I really love good beer. Although living in Mexico can be exciting beer-wise because the craft beer scene here is just starting to blossom, it’s also a little harder to find a good selection at your local store. So when an ad for Puebla Beer Fest popped up on Facebook (good job Facebook advertisers), I knew I had to go. I had also never been to Puebla (outside of the bus station) so it was a great opportunity to kill two birds with one stone so to speak. So we bought our tickets to the festival, booked an Airbnb and head out on Saturday morning. It’s only about a two hour drive from Mexico City so totally manageable for a weekend trip. When we got to Puebla we went to our Airbnb, a pleasant roof terrace apartment that was above the main house with a separate entrance. We should’ve been able to see the volcano clearly from the terrace but the air pollution in Puebla (along with the traffic) has worsened in recent years to make it almost on par with CDMX, much to the dismay of the poblanos. Besides the limited visibility, the day was beautiful and sunny so we decided to walk to the beer fest. Puebla has two main tourist areas, the downtown area and a newly built-up area featuring a giant ferris wheel (la Estrella de Puebla) and a mall , Angelópolis. This area was also where the Beer Fest was and very close to our Airbnb. Despite the short distance, this area of Puebla is definitely not designed for walking. There was a river between us and the Estrella so we had to walk around to where there was a bridge for the main road and navigate the dusty sides of the road with the sun beating down on us as cars zoomed by. As soon as we got closeer though a pedestrian walkway lined with trees and shaded picnic tables led us toward the Estrella.
We had heard that the ferris wheel is really slow so we decided to skip going for a ride and just took a few touristy pictures before heading into the beer fest which was right in front in an open grassy area. There were lots and lots of white pointed tents with an area in the middle with a stage for music. Our first stop of the day was at Cervecería Calavera, a CDMX brewery. I had tried their American Pale Ale before which was quite tasty so this time I opted for their Breakfast IPA, Morning Star, which was appropriate because I hadn’t eaten much of a breakfast. I had never heard of a Breakfast IPA before and it made me think of a thick bready sort of beer but that was definitely not the case, it was an IPA light on the hops but with the sort of refreshingly floral taste that you get with IPAs. After our liquid breakfast we went searching for a solid one, intrigued by a handout we had gotten at the entrance for a choripan stand. Choripan is a Argentinian chorizo sandwich which you can heap high with chimichurri – yum. Before we found the choripan however, we found Eurosalchicas, selling German and Polish sausage sandwiches and beer. Despite being an almost vegetarian, I do love a good Eastern European sausage so we decided to split one and picked a Polish beer to accompany it. We chatted awhile with the proprietor of the stand, who was also Polish, about my Polish ancestry and how the only words in Polish I know are pierogi and kielbasa, which also happen to be delicious foods. He thought I should go to Poland to visit my roots which I have always wanted to do, Nick and Ally, let’s go! Apparently he goes to lots of events in Mexico City and is opening a restaurant soon so we’ll see if we meet again! I did really enjoy the polish beer and thought about putting it into Untappd but as the label was entirely in Polish I had no idea where to start.
We tried a Pale Ale from Cervecería Cholula which was also quite tasty before finding the choripan place we were originally looking for. Since half of a sausage was not a sufficient meal for Germán we got a choripan which they topped with provolone cheese and was probably one of the yummiest I’ve had (though to be fair the only time I eat choripan normally is before the Puma’s soccer games outside of the stadium so I may not be the best judge). They had also created their own beer for this event and were donating the proceeds to rebuilding someone’s house that had fallen in the earthquake so we were happy to help (I love chelas con causa). We passed through a few more stands, trying to pick beers with lower alcohol percentages as the first two we had had were about 7% and we needed to pace ourselves for the rest of the afternoon. We tried a new wheat beer from Bocanegra, one of the only commercial microbreweries in Mexico. It hasn’t been publicly released yet so it was fun to get a sneak peak. As we were strolling past more stands, I heard someone yell out in English, “Hey I like your shirt!” I was wearing a New Belgium Shift t-shirt since it seemed appropriate to wear a beer shirt to the beer fest plus I miss CO craft beer. Turns out the brewer at Three Dog Brewing is a fellow gringo who lived in Colorado for a bit when New Belgium was much smaller. And totally fitting for a fellow New Belgium fan, he had a sour beer!! It was the first Mexican sour beer I’ve tried and it was delicious! Their brewery is in Cholula, right outside of Puebla and are still a pretty small set up but sell their beer at Jazzatlan, a jazz club/brew club. When we get around to visiting Cholula we’ll definitely check it out. The brewer and his Mexican wife (the reverse of Germán and I) were super pleasant and what they lack in branding/design they make up in passion for brewing. Later, as we sat in the Cucapa space, the main sponsor for the event and a big microbrewery for Mexico, the sun sank and we got some relief from the hot sun.
We made it to two of my favorite places as the night set in. Utopia Microcervecería is based in Oaxaca and is a new brewery started by two friends. You can tell that one of them is a designer because their logo/branding is on point. After a whole afternoon of drinking beer, their Pura Frescura Australian Sparkling Ale (what does that even mean??) was refreshingly delicious. I feel like they have big things coming their way so I’ll be keeping my eye out for them.
Finally, we passed by Cerveza Insurgentes, a Tijuana brewery that makes probably my favorite Mexican beer, La Lupulosa. Lúpulo means hops in Spanish and this IPA delivers on all the hoppy goodness that I love so much. They were also the only brewery that had schwag which I consider a totally necessary part of any insert whatever food or product is being featured fest. After making the rounds of the whole festival we decided to call it a day and instead of heading downtown to go get more drinks and food, we decided to see Lady Bird at the movie theater right there then headed to our Airbnb to rest after a day of beer and sun.
Our plan for Sunday was to wander around downtown and see what there was to see then head back to Mexico City in the evening. We went downtown for breakfast and went into El Mural de los Poblanos on recommendation of our Uber driver but we found the atmosphere quite stuffy and pretentious so when they told us they were no longer serving breakfast (we had slept in a little bit that morning) we left to try something else. There was a small cute place down the street that turned out to be really nice and we both got a Puebla breakfast with tortillas, refried beans and eggs smothered in poblano mole. Then we went to the Zócalo, the main plaza surrounded by the cathedral and other colonial style buildings. I happen to love the feeling of all Mexican plazas but this one was especially nice with the colorful ornate buildings surrounding it.
The site I was most excited for in Puebla was the Biblioteca Palafoxiana, the oldest public library in the Americas located inside of the Casa de la Cultura. It was a little confusing to find it and we stumbled upon a folk dance performance at the entrance of the Casa de la Cultura but at the top of the stairs in a corner of the central courtyard is the ornately carved wood entrance to the library. It is remarkably well preserved and reminded me of some of the old libraries in Spain (not surprisingly). The whole place smells like there’s incense burning but its just the strong scent of all the old old books. The music for the dance performance downstairs sort of dampened the library experience but it was still amazing to see.
Germán insisted we go to see El Señor de las Maravillas, where people come daily to worship. It was a little while outside of the main central area and the church had actually been damaged in the earthquake. The small viewing area was packed with people and in typical Latin American fashion the Señor was a sculpture complete with fake hair and real clothes, something I always find kind of creepy.
On the way back towards downtown we stopped to buy some typical Puebla sweets (jamonillo and cremas, both incredibly sweet soft bars made with pine nuts, walnuts or other things and milk) as Germán’s mom had specifically requested some. Close by is Los Sapos which turned out to be my favorite area of Puebla with cobbled streets and brick stalls on either side filled with art and handicrafts.
Puebla is the home of talavera, the typical colorful Mexican tiles so of course we had to get a mirror lined with talavera for our living room and a magnet for our fridge. Our final stop in Puebla was a rooftop restaurant overlooking the Zócalo called Azotea del Royalty. Although the name is fancy the roof deck has a great feel to it and the craft beer and food options ranging from tapas to entrees were not as expensive as you might think from the name and location. I’m glad we randomly popped in for a quick bite before leaving, I would recommend it to anyone visiting.
With that we wrapped up our weekend in Puebla and returned home a little bit later than we were planning to catch the tail end of the Oscar’s (go México for representing so well btw). Overall I really liked Puebla. Before we went I hadn’t really had super high hopes as you don’t normally hear people rave about visiting there but it is a very pretty city that is the birthplace of some traditional Mexican staples. Next time we head in that direction I need to make it to Cholula, a university town nearby that’s home to the widest pyramid in the world! Until then I’m stretching out my sweets as long as I can possibly manage.