Historic Beer Birthday: Pablo Díez Fernández

Today is the birthday of Pablo Díez Fernández (June 29, 1884-November 17, 1972). He was born in Vegaquemada, León, Spain. His mother died when he was three, and was raised by his grandparents. “He studied Classical Literature and Philosophy at the Instituto Municipal de Boñar, and when he turned 16 he joined the Dominican Monastery of Cangas de Narcea. Soon after his 20th birthday, when he was about to be ordained, Pablo Díez decided that the priesthood was not his true calling in life and moved to Madrid. In 1905, with the help he got from the Dominican Friars themselves, he sailed out to Mexico.” In Mexico, he became a successful businessman and in 19292 helped to start the brewery, Cervecería Modelo, which would later become Grupo Modelo.


Here’s his biography from his Wikipedia page:

Pablo Díez Fernández was the son of Ceferino Díez and Gregoria Fernández, Pablo Diez was born in Vegaquemada, León, Spain, on June 29, 1884. After the death of his mother when he was only three years old, he was raised by his paternal grandparents in the town of Palazuelo de Boñar. He studied Classical Literature and Philosophy at the Instituto Municipal de Boñar, and when he turned 16 he joined the Dominican Monastery of Cangas de Narcea. Soon after his 20th birthday, when he was about to be ordained, Pablo Díez decided that the priesthood was not his true calling in life and moved to Madrid. In 1905, with the help he got from the Dominican Friars themselves, he sailed out to Mexico.

Once in Mexico, he took on a job as book keeper at the Venegas bakery. In 1911 he became the manager of another bakery called La Primavera. As a result of his hard work, he was able to save enough money to first partner with and then, in 1912, buy that business from its previous owners. The following year, Diez Fernández became one of the founding shareholders of Leviatán y Flor, a company which has been recognized as the first compressed yeast factory in Mexico.

In 1918, he married Rosario Guerrero Herrero, whom he had met during one of his many visits to Spain.

Four years later he became part of the community of distinguished businessmen, industry experts, and bankers that would put up the capital to start the business which was later to become Grupo Modelo: Cervecería Modelo. A shareholder since the very beginning and member of its Board of Directors since 1926, the businessman from the region of León in Spain continued to care for his bread and yeast production businesses while also promoting other new adventures. One of them, Pan Ideal, is famous for having been the first mechanical bread producing plant in Mexico.

In 1928, Pablo Diez was appointed to the Board of Directors of El Crédito Español de México, SA and of other important businesses of the Spanish community in Mexico. That same year, Braulio Iriarte entrusted him with the responsibility of being the legal representative of Cervecería Modelo. He was 44 years old at the time.

Diez Fernández founded seminars, sanctuaries, and hospitals in his country of origin, for which he was highly recognized. The latter is also true for Mexico, where his philanthropic work left a profound mark on the development of nursing homes and hospitals. Among them the most recognized are the Sanatorio Español, the Red Cross’s central hospital in Mexico City and the Instituto Nacional de Cancerología; he made important donations to help build all these institutions.

In 1955, don Pablo Diez crowned the Virgin of Guadalupe as the Queen of Work, sharing in the devotion shown for the Virgin by the workers in the largest of his companies: Cervecería Modelo.


In recognition of this philanthropic work and his entrepreneurial accomplishments, in 1969 Don Pablo Diez received the highest honor granted by the Mexican government: the Orden del Águila Azteca.

He was also a relevant shareholder in other companies in Mexico including IEM, Condumex, Fundidora Monterrey, Celanese Mexicana and Banco Nacional de México, and he served as the first Vice-president for this bank. In Spain, Cervecería Cruz Campo and Banco Central Hispano held his most relevant investments.

Just before he retired from public life, although he remained as Honorary Chairman of Grupo Modelo, Diez Fernández turned over the business to the people close to him who had managed it for several years. The main shareholders of the new company that controlled Cervecería Modelo, a company whose sales in 1970 were estimated somewhere between 850 and 900 million pesos, were Juan Sánchez Navarro, Manuel Álvarez Loyo, Nemesio Diez, Secundino García, Antonino Fernández, Pablo Aramburuzabala and other employees of the brewery which would later on become Grupo Modelo, the seventh largest beer group in the world, when it was headed first by Don Antonino Fernandez and, then, by Carlos Fernandez Gonzalez.

Don Pablo Diez Fernández died on November 17, 1972 in Mexico City.


Here’s a Company History of the first fifty years from Funding Universe:

Grupo Modelo, S.A. de C.V. is the largest beermaker in Mexico, holding 55 percent of the national market in 1998, when it was the 12th-largest beer producer in the world and the most profitable brewer in Latin America. Its best known brand is Corona Extra, a light brew that ranked first in sales among beers imported to the United States in 1997 and fifth in the world in total production. The company also produces nine other brands of beer. A holding company, it is vertically integrated, beginning with its overseeing of the selection of seeds and germination of hops, and including brewing and bottling plants and distribution by trucks and ships. Grupo Modelo was, in the late 1990s, 50.2 percent owned by Anheuser-Busch Cos., the world’s largest beer-producing company, and it was the exclusive importer of Anheuser-Busch’s products in Mexico, including Budweiser and Bud Light. Anheuser-Busch did not, however, hold a majority of Grupo Modelo’s voting shares.

The First Fifty Years

Beer was the basis for the holdings of the Sada and Garza extended families, whose Monterrey Group became the most powerful business combine in Mexico. Cervecería Cuauhtemoc was founded in Monterrey in 1890. Its chief rival was Cervecería Moctezuma, founded in 1894. Cervecería Modelo, which eventually outstripped the other two in production and sales, was founded in 1925 in Mexico City by Braulio Iriarte, with the help of President Plutarco Elias Calles.

Cervecería Modelo soon came under the control of Pablo Díez Fernández, who became its director general in 1930 and its majority stockholder in 1936. Born in Spain in 1884, Díez Fernández emigrated to Mexico at the age of 21 with money he borrowed from the Dominican fathers under whom he studied. He first worked as an accountant for a bakery, established the first mechanized bakery in Mexico, and then became part-owner of the first yeast factory for bread in Mexico. He went on to become co-founder and major stockholder of Celanese Mexicana in 1944 and a director of Banamex, one of Mexico’s largest banks,

Diez Fernandez kept Modelo a private company that financed its expansion into producing malt, bottles, bottle caps and corks, and cartons through earnings rather than borrowing. He also acquired the regional breweries producing Victoria (1935), Estrella (1954), and Pacífico (1954). Modelo spent heavily on advertising during the late 1940s and early 1950s, much more so than its rivals. By 1956 it was the leading brewer, passing Cerveceria Cuauhtemoc and Moctezuma, with 31.6 percent of total beer production in Mexico. Modelo established plants in Ciudad Obregón (1960), Guadalajara (1964), and Torreón (1966) and created a national distribution network. Antonio Fernández Rodríguez, also Spanish-born, succeeded Díez Fernández as director general of the firm in 1971. Under his leadership, Modelo’s share of the Mexican market grew from 39 percent in 1977 to 45 percent in 1985.

A statue of Pablo Díez Fernández in his hometown of Vegaquemada in Spain.

The First Brewery In The Americas

While I don’t have many specific details, the first Western-style brewery in the Americas began today when Don Alfonso de Herrera was granted permission to build a brewery on December 12, 1543. He built it near Mexico City the following year, opening in 1544.

Although the story began at least three years before, the specific details vary widely depending on which source you look at, I’ve done my best to piece it together as best I could.

Hernán Cortés was a Spanish Conquistador who led the expedition that led to much of South America and Southwestern North America being conquered by Spain. Cortes arrived in what today is Mexico in 1519. They found that the native population enjoyed traditional fermented drinks such as pulque, zendecho (pulque corn), izquiate, and pozol (or pozoles), chinguirito, tepaches, mesquite wines, chicha, the zambumbia and tesgüino. Initially, beer brewed with barley was produced in small quantities by Cortés’ soldiers, but it was very limited due to the lack of supplies.

On August 23, 1541, Don Alonso de Herrera, from Seville, Spain, submitted an application to the Spanish government hoping to receive royal authorization to build a commercial brewery in New Spain, which is what Mexico was called at that time. His application was debated in Madrid by the Council of the Indies, which Charles V, King of Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor, used to administrate his North American territories. The following year in the city of Nájara, on either June 6, 1542 or July 6, 1542 (sources vary), either Alonso de Herrera signed a contract with the Crown or Emperor Charles V (who apparently loved beer) signed a decree (or Royal Charter) giving him permission to establish his brewery in the New World (again, there is conflicting information about this).

Whichever is correct, the deal with the crown was this. Alonso de Herrera received a license to brew beer in New Spain (the “Indies” apparently was what was written on the agreement) exclusively for a period of twenty years. “He was liable to pay one third of his profits in tax, supervised by the Viceroy, Antonio de Mendoza. The price of beer was estimated at 6 reales (20.1 g or 0.7 oz of silver) per arroba” (a unit of measure equal to 25 pounds or 11.5 kg in Spain).

The Crown, in return, made him Corregidor (district governor) of an area of the valley of Mexico inside what is now Mexico City where the hacienda (estate) “de El Portal,” the site of the brewery, was situated. This allowed him, among other privileges, imports free of excise duty.

The agreement also stipulated that he was also permitted to manufacture other goods, such as “naveta oil, soap and blonde.” I think naveta oil is possibly shipping oil but I have no idea what they meant by “blonde.” But he had one more hurdle to get over, and that involved getting permission (probably a formality) from the Viceroy of New Spain, who at that time was Don Antonio de Mendoza. On December 12, 1543, Mendoza formally granted him permission, issuing him a permit to build his brewery, and he began at once. He also granted Herrera “land to grow hops and other necessary plants.”

Alonso de Herrera hired Flemish brewers, who brought “tackle, boilers, and other equipment necessary for brewing.” According to the terms of the deal, the Crown had also agreed that Alonso de Herrera would bear the costs on the workers he took with him. But he also received an exemption from the payment of any import tax on what was transported to and from Spain, and was also given two hundred slaves from Portugal, Cape Verde and Guinea, which would be used for the building of the brewery.

Apparently things didn’t go all that well for America’s first commercial brewery.

Herrera’s brewery struggled during its first years, as alcohol consumption was highly regulated by authorities, and the new brew had to compete with native beverages. It was also more expensive due to the lack of ingredients. However, the beverage caught on, as it was drunk by colonial authorities, leading others to want it as well. Herrera worked to expand his brewery and the land on which wheat and barley were raised. In the long run, Herrera’s brewery did not survive, and the production of European-style beverages such as beer and wine were heavily taxed and heavily regulated by Spain to protect home markets. The purpose of this was to make colonials import these products from Europe.

Herrera also sent lavish gifts to Emperor Charles V, and Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza was supplied with all the beer he could drink, which must have helped grease the wheels. Because wine was scarce, beer did become more popular, although the price did rise to more like 8 reales, mostly die to shortages of wheat and barley. Beer was sold primarily in the markets, plazas, and in a tavern Herrera built. “Beer production suffered ups and downs,” and he even had to stop production briefly when “some of his brewers decided to return to Flanders, and others chose to work in the mines of Mexico to make good money. However, from 1549 production increased: 1,158 pounds to be made between 28 January and 25 October 1549-an average of 128.6 pounds per month- and reached 4,192 arrobas between the last date and 8 May 1552, which places the monthly average in about 246.5 pounds, as noted by Emilio Luque Azcona.” The fate of the brewery is not known with any certainty, although it appears to not have survived Herrera’s death, although I’ve been unable to find when that was exactly. The last mention of it in the historical record appears to be in 1552.

While El Portal is thought to be where the brewery was built, its exact location is unknown, but it is thought to have been located in the south of Mexico City (where Metro Portales is today) or in Amecameca, Mexico State. Another source puts it “near the so-called Paso de Cortés.”

Portrait of Alonso de Herrera, by El Greco.

Spanish Beer Infographics

Today’s infographic is a series of them done for a Spanish brewery, Cervesa Moritz. Today is also the beginning of La Tomatina, which takes place each year on the last Wednesday of August in Bunol, Spain. La Tomatina is essentially the world’s biggest food fight, so it seemed the perfect day to feature posters from Spain. They were created by Brands & Roses, a Spanish ad agency in 2011. A total of six were apparently done, and there are three shown below. You can see more of the project at Relaja Elcoco.

Click here to see the infographic full size.

Click here to see the infographic full size.

Click here to see the infographic full size.

Pixelated Beer

If you’re as old as me, you probably remember when video games had very limited graphics and most were pixelated, only roughly approximating what the characters and backgrounds in the games looked like. I remember getting an Atari 2600 right after high school and playing it a lot while I was in the Army, when we had long blocks of time to kill. Worse still, the very first videogame I played was — believe it or not — Pong, in a stand alone cabinet that was inside Shea Stadium, when my step-grandparents took me to see the Mets play sometime in the early-to-mid-1970s. It must have been after 1972, since that’s when Pong debuted. I was Orioles fan back then — Brooks Robinson was my guy — so I don’t know why we went to see the Mets. Anyway, pixelation seems to be hot again these days in design, some kind of retro nostalgia no doubt. An artist in Spain, Iñaki Soria Izquierdo, did a series of designs of well-know beer bottles using a pixelated style. He appears to go by just his middle name professionally — Soria — and at his site, in his portfolio, is what he calls IcoBeer. I assume because he’s in Spain, the designs are all for well-known international brands, because it would be great to see his treatment of some American brands.
His website includes only the following description:

Pruebas gráficas de representación iconográfica de objetos (Estrella Damm / Heineken / Corona Extra / Guinness) a partir de estructuras y formas geométricas básicas.

Which Google translates as:

Graphic evidence of iconographic representation of objects (Estrella Damm / Heineken / Corona Extra / Guinness) from basic geometric shapes and structures.

But they remind me of those early videogame designs, with just simple square and rectangular shapes, and very few curves, to give the impression of the bottles and labels. Anyway, I think they’re pretty cool. Here are the four designs Soria did:







Estrella Dam


Beer In Art #119: Pablo Picasso’s Glass and Bottle of Bass

This week’s work of art is by Pablo Picsasso, created using pasted paper and charcoal on cardboard in the Spring of 1914. It’s title is Glass and Bottle of Bass. Though it certainly doesn’t look like any bottle of Bass Ale I’ve ever seen.


There’s a biography of Picasso at Wikipedia and also Biography.com. You can also see more of Picasso’s art at Olga’s Gallery, ArtArchive and the ArtCyclopedia. Then there’s Picasso.com and his “official” website.

Beer In Art #113: Pablo Picasso’s Le Bock

This week’s work of art by one of the modern world’s most famous artists, Pablo Picasso. The painting is known as Le Bock (“The Beer”), but it’s real title is “Portrait of Jamie Sarbartes, the Poet.” Picasso painted it in 1901 and today it hangs in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow.


The Pablo Picasso Gallery describes the painting like this:

This is sometimes called Le Bock (The Beer) or simply Portrait of Sabartes; but Picasso himself insisted on ‘the poet’ as part of the title. There was a hint of irony in this as a description of Sabartes, and the painting undoubtedly presents him in an exaggeratedly soulful, glamorous light.

According to Sabartes, it was painted not long after his arrival in Paris from Spain (October 1901). He was sitting alone in a tavern, in a state of myopic isolation and boredom, until Picasso and some companions suddenly burst into the room and cheered him up. A few days later, in Picasso’s studio, Sabartes was shown this painting, which he recognized as portraying ‘the spectre of my solitude’. It is arguably the first work of Picasso’s ‘Blue Period’, characterized not only by all-pervasive blue tones but by a preoccupation with suffering, rejection and poverty.

There’s a biography of Picasso at Wikipedia and also Biography.com. You can also see more of Picasso’s art at Olga’s Gallery, ArtArchive and the ArtCyclopedia. Then there’s Picasso.com and his “official” website.

Beer and Dieting

The UK tabloid newspaper, The Daily Mirror, reported today that a study at the University of Barcelona revealed that “[d]rinking up to a pint of beer a day is good for your health — and can even help you lose weight.” They also “found those who have a Mediterranean-style diet and drink moderately are healthier than those who don’t” and that “beer could cut the risk of high blood pressure.”

Beer In Ads #203: Epidor Moritz

Monday’s ad is for a Spanish brewery, Moritz in Barcelona, which was founded in 1856 and closed in 1978. Remaining family members started up the brand again a few years ago, contracting the brewing. This ad is for Epidor, a strong lager they debuted July 23, 1923. Given the strange face of the man in the ad, I’m not exactly sure who their target audience was or why they thought that would help sell beer. Does it make you want to drink their beer?