20Mission Cerveza is an exciting new brewery coming to the craft beer market in Medellín. 20Mission Cerveza is a hidden gem of a brewery, hiding out in a nondescript warehouse down the alleyways of barrio Manila in El Poblado. And it’s known to only a few insiders until now as we have details.
I recently wandered down the backstreets of Manila – a barrio in El Poblado – searching for the address I’d been given: Calle 16 #43F-66.
This edgy part of Medellín is slowing being gentrified with the addition of some new architectural spaces like the Medellín Modern Art Museum and the trendy Mercado Del Rio. Its warren of roads is filled with brick warehouses juxtaposed next to shiny new office buildings.
I was looking for a business sign that would indicate I’d arrived at 20Mission Cerveza, Medellín’s latest entrant into the growing craft beer scene. There wasn’t one. On the spot Google Maps designated as the address, there was only an imposing grey, metal warehouse building with oversized doors.
Unsure if I was at the right place, I hesitantly asked a Colombian man coming out, ‘Excuse me, is this 20Mission?’. He nodded and gestured for me to go on in.
I stepped over the door frame into a cavernous space, empty bar two lonely picnic tables at the far end. The vaulted ceilings added to the expanse.
My first impression was ‘Wow!’ Although the interior hadn’t been transformed yet, I could see that the potential for what the owners had planned – a restaurant and bar attached to a brewery.
The Craft Beer Scene in Colombia
Whilst the craft beer scene has been thriving in the U.S. for decades, Colombia only entered into the market in 2002, with the establishment of the now commercial Bogota Beer Company (BBC)
Medellín didn’t get its own large-scale craft brew house until 2008, with the arrival of 3 Cordilleras. Ten years on and the craft beer scene in Medellín is beginning to flourish with over 30 nano- and micro-breweries in the city. We also have looked at the five best nano- and micro-breweries in Medellín.
But don’t let that number fool you. Many of these producers are back of the garage operations. And the quality can be hit and miss, with contaminated bottles and inferior flavors a little too commonplace for my liking.
Very few establishments in town that have honed their process to provide consistently high-quality beers with taste profiles that would rival what you’d find in the United States.
The future of craft beer in Medellín is looking up though. Individuals are garnering more experience and the beers are improving. Soon the craft beer scene in Medellín will be solid.
And that future is starting soon with the long-awaited opening of 20Mission Cerveza’s restaurant and brew house.
20Mission Cerveza: The Beginning
The idea for 20Mission Cerveza came from founder Todd Morrill, a former software developer and engineer.
I went to college in Colorado and there is just great beer there. Being in Medellin, I just missed it. I missed the product and the nostalgia that goes along with it. There is something quintessential about a beer, having a good time with your friends, and enjoying something nice.’
said Todd in an interview at 20Mission’s warehouse in Manila.
This undercurrent of longing was rumbling through Todd’s subconscious for some time when the inspiration to start doing his own brewing hit whilst watching an episode of Breaking Bad.
I’ve always liked science and engineering, and I thought, ‘What might be a way of doing something that involves science and making something.
So, in the midst of thinking about that and about missing good craft beer Todd’s aha moment came.
All the sudden I went ‘Oh!’ Why don’t I start making beer.’ So, then I started making beer on my stovetop. And that’s how it started, from beer from Colorado.
So, in 2014, without formal training or prior experience working for a brewery, Todd began ordering supplies from the U.S. and googling the Internet on how to brew beer. He started out barefoot in his kitchen, until it drove his wife crazy and he was kicked out, forced to set up a larger operation in this garage.
Todd went on to tell me the story.
I then started brewing in a co-working space at Adam House in 2015. And then I think it was in 2016 I wrote a Facebook post saying ‘Would anyone else like to make beer with me?’ because it is a lot of money and work and everything is more fun to me to do it with someone else.
By a stroke of luck, Jered Kenna – whom Todd had never met before – answered the post offering a substantial investment, saying ‘Here’s some money. Let’s make a ton of it!’
Perfecting the Process and the Beers
Turning that initial kitchen set-up of a few bottles into an 800,000 liter a year enterprise though will be a big leap for Todd and 20Mission Cerveza.
However, both Todd and the head brewer are committed to developing the highest quality of craft beer to be found in the Medellín marketplace.
In their first year of production, 20Mission Cerveza plans to focus on six main classic beer types: Blonde, Pale Ale, IPA, Porter, Witbier and Saison.
I have a lot of friends that are artists and when you start art class the first thing you do is to copy something. You don’t want to start innovating until you’ve learned the basics. So, what I want to do is to spend the first year or two just implementing classic styles and bringing classic beer styles from all over the world to Colombia.
Todd’s aspirations for the future though include layering in some Amazonian plants into the beer in a sustainable way to create something extraordinarily unique. Of what type, Todd didn’t know yet. I sensed he had a lot of ambitious ideas for 20Mission Cerveza he’d like to explore in the years to come, but he openly admits that he is often having to restrain his own creativity and plans.
20Mission Cerveza: Bring on the Food
And Todd does have some exciting, innovative – and grand – ideas for 20Mission Cerveza. Whilst we will have wait and see what the future holds in the realm of an Amazonian plant based brew, one of his big ideas that will be implemented right from the start though, is an on-site restaurant.
Building on the format of successful craft breweries in the States, Todd knew from the beginning that he wanted 20Mission Cerveza to include a restaurant on the premise.
For this component of the operation, Todd has flown in his friend Darby, who has over 20 years’ experience as a chef in the U.S.
While the menu is still being finalized, the dishes are certain to contain the highest quality ingredients with sauces made from scratch. The outcome will be gastronomic fare without the pretentious environment.
For me it is about having the technical capacity to do very fine food, with paying attention to refinement and detail but contextualizing it in a more casual brewery setting. I want to do live fire, meat based, barbecue stuff.
This restaurant addition next to the brewery will make 20Mission Cerveza unique amongst the other established craft breweries in town. Sadly, we will have to wait a few more months for this full experience.
A Tour of the 20Mission Cerveza Brew-House
But don’t despair! I was reassured by Todd that the production of beers should be ready within the next month, which you’ll be able to start buying in other select local restaurants.
To prove that statement, Head Brewer William Myers indulged me with a tour of the brew-house adjacent to the open plan restaurant space. The inside of the factory floor looked like a three-dimensional, real-life, process flow diagram.
The main room of the brewery was dominated by six enormous stainless steel vessels. Connected to them where dozens of PVC pipes, red dangling hoses, and pumps jutting out at right and parallel angles.
If you really want to know how the brewing process works along with all the technical jargon then Google it.
In short, these vessels are responsible for mixing the water with the ingredients that will go into the beer, boiling it up, separating out the waste particles, cooling down the mixture, allowing the mixture to ferment to become alcohol and eventually storing the now alcoholic beer until it is ready to drink.
In a separate, sealed off room were four serving tanks that William said would hold 2,200 liters of cold beer ready to be pumped directly into taps that will be installed in the bar area to allow for draft beer.
William started home brewing when he was about 19 and now has 9 years of experience under his belt. He insisted that I didn’t label him a master brewer – as that is a qualification given only to brewers with extensive brewing time experience.
But as William led me around the factory, I felt that he was extremely knowledgeable about brewing. More importantly I sensed his passion for what he does. He certainly exuberated a lot of enthusiasm for the equipment that was in its final stages of being installed.
20Mission Cerveza: Las Cervezas (The Beers)
It was no doubt impressive equipment, but what I really wanted to know about was the final product. The beer. I pressed William more about what ingredients will be going into 20Mission beers and what drinkers can expect from their starting lineup.
William explained that beer is made from four basic ingredients: barley or malt, water, hops and yeast. In the raw material storage unit were mounds of 40 pound bags of malts of differing varieties including base malts along with ale yeast and pilsner yeast.
In the laboratory, he showed me the imported American hops which he had stored in the freezer. All eagerly waiting to be put to good use.
Combined together though what will all these ingredients produce? I was most curious about their planned 5.5% ABV IPA, which is my favorite style of beer. I pressed William to describe it to me:
Our IPA uses a combination of pale malt, caramel malts and a variety of hops. We use four different hops in our IPA with extensive dry hopping which makes it a more expensive beer, but I think it’s worth it. We are never going to compromise a beer and its quality and making exactly what we want to make because something costs a little bit more.
[The IPA] took a lot of versions to get to where it is now. It is very mellow on the bitterness and its really tropical, because we wanted to make something easy drinking for the climate here. It’s not like where you have a cold New England winter in the United States where you want to drink something that is really either bitter or heavy to offset that weather. We wanted to have something more easy drinking with extensive dry hopping to leave that fresh, fruity finish to it. We are all super excited about it.
One of my least favorite beer styles that will be on their standard offering is their 5%ABV Witbier. William challenged me to try it.
The Witbier that I make is a really traditional Belgian style wheat beer with raw wheat, oats, malt and coriander. It’s got a fluffy mouth feel. I know that a lot of people associate witbier with Hefeweizen which is a significantly heavier style. Ours is really light. I think you’ll like it.
William reassured me that once the restaurant is open they will be offering flights of beers to let people experiment with styles that they may not be familiar with and to try what’s available without an initial significant outlay. Something I definitely welcome.
What’s Behind the Name: 20Mission Cerveza
Whilst the overall scale of the operation was awe-inspiring, and William’s descriptions of the beers had ignited my taste buds, there was one thing that impressed me even more about 20Mission Cerveza.
And that was the sense of a family-like atmosphere where everyone employed there is encouraged to add their creativity to the process.
In fact, the name 20Mission Cerveza itself is a spin-off of a co-living space in San Francisco called 20Mission which is situated on the corner of 20th Street and Mission.
Incidentally it is also owned by the primary investor Jered. Todd liked the essence of what Jered’s already established brand evoked – a sense of community and a place where individuals from different backgrounds could mingle and potentially collaborate.
And I could see this collaboration and sense of community and the bringing together of different nationalities at the core of the operation of 20Mission Cerveza.
William himself had told me how he had been teaching the production guys on how to brew small batches of beer to help them fundamentally understand what was happening on the big system so that they could really get their hands into it. He added:
I want them to keep learning. I want the guys on the production team to start giving me ideas. I want them to express themselves creatively. I may be the brewer, but I want to listen to them. I want to get inspiration from them. One thing that is really important to us is that everyone is participating in the creative process.’
This family-like atmosphere of everyone involved and the inclusive nature of innovating together across cultures is what will set 20Mission Cerveza part from its competitors.
Currently 20Mission Cerveza is a hidden gem of a brewery, hiding out in a nondescript warehouse down the alleyways of barrio Manila – known to only a few insiders – but I can assure you, that won’t be for long!
Location of 20Mission Cerveza
How to Get to 20Mission Cerveza
20Mission Cerveza is located at Calle 16, 43F-66 in the Manila barrio of El Poblado in Medellín. 20Mission Cerveza is still setting up but beers should be ready for purchase by contacting them in mid-February. The nearest metro station is Poblado on Line A, which is about a 10-minute walk.
The beers from their line-up are currently expected to be available in mid-February. And the onsite restaurant is scheduled to open within the first half of 2018.
For more information and/or to keep up-to-date with the latest happenings at 20Mission Cerveza, you can follow them:
Address: Calle 16 # 43F-66, El Pobaldo
Phone: (+57) 300 509 6277
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