Back in January, several of Cigar City Brewing’s Production and Marketing team members visited Querétaro, Mexico to brew a special collaboration with Compañia Cervecera Hércules, one of the leading craft breweries in Mexico. Under the guidance of Head Brewer (and former CCB employee) Josh Brengle, Hércules has been producing world-class beers that are gaining notoriety throughout the international craft beer community. We were honored not only to brew with our friends in Querétaro, but to be treated to the cuisine, culture, and history that makes Mexico one of our favorite places in the world.
As brewery locations go, you can’t get much more historic and beguiling than Hércules. Dating back to the 1840’s, la fábrica de Hércules employed hundreds of textile workers and sparked the growth of an entire community around the factory. The facility is enormous, and its history is tangible: masonry from a church dating back to the 1600’s is visible, hundred-year-old cartouches rest above doorways, and historic textile equipment can be found at every turn. Automation and globalization caught up with the factory in the 20th century and much of the factory’s activities slowed in the early 2000’s when new ownership reimagined the facility as a mixed-use space that could house artisans, makers, chefs and, naturally, brewers. The factory is now home to several kitchens, a coffee shop, retail stores, and one of the coolest beer gardens you’ve ever seen. More development is in the works, including a boutique hotel that will inhabit the residential buildings that once hosted visiting politicians and dignitaries. We were lucky enough to stay in these residential buildings during our visit and were guarded by an enormous statue of Hercules himself flanked by two lions.
It’s within this historic and picturesque setting that Cigar City Brewing and Compañia Cervecera Hércules brewed an ambitious collaboration using wood, mixed cultures, and ingenuity. Hidden throughout la fábrica are several barrel-aging locations where stouts, strong ales, and several mixed-culture golden ales are aging peacefully, slowly developing character from wood and the previous residents of the barrels. CCB’s Director of Brewing Operations, Sean Sasscer, and Hércules’ Head Brewer, Josh Brengle, pulled nails and sampled over a dozen different mixed culture barrels to try and find the right combination of flavor, aroma, and attenuation contributed by several different types of brettanoymces and wild saccharomyces yeasts. These yeasts work slowly and methodically over time to create complex and rustic flavors often found in the finest wild ales of Belgium and beyond. Though this collaboration will spend at least two years in a foeder deep inside la fábrica de Hércules, we’re looking forward to future trips to Querétaro to monitor the beer’s progress.
To celebrate the collaboration, the folks at Hércules arranged Cigar City Brewing’s first ever tap takeover in Mexico, featuring CCB staples like Jai Alai IPA and Florida Man Double IPA, alongside rarities like Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout and Kulich, a collaboration stout with Russia’s AF Brewing. As if this premier event weren’t enough, Hércules arranged for the tap takeover to take place alongside one of Mexico’s most revered cultural traditions: lucha libre wrestling. Since the early 1900’s, Mexicans have embraced their own interpretation of professional wrestling, one which celebrates colorful masks, acrobatic maneuvers and a rapid pace not seen in other wrestling traditions. Not content with an amateur fly-by-night show, Hércules was able to secure a full bill of top ranked luchadores including Huracán Ramírez and Jaque Mate, two names synonymous with Mexican wrestling tradition. Naturally, several of Compañia Cervecera Hércules’ phenomenal beers were served to complement the entertainment. Picture a world-class beer event held inside a venue dating back to the 1850’s while two of the world’s finest wrestlers go at it and you’ll have a rough idea of how incredible this event was.
Keep an eye out for updates on this collaboration and be sure to check out Compañia Cervecera Hércules’ social media for more information on this amazing brewery.