Ensenada x Baja California x Mexico
The biggest reason for visiting a beer fest, hands down, has to be the promise (or at least hope) of trying New and Exciting beers. Well. That’s a pretty tall order to fill. It is more feasible to expect beers from New breweries as opposed to New beers, right? But where’s the fun in that?! Craft Beer Tasters traveled down to the Baja Beer Fest in Ensenada this past weekend along with a van-load of Tasters in pursuit of just that something new.
One of the standouts of our trip to Baja was Tijuana based brewery “Cerveza Frontera.” Owned and operated by Omar Toscano, Roberto Riatíga, and Trebil Morales is a 7bbl brewery based in consistency. These brewers had, for lack of a better term, professional grade beers. Though the styles were not anything out of the ordinary, their quality was high. I asked the brewers what they did to achieve the caliber they did. “80% of brewing is clean, clean, and clean.” Brewing on a professional stainless steel system, in a controlled environment, their beers are very consistent. The same ABV, IBU, color, flavor – batch after batch. Frontera’s facilities are a short drive from San Diego, and a place I want to visit soon.
We also spoke to Carlos Teran and Moises Sanchez of Cerveza Peninsula based out of the northeastern Baja town of Mexicali. Born and raised these BFFs (since age 4) Carlos and Moises are a duo of Mechanical Engineers and Gastronomic Businessmen (respectively) educated at CETYS University in Baja. Originally starting their path in the world of beer as homebrewers, these craft collaborators are now full-time brewers making brews in a familiar West Coast style. I hope to be visiting these Mexicali brewers along with our friends at The Big Bad Breweing Company, and Cerveceria 686 in Mexicali in the weeks to come.
Coyoacán is a very old town in Mexico City, older than Mexico itself. Cerveza Coyoacán originated in Mexico City as the brainchild of Gerardo Perez Rocha. Educated at the Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts, Boston was the city that taught Gerardo about Craft Beer. Drinking his beers, it was clear the amount of influence the east coast had on his beers. With styles that focus more on malt, grains, and yeast – Coyoacán doesn’t rely on hops entirely to flavor his beers. In 2008 Gerardo and company started perfecting Coyoacán’s recipes. In 2011 Coyoacán established their brewery in Ensenada. When asked why he considered leaving a Megaopolis like Mexico City Gerardo explained it quite simply. They wanted to leave the big city, join family in Ensenada, enjoy the coastal lifestyle, be in Baja – the brewing capital of Mexico, and close to San Diego – the brewing capital of the U.S. In the next year Coyoacán wants to increase output in an effort to be more a part of the local food movement, slow food, sea food, wherever there’s good food, they want to be there.
You may recall that Craft Beer Tasters recently visited J. Eduardo Arce Díaz at Distrito Barra Pública in Ensenada on a recent trip down south. At that time we reported on the impact this bar is having on the scene as a Craft Beer Bar. Now they pride themselves on being a brewpub. Though Distrito has been around for a little over a year now, the owner began brewing 3 years ago and was one of the people who helped Mauricio Peralta, founder and Head Brewer at Zombie Brew Labs, learn how to brew. Mauricio is now considered a Master in his field and shares a brewhouse with Cerveceria MX and Distrito Brewpub. There are not very many brewpubs in Baja. Sotano Suizo and the BCB Tasting Room in Tijuana are the only two brewpubs I can think of, showing that Distrito is continuing their history of innovation. The goal of Distrito has been to bring craft beer to the people. Craft Beer is expensive, especially in Mexico, and especially when compared to Mexican macro beers. As part of their goal to bring Craft Beer to the people Distrito chooses to keep prices of beer, especially those of their own, low so they can reach as many people as possible.
We had a lot of great Craft Beers, a lot of less than great Craft Beers, and a lot of works in progress. We made a lot of new friends, had a few (dozen) tacos, drank a real Mexican Clamato with our Homebrew Hero John Palmer, and headed back up the coast of Baja to San Diego. When we got to the border we were able to use the “ready-lane” and crossed in 1 hour on a Saturday. This may seem like a while, but compared to the 4 hour wait everyone else had, it was quick. We can thank our friends at The Baja Tourism Board for providing us with tourist fast passes for our visit to Baja. As we left the van we all hugged and sad goodbye, but lingered as we shared stories of the day. We hope to bring more and more people down to Baja to experience what we did in Ensenada. Won’t you join us?