Text by Anabel Manzano “Lupulina”. Anabel has always loved telling stories and one day she discovered that being a journalist was the best job in the world. Along the way, she found a pint of craft beer and merged her two passions at Desde la Barra.
“The ambassadors of the development of beer culture in Mexico are the brewers” – José Eduardo ‘Che Che’ Arce
To understand the beer market in Baja California, the story of José Eduardo Arce is essential. For 12 years, “Che Che” has played a fundamental role in the development of Mexican craft beer, not only in terms of brewing, but also in terms of training and management.
Che Che is a brewer, Certified Cicerone, beer judge, teacher and even organizes international competitions. With Bruer, his brand, he has won over 30 medals since his first participation in 2017 and, along the way, he has taught brewing to more than fifty people. He has also presided over the Ensenada Homebrewers Club and the Ensenada Craft Brewers Association (ACAE).
Solo Amateur Brewer
At the beginning of 2010, Che Che’s trips to San Diego with his group of friends were to try out craft beers. He started with pale ales and Stone Brewing’s IPA. After that, his interest was directly focused on home brewing: he did research on the internet, read books and bought a small kit to put theory into practice, including the book How to Brew by John Palmer.
Che Che became a solo amateur brewer, because for a while, he had no one to exchange information with, “the group that existed at the time was tight-knitted and not really opened and there were very few brewers. When the first Ensenada Beer Fest took place, there were brewers from all over the state, we talked about styles, process, how to better use hops. The community began to develop and I had to teach many friends how to brew beer.”
Professor Che Che
Che is meticulous, perfectionist, and is constantly learning. This year, he obtained the Cicerone Certificate diploma, and in 2023, he will take the third level exam: Cicerone Advance, “I have always thought that education was important in the world of brewing.”
Professor at the Faculty of Gastronomy and Oenology of the Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC), he teaches the principles and tasting of beer, and shares his time at the Baja California Sommelier and Culinary Specialty Center (CESCBC).
A kid named beer
In 2016, Che Che said goodbye to his secure income and bet on beer. “I decided to devote myself to beer. I took a risk because I was really passionate, I told myself that I wanted to live off of it and try to make it a business that gave me the income to devote myself 100% to it. I quit my job with all the doubts and fears of not having enough money for my adult commitments, I had a lot of support from my wife Violeta,” he remembers.
He then had a 55-gallon setup, producing 200 liters per month. Che Che developed a four-year plan to take the brewery to the next level. “If by 2020 I don’t have a bigger equipment and more stable production, I don’t think it’s going to work, I said to myself.”
By the end of 2018, in collaboration with Cardera, they succeeded and Bruer currently produces about 14,000 liters per month (120 BBL). In addition to Lower California, their brand is present in Mexico, Monterrey, Culiacán, Guadalajara and Playa del Carmen.
“Like any entrepreneurship, it’s complicated, you need goals and objectives. Fortunately, we are at a point where we have an accessible product for more customers, the return on capital that we continue to invest in equipment, and by 2023, we will grow by 60 BBL (7,000 liters),” he says.
Bruer shares space with Cardera in the Colectivo Cervecero del Norte (CCN), they share expenses (rent, services), they bought a conservatory together, and each has its own equipment. They also share the tasting room.
Brewers must generate culture
“At first, we buy commercial brands to get drunk, to refresh ourselves. In reality, the ambassadors of the development of beer culture in Mexico are the brewers,” he says.
He emphasized that beyond price, artisanal product consumers pay for the value of the product, and that brewers must establish a sincere link with those who do not drink them yet because they think the products are too bitter or too strong. “There is a market beyond price, otherwise you wouldn’t see breweries developing.”
*Images reproduced with the kind permission of Bruer.