Have you ever thought to yourself, “What could I do today to support a giant, soul-crushing monopoly?” If you happen to be in Mexico City, I have just the ticket: a visit to Cervecería Modelo, just north of Polanco!
The iconic Corona sign hovering over the large brewery in Mexico City.
The name Grupo Modelo may not immediately ring any bells for non-Mexico residents, but it is the company responsible for many well-known Mexican beers– Corona, Pacifico, Negro Modelo/Modelo, Leon, Victoria, Estrella, Montejo, and Barrilito. It also holds 63% of the Mexican beer market, with nearly all the remainder covered by Heineken/FEMSA; between the two of them, they make life difficult for any young upstarts in the Mexican beer world who are going after that last 3% market share.
That said, I am a fan of both Pacifico and Negro Modelo, and I imagine there may be other readers who have been swayed by Corona’s impressive marketing efforts, so I decided to go check things out this afternoon. I took some guidance from my husband, who went on a Modelo brewery tour a few months ago– he felt the tour was interesting if you’ve never seen the brewing process before, but if you’ve been to other breweries, this tour likely won’t knock your socks off. Needless to say, this girl has seen one or two breweries in her day, so I decided to skip straight to the good stuff: the gift shop.
WHERE: Finding the brewery was easy, and the appropriate entrance was fairly obvious. The map on Grupo Modelo’s website shows roughly where the door is located at Lago Alberto 156 in Colonia Anahuac, Mexico City. You can actually walk there quite easily from the Polanco metro station– once you exit the station, just walk up Arquimedes going north. After carefully crossing a busy street (Ejercito Nacional), you will cross under an overpass (Rio San Joaquin) and then take a right onto Lago Alberto.
You will see these large beer vats as you approach the brewery... Walk forward along the left side of these and then turn right (walking along the far side of this fenced-in area); this will put you on Lago Alberto
The view as you walk towards the entrance of the Cervecería Modelo. Your entrance will be under the flag/seal, just past where all the beer trucks are turning in.
Cross Lago Alberto & enter beneath the seal:
This was taken seconds before I got yelled/whistled at by the security guard in the middle of the photo, who obviously sensed that I was snapping highly-sensitive pics FROM A PUBLIC STREET as part of my plan to infiltrate the brewery.
Once you enter, tell the security guard at the desk that you are there to visit the “Tienda de Propaganda”. You’ll be asked for an ID (so bring some sort of ID with you), signed in & given a badge. Then someone will lead you to the gift shop. The gift shop is open Monday – Friday from 8AM to 5PM.
WHAT: The amusingly-named Tienda de Propaganda is wisely hidden inside the factory, rather than being easily accessible from the street for tourists. 😉 A Modelo employee will lead you along a roped-off sidewalk, while large trucks & carts zip along nearby. Eventually you’ll be dropped off at the uninspiringly-signed hallway leading to the store.
Just look for the Propaganda sign, and take care not to get mowed down by a rapidly-moving forklift.
I think I was hoping for a more over-the-top gift shop (and maybe the chance for a beer sample, let’s be honest), but Modelo’s Tienda de Propaganda nonetheless fulfilled its reason for being: there was no shortage of Corona-covered kitsch to be purchased!! If you are a big beer drinker and/or Modelo-brand beer fan, you should at least find some products here that will help you outpace the Jones’s in the “beer accoutrements” department. A lot of the stuff there, neither John nor I have seen elsewhere (though admittedly we may not have been looking that hard).
In the event that you’re on the fence about whether the Corona (and friends) Gift Shop merits a visit, here’s the smattering of its offerings that I was able to surreptitiously photograph:
Oversized 2L plastic beer bottle with screw-on plastic top? Check! ($34 pesos)
A whole bunch of shirts with beer logos/commentary on them in a mixture of English & Spanish? Yes! (prices unclear on my grainy photo, but I believe <$100 pesos)
Old-timey beer trays with old-timey ad images + a tacky surface to prevent glasses from sliding all over the place? Yep! ($42 pesos)
German-looking beer steins that would probably crack in shame if beer this light gets poured into them? Check! And Corona-branded dominos to show up the locals during your next cantina visit. (Dominos ~$140-150 pesos)
Miniature coolers with handles, a magnetic top & a built-in bottle opener? Absolutely! These are one of my favorite items-- John got us the red/blue Corona one a few months back. Prices seem to range from $350 to $600 ish. John estimates ours might hold about 18 beers, so a fun item to have on your counter for a party.
The inflatable section! I succumbed to buying a 1.5m-tall inflatable Pacifico beer bottle. And if we weren't moving back to a pool-less townhouse, I would have definitely bought the sand + palm tree floating bottle holder. I mean, your beer can float next to you in the pool AND be covered in shade at the same time. Brilliant. ($40 pesos for tall bottle)
MY 2-CENT BREWERY TOUR: As previously mentioned, I didn’t do the official brewery tour, but I did snap a couple photos on my way back to the entrance (for which I also got yelled at by a concerned man in a suit). You’ll quickly be able to decode all the secret details I captured & perhaps start your own competitive brewery, or create an elaborate scheme for breaking into this one.
Apparently Corona & friends come from the cleanest, purest, mountain-fresh water known to man.
To keep morale high, there is colorful old-timey truck & fake beer barrels inside the main entrance. Que preciosa, eh?
The best part is that no one yelled at me for taking a photo of the Modelo cerveza-making process:
OMG! It's all out in the open now, people. I trust you will have no problem replicating these beer-making and packaging processes to create your own brewery intent on world domination!!
If you’re interested in a more elaborate tour of the Cervecería Modelo than what my photos can provide, drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I even received a same-day response to my inquiry! Their tours seem to skew more towards large groups, but the email I received indicated that if I was alone, I could be attached on to an existing group. Lic. Flor Santillana is the woman from the PR dept who coordinates tours, and tours are available Monday through Friday, seemingly at 9AM, 11AM and 3PM, but I would definitely call/email first, as I’m not sure they’ll accommodate you if you just show up. Additional questions, you can call 55.5262.1200 ext 2336.
Tours are available at Modelo’s other breweries as well, so if you’re in Zacatecas, Guadalajara, Ciudad Obregon in Sonora, Mazatlan, Tuxtepec in Oaxaca, or Torreon in Coahuila, check here to get the contact info & set one up!
I hope this satisfies anyone who was curious about where Coronas come from before they end up in a million photos of people’s feet on a sunny beach…. or where you should go once you convince your wife that this should be your new dining room table:
Ahhh if only we had a proper Man Cave for John back in our townhouse in Arlington, VA...
As we say in Mexico before slurping down a cold beer, ¡Salud!