This past weekend, we here at Squid Ink veered from the usual Los Angeles beer research to take a mini road trip across the border and drink our way through the annual Mexicali Beer Fest.
With an estimated 80-plus breweries — dozens of which have materialized in the last few years — the state of Baja is currently the epicenter of Mexico's growing craft beer revolution. Many of these new producers of cerveza artesanal were on display for 10 hours (yes, a 10-hour beer fest — whew!) last Saturday in the border city's Centro Histórico.
More than 2,000 mostly Mexican catadores (tasters) showed up to try everything from black saisons to ESBs from breweries like Agua Mala, Cerveceria Urbana and Border Psycho. But for the small contingent of L.A. beer lovers who had driven down for a chance to drink some fresh suds that will never make it Stateside, one Mexicali brewery held a larger significance than the others.
Cucapá is one of the country's largest craft breweries and recently became the first Mexican craft beer to be exported to the United States. After a year and a half of experimental distribution in San Diego (and even more experimental brewing at its Mexicali facility; they poured a red coffee IPA at the fest), the brand is making a push of its core labels into greater Los Angeles.
Along with Old Mission Brewery in Ensenada — which is releasing bottles under the name Ensenada Brewing Company to avoid confusion with San Diego's Mission Brewery — the Mexicali makers of Chupacabras pale ale, Runaway IPA and Obscura brown ale are making their regional debuts this month.
Bottles from Cucapá and Ensenada Brewing are slowly starting to roll out to select accounts throughout L.A. and Orange County and on Saturday, Nov. 16, Angelenos will have the opportunity to try all the offerings from these first two America-bound Baja brands at an open event hosted by the L.A. Beer Bloggers group at Colonia Taco Lounge in La Puente.
With a theme of “The Rise of Craft Beer in Mexico,” the casual get-together will feature talks with Cucapá owner Mario Garcia and head brewer Carlos Martinez (who are driving up from Mexicali), as well as insight from reps for Ensenada Brewing Company, whose Horchata Obscura and Red Agave IPA eventually will be on more than 250 SoCal shelves.
Though Ensenada Brewing and Cucapá are only two of Baja California's numerous and varied microcervecerias, the chance to sip on a small slice of Mexico's burgeoning craft beer scene is a surprising treat, even in Latino-infused L.A. And if importers are smart, this month's small arrival of cerveza artesanal will be merely the beginning of a major surge of American-influenced Baja beers to the States.
L.A. Beer Bloggers Summit #8: “The Rise of Craft Beer in Mexico,” Saturday, Nov, 16, free, Colonia Taco Lounge, La Puente.
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