A blast from the past this, as I wrote it almost a year ago as a follow on to a write-up on the Los Muertos tap-house. It’s been sat in my drafts box since July 2014, needs airing, so here goes nothin’. Please note though, that may things may have changed since then as the bar and beer range has no doubt grown, a year is a long time…
I met Conner Watts, owner and master brewer at Los Muertos briefly and perhaps not in the best of circumstances for which a chat, and of course an accurate recollection of said chat could be relayed here. Nevertheless, I’ll try to recap and capture the essence of the conversation, assisted by a few emailed notes from Conner himself.
It was a busy afternoon at the Los Muertos Brewpub, the football world cup in full swing, with the USA versus Belgium game being shown live that afternoon. The bar was full of American supporters, plus two others, us, shouting for Belgium in the cheap seats. By this stage we’d pretty much gone through the beer menu and it’s fair to say that I was a tad tipsy at this point. I’d seen someone who I assumed was the brewer dashing around the place doing this and that, chatting to customers and I’m glad to say, trying to get some of the folk still drinking local bottles to at least sample something from the range on tap. Finally I caught him standing still at the bar and wobbled across to introduce myself.
We chatted a little about the beers and what I thought of them and about the bar, food etc and I duly sang their collective praises, whilst giving him my thoughts on what I had enjoyed the most, plus those that I’d found lacking a little. Conner explained that they were all pretty much works in progress, with some being closer to being exactly how he wanted than others. The problem being that he was trying to be slightly conservative in some aspects, wanting to get more interest locally with Mexican nationals rather than only appealing to the tourist trade. The range of beers that locals have been exposed to are pretty “safe” lager/beers and ambers, mass-produced offerings you might say, so there would be little point brewing only beers to the massive “hop-head” market.
I mentioned that I’d spotted him chatting away to folks at tables drinking bottles, and he confirmed that basically he was aiming to educate them slowly as to what he was about, in the hope that gradually folk would start to try other things and spread the word. A slow battle, but one that was reaping some reward.
Lastly my biggest gripe, an odd one for most, but something I have just gotten used to over recent years, that being serving measures. Pints or 16oz glasses of beer are great for slipping down the session pales, lagers and the like, ideal in fact for the hot and humid temperatures of Puerto Vallarta, but if you want to try a few different beers, can be hard work.
It was explained that smaller glasses and even flights were on order (and should by now be in place), always being part of the plan but slipping down the pecking order of all the things that were critical in getting the place into shape.
In an earlier life, Conner had been a restaurateur in a ski resort in Park City back in USA before moving to Puerto Vallarta. Why Mexico? Well, simply because his wife was sick and tired of the cold! What they missed most after a few months was the variety of beer, so they said to each-other “we can do something about this” and set to work.
“I’d been home-brewing beer myself ever since I was at school in Colorado, so I went back and spent a summer there brewing commercially, trying to refine my knowledge and expanding it to cope with the economies of scale before jumping in with both feet. Once back in Mexico we set about making the brewery happen, the rest is history”
On asking about the challenges he’d faced along the way? “Our biggest challenge getting started was temperature. The original brew house had a really poor cooling capacity, so we had issues from knocking out to maintaining appropriate fermentation temperatures to crashing our tanks and dispensing beer.
The result was mediocre beer at best. We were able to get that fixed and now I’m extremely proud to serve ALL our beers.”
As a footnote to this post, you may, especially in the UK and US, have heard about another beers with a very similar look and branding to Los Muertos, “Cerveza de los Muertos” being one as written about by Philip Montoro of “Chicago Reader” here.
These beers are not from the same stable and I am reliably informed that “los muertos” can’t, or at least would be tricky to copyright. However, as with most things, although established first, Los Muertos do not have the financial backing to be able to fight the might of the likes of Coors who are said to own the other “Mexican Craft” brand, so just have to suck it up and carry on. An all too familiar story..