Mexico is the world’s largest beer exporter, and many of those big breweries our located in the North, a region now reeling from a major drought.
And in a move that could have dramatic ramifications for several major brewers, including Anheuser- Busch–owned Grupo Modelo and Heineken NV, President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador may be ending beer production in Northern Mexico due to water scarcity.
In his daily press conference on August 8, Lopez Obrador stated “This is not to say we won’t produce any more beer, it’s to say that we won’t produce beer in the north – that’s over…If they want to keep producing beer, increasing production, then all support for the south or southeast.”
The increasing severity of the droughts in Northern Mexico has been particularly noticeable around the city of Monterrey in the state of Nuevo León.
Benjamín Ordoñez-Díaz, a researcher at the Monterrey Institute of Technology, told The Washington Post that the growth of industry and a population boom have increased demand for water, while climate change has made the weather more erratic and rainfall less likely…
“The drought in the past only affected cattle and farmers in the beginning, but in this moment [it] affects families, affects farmers, cattle and all the industries who have been developing in the area”
As the Drinks Business reports one of those industries is brewing.
Heineken has a plant in Baja California, where they expanded capacity in 2021. Anheuser-Busch has two breweries in the northern Mexico.
Heineken’s Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma Brewery a major facility in Monterrey, produces enough beer annually to fill more than 1,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Beer is 90- to- 95-percent water. And water is used in every step of the brewing process; only a small amount actually makes it into the package.
Inside the average brewhouse, it takes seven gallons of water to produce one gallon of beer. At less efficient breweries, the ratio can go as high as 10 to one.
Cleaning even uses more water than the brewing process—three to eight gallons per gallon of beer and much of the water used in breweries is lost to evaporation or is simply sent down the drain.
Constellation Brands, home to popular beer brands Corona and Modelo, began the construction of a mega-brewery in Mexicali, one of the driest regions in Mexico back in 2016. But responding to farmers and regional activists who argued that the new brewery would overburden the region’s already limited water resources, that brewery was never completed.
In late July, Heineken offered to give up 20% of the rights it holds to water in Monterrey, and to donate a well, while the city deals with the crisis.