Just outside of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, about a half-hour drive lies the artisanal brewery La Hechicera. Hechicera in Spanish means sorceress. I happened across this charming little brewery by happenstance. My partner Marie and I were traveling through central Mexico with friends from Washington state to experience this historic area of Mexico. Approaching Atotonilco, a small sign by the side of the road announced that there was a brewery near. We decided to make a stop and check it out.
The same people own the brewery and the attached restaurant as the atmospheric Italian restaurant Mama Mia in the historic center of San Miguel de Allende.
The beer garden, La Hechicera lies nestled in a forest by a Koi pond and in its own way is just as charming as the restaurant in San Miguel. The bar is made of Mesquite wood from trees felled on the property. There is ample parking and we were told that on weekends the place is packed. We arrived in the morning and the restaurant, Mama Mia Campestre, was not yet operating. A quick read of the menu described an upscale restaurant with a variety of dishes from stuffed Portobello mushrooms to Uruguayan steak. Both the brew and the meals are served either inside or outside under the trees lit with small bulbs giving a fairy-tale feel to the beer garden.
Juan Fuente, the brewmaster, gave us a tour. Juan is a young man from Argentina. He began at La Hechicera after studying beer making in Germany and San Diego, California. In the four years he has worked in Mexico, he has developed some interesting beer flavors such as Nopal beer, pumpkin beer, ginger beer, and recently, a type of mead. This is on top of the regular Porter, IPA, brown, and pale ale. At this time, the beers are only available at the beer pub in draft form. Customers can buy a keg, but the beer is not bottled and sold commercially elsewhere. At the beer garden, a pint of beer runs 70 pesos (about $3.50us). The beers are typically 4.5% alcohol. Juan has also developed some non-alcoholic beverages such as Ginger, Tamarindo, and Hibiscus soft drinks.
For many years the major Mexican breweries dominated the beer market to the exclusion of small brewpubs like La Hechicera. When I questioned Juan about this, he explained, “We import our malt and hops from Germany. It was never a question of not being allowed to import these ingredients. It was simply that without the special exemption from duties that the major firms enjoy, the cost was prohibitive”. Today a more upscale market is willing to pay the price for a special brew that makes it profitable to import these ingredients, notwithstanding the elevated customs charges.
Whenever in the area of San Miguel de Allende, be sure and stop by La Hechicera and Mama Mia Campestre for a beer, a good meal, and an evening under the stars in the beer garden. If you’re a beer lover, you’re sure to enjoy it!