The 2nd Annual Rosarito Beer Fest
The 2nd annual Rosarito Beer Fest took place along the beach town’s main drag, Benito Juárez Blvd, out in front of the colorful Hotel Festival, as well within its courtyard. The Rosarito Beer Fest featured a laidback atmosphere with some of Baja’s best beers on tap for tasters or full pours. Each taster was about 10 pesos or 80 cents. Some of the brands with which I was most familiar before coming to the festival were Tijuana, Agua Mala and Border Psycho, but I learned of many others at the Beer Fest.
With beer and food lining the street in front of Festival Plaza, one could walk into the hotel’s courtyard where there was jewelry (I didn’t check to see if it was sterling silver or not), beer and live music, much of which was either rock en espanol or ska.
Popular Baja brands were located throughout the festival. The first drink I tried was a Border Psycho wheat IPA, which was a light crispy IPA with a bit of a citrus-twist. The Double IPA by Border Psycho is a strong IPA which reflects the brand’s name.
“In our family we like good food and that’s why we always have a glass on the table,” says Roberto Albarran of Border Psycho on the brewery’s website.
“We featured a wheat ale with sorachi ace hops from Japan. The most popular beers were the Imperial Brutal Stout and our Double IPA called La Perversa,” Roberto from Border Psycho told me.
Roberto and Javier Albarran decided to come to Tijuana to develop their own brand of beer, Border Psycho. They were never “Home Brewers” but they learned and the first Border Psycho was released in March 2012.
“We loved the presence of the American tourist this time around at the fest,” he told me. “This was the second year for this beer fest and we only expect a bigger and better event each year. It’s a wonderful experience when different walks of life come in and have a great time.”
Cerveza Artesanal El Sauzal’s Dorado had a citrus flavor at the back of the throat, and my girlfriend said it was somewhat fishy, but perhaps she just wanted to eat some lobster from Puerto Nuevo, just down the road a bit south. El Sauzal also had an American Saison which was like a lager with a bittersweet kick and some hops.
“The fest went great for us. We’re a really small brewery but we do it with a lot of passion. As we like like to say ‘la cerveza artesanal no es una moda, es cultura,’” El Sauzal’s brewer, Ezki De Basabe, said to me in a message from the company’s Facebook page.
Ensenada’s Zombie Brew Labs’ belgian blonde was a fruity, refreshing beer, as was the West Coast IPA, which might have been a bit more belgian than West Coast, similar to Stone’s Cali-Belgique with less bitterness. The beers Zombie Brew had available overall were Belgian Blonde Ale, the abovementioned IPA West Coast style, Nitro Stout, and a Black IPA (bottled) in very limited quantities which was great.
“The two favorites were the nitro stout and the belgian blonde,” Cris Bautista, brewing partner and Acting CFO of Zombie Brew Labs, told me. “Although a lot of people were asking for the IPA, we sold mostly the stout and the belgian.”
“Craft Beer in Mexico is a growing market, we’re working and lobbying very hard to get our local and national laws modified so we can get our product to the consumers and beer enthusiasts,” Cris said in e-mail. “But we’re still being held down and blocked at every step by the big 2, AB Inbev and Heineken. We need to get national and international media support so we can get our plight across and reach out to more people and get things done.”
Tijuana (TJ Beer) has been producing their brand of beer since 2000 and currently has 6 styles of beer: Light, Guera, Brunette, Rosarito, Brava and Bufadora. The malts they use are imported from Europe and selected hops from Czech Republic. Tijuana Cerveceria organized the first Tijuana Beer Fest in 2004. That event has grown considerably.
TJ Beer’s drinks definitely separate themselves from other craft beers in the region, tasting much more like Mexico’s national brands than local ones. To Tijuana’s credit, theirs are some of the best mainstream tasting beers I’ve ever had, in particularly the Guera and the Light.
The Tijuana beers I had taste more like a national German lagers than a national Mexico beer. The brewery also lays claim to having been a sponsor of the San Diego Padres and the Tijuana Xolos soccer club.
Agua Mala means either “jellyfish” or “bad water,” and was started by a marine biologist less than 100 yards from the Pacific Ocean in Ensenada. Made out of shipping containers, in order to align with the breweries environmentally-minded philosophy, the brewery’s ocean view tasting room is a popular touch. This beer is indeed popular en Baja, as we see it quite often in stores like Calimax.
The Mako by Agua Mala had a grapefruit taste out front with a herbal aftertaste of hops. Like many Baja beers, the citrus is apparent in a beer much less bitter than kindred spirits on the US’s west coast.
The Mantarraya was a very dark, coffee black treat, very desert-like, with chocolate and brownie-esque aftertastes. The beer was hoppy and heavy in contrast to the Mako, which was a bit more mellow.
Some other breweries we remember were Donkey Punch Brewery, which served a vanilla wheat beer among their fruity and flavorful beers that differed from the norm. Cerveza Cardera’s pale ale was fizzy and bright up front. Cerveza Cardera was started in January 2013. The first beer that was made was a honey amber for the Super Bowl to try with their friends.
“Since then, we’ve been making beer,” Armando Cardenas, the brewer for Cardera, told me. “Every year we are growing and hope to end the year bottling our beer to have beers available for sale.”
To date, Cerveza Cardera has 5 different types of beer. The newest ones are Jack Porter, Chino Pale Ale, Berrinchuda (fruit beer) made with berries from the San Quintin Valley. The latter is, naturally, very fruity.
“This beer [Berrinchuda] won best beer of its kind in the Ensenada Beer Fest that took place in March of this year,” Cardenas says. “The judges there were from the beer ranking non-profit organization, BJCP, from San Diego, California.”
Coronel Cerveceria’s red ale struck me first as thick, and also as a sweet, creamy, honey ale with a hint of citrus. The Canneria Ensenada provided beers on the fruitier spectrum of things.
The beers Heisenberg Cerveceria had at the festival included Fumata Negra Stout; Luna Roja Scottish Ale; Imperial Blonde Ale; Immortal IPA; Resurreccion Porter Coffee and Cenicienta Golden Ale.
The Imperial Blonde Ale I had by Heisenberg had a hint of IPA in it, but was light and crisp enough to truly be called a blonde ale, while the Cenicienta was also light and refreshing with citrus flavorings.
As one of the guys the Ensenada’s Heisenberg Cerveceria told me, “Mexico craft beer revolution starts en Baja! We are here to stay!”
While Baja has steadily become known for its wines, it could be that the next decade will make it a craft brew epicenter for the whole world.
You can see the official Facebook page of the Rosarito Beer Fest here.
- Disclaimer: Due to the nature of the event, authors memories might be fuzzy.
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