeling like we were in on a local secret.

EATING IN BURLINGTON

Penny Cluse Cafe was our breakfast winner, using fresh, local ingredients to make themed breakfast plates from across the United States. These ranged from  Cajun (the “Zydeco breakfast”),  huevos rancheros, biscuits and gravy, and New England-style sourdough French toast with Vermont maple syrup

The Farmhouse Tap & Grill was Josh’s favourite dinner spot, with farm-to-table fine dining in a casual setting, and a giant beer list with a comfortable beer garden out back.

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Skinny Pancake was Jess’s winner, a creperie right on the waterfront to satisfy all crepe cravings. Sweet crepes. Savory crepes. All the crepes. Holy crepe!

We were thrilled with how the craft beer culture was so integrated into Vermont society. And we intend to go back as soon as we can, to visit all those breweries we missed!