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Posts Tagged Tijuana

Coronado brewmaster founds SouthNorte Brewing Co.

May 16

Many know Ryan Brooks for his work as brewmaster at Coronado Brewing Company. During his tenure, that interest has won numerous awards, including Champion Mid-Size Brewing Company at the 2014 World Beer Cup. That’s dream-come-true territory, but Brooks isn’t finished dreaming. He’s about to realize another long-held aspiration—opening his own brewery. The name of that business will be SouthNorte Beer Company, and it’s scheduled to debut this summer.

Brooks will get by with a little help from his friends, most ostensibly his family at Coronado Brewing. That company’s founders, brothers Ron and Rick Chapman, are key investors and that’s where the initial brewing of SouthNorte’s beers will be done (the search is on for a separate facility to house the business). But he’ll also garner inspiration from friends he’s made spending a great deal of time exploring the craft-brewing culture south of the border. As the name implies, SouthNorte will combine elements of Mexico’s burgeoning beer scene with the craft culture here in San Diego. A press release describes the business as “an American brewery that blends the rustic flair of Mexico with the art of San Diego craft brewing.” Brooks sees pulling from two cultures as a way to extract the best from both and end up with the finest end-result.

In the course of my reporting on the San Diego brewing industry, I have met a number of brewers from Baja locales including Tijuana, Ensenada and Mexicali. Nearly all of them have mentioned receiving assistance, tutelage or encouragement from Brooks. He is something of a cult figure down there who has forged many legitimate friendships during innumerable cross-border visits. Few would be better suited to bring this intercultural vision to life and it should be exciting to watch…and taste.

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Taste of Tijuana – TJ Beerfest Pt. 2

Oct 11

We were relaxing on the second story patio of El Torito, a restaurant by day, disco by night situated on Avenida Revolución in downtown Tijuana.  As beats pumped through the aging speakers and drowned out the table-hopping mariachis, young kids were either riding the precarious mechanical bull or playing with multi-colored balloons.  The parents, like us, looked on while sipping $1 Coronas and enjoying cheap carne asada tacos on the mild Sunday afternoon.

From this vantage point, we could just barely make out the entrance to the TJ Beer Fest. When we arrived at 11:30 a.m., half an hour after the scheduled start-time, a worker told us the proverbial doors would open in una horita or ‘a little hour.’ Having lived in Spain and become accustomed to affectionate, diminutive understatements like this, we should’ve known better.

palms from El Torito in TJ

view from El Torito

At 2:15 p.m. we finally paid our bill, thanked our waiter Jose and strolled in the direction of the twenty-foot tall inflatable Tijuana Cerveza beer bottle that we presumed had been erected to signal the start of the festivities. “The three amigos,” a nickname with which we were oft-solicited throughout the day, were nearly persuaded along the way to buy an infamous Tijuana souvenir with the line “Come check out my store guys, buy something you don’t need.”

Resisting the temptation, our memorabilia itch was soon scratched in the form of a TJ Beer Fest shaker glass, 4oz. taster line marked and all. Our $8 entrance fee also awarded us orange entregado-stamped wristbands and three taster tickets each.  A staff member greeted me with Bienvenidos a Tijuana – we felt welcomed indeed.

Inside, first up was the BeerBox, a chain of boutique beer stores expanding throughout Mexico, and one of the most popular tents of the day.  Their own Pale Ale was not bad, and they offered a decent international selection as well.  Next was the brewery Zona Norte, whose company and beer names were derived from the bars and brothels of Tijuana. Their Molino Rojo ‘Red Mill’ Red Ale was quite tasty, yet the Indian Pale Ale had much to learn from its San Diego brother.


jeff @ beer box

Beer Box tent

Broken, rusty Spanish got us through the three small tasters relatively quickly, but thankfully a pint of most selections was only $2-3 thereafter.  Some were hit or miss, but the Lowrider Rye Ale from Cucapá really quenched my thirst on a hot afternoon  – we couldn’t imagine how Jeff Hammett, fellow West Coaster and San Diego Beer Blog author, and his crew, rode the fifteen miles from North Park to the border in the heat.  Select Cucapá brews are available in San Diego and found through their website.

With Presidente Felipe Calderón in town for the two-week Tijuana Innovadora conference, police presence was high.  At the opening day speech, Calderón proclaimed “Tijuana is a city that works, studies and innovates; it’s a community where everyone works for the common good.”  The breweries are doing the same – this wasn’t the Tijuana your mother warned you about.  The diversity offered from Mexico’s craft brewers was surprising, and more important, refreshing.  No longer should San Diegans believe their Mexican beer selection is limited to Corona, Pacífico, XX or the like.  A quick jaunt back across the river, a two-hour pedestrian wait at the border and a sleepy trolley ride back to downtown not only made us hungry for even more Mexican cuisine, but thankful we don’t have to endure that commute every day to support our families. ¡Viva México!


famous arch of la revu

arch @ the end of la revu

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Pour Favor – TJ Beer Fest Pt. 1

Oct 11

I have a soft spot in my heart for anyone who inspires fond memories of my youth. While my grandmother gave me drumsticks and ginger-ale, Tijuana provided me with grain alcohol and fireworks. When I first got wind of the TJ Beer Fest  I had an image of tacos and beer,  a solid combination for any Saturday.  The decision was made to attend.

Still works well on a hot day
waiting for the opening with Coronas

There were three of us: Ryan, partner in crime at West Coaster, Vlad, trusted associate from college days past, and myself.  We crossed the border and arrived at the entrance of the event at around 11:30. The guy at the entrance said it would be open soon, so we ventured down La Revu in search of my favorite beer pairing combo of tacos & Coronas.

We found ourselves perched up on the balcony of restaurant/disco El Torito. With a view of the entrance of the festival, we waited. One hour turned into two as one corona turned into three. No pasa nada. Eventually, we noticed a line of people forming. We  made our entrance.

100 pesos later I was armed with a wristband, 3 tasters, and a very cool shaker glass. Soon after, the distinct handle-bar mustache of San Diego Beer Blog / West Coaster writer Jeff Hammett caught my eye , as did the eccentric hair of the Linkery’s Jay Porter.  Their crew had ridden bicycles from North Park to the festival, and I was impressed – it was hot as hell. We began our assault.

Overview of the TJ Beer Fest 2010
Overview of the TJ Beer Fest 2010

My first beer was Cucapá’s Imperial Stout.  Perhaps it was a bad starting beer, but I was so surprised to find a local Imperial Stout in Tijuana that I did not care. It was a delicious effort that was smooth, lightly carbonated with subtle hints of burnt chocolate. After a taster I opted for a pint, which, at $3, was a steal.

Cerveza Tijuana’s Güera (blond) , which is touted as a “Bohemian Pilsener,”  hit the spot with a lightly bitter flavor, hints of yeast, medium carbonation, and  4.6% ABU.

My favorite beer, and last taster ticket, was brought to me by a guy that’s known as Chubuki in the TJ beer circle. He said he’d driven his beer up from somewhere south, and wanted me to try it because it was delicious. I love a good salesman. He took me over to the Zona Norte tent where he had his jockey box and poured me a pint of his Chubrewski.  From behind  a broken pair of euro-stunna shades he continued: “Yeah man it’s like a really good beer  for being in the sun, drinking on the beach ,stuff like that you know?” Totally. The taste was weird, but fantastic. I called it an amber–sour. “Yeah, I’ll use that from now on I think.”

Cucapá @ TJ Beer Fest 2010Cucapá @ TJ Beer Fest 2010

I also stopped by The Beer Box tent, which is Mexico’s premiere shop for craft beer. They sold taster flight holders, had a beer on tap (which I didn’t get to try), and were stand-up dudes. Their website is fantastically 90’s in hilarious Spanglish, and it also totes an eclectic mix of beer that you can order on-line.

My tickets and pesos spent, I kicked back while taking in the scene.  On the stage, the relaxed Tijuana version of Rage Against the Machine played while I was munching on (another) taco. Soon, the sun began to set on the festival and our time in Tijuana. Well-fed and slightly buzzed, we made our way to the border.

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