Ensenada, Mexico, recently celebrated the fourth-annual Ensenada Beer Fest (www.ensenadabeerfest.com) with suds from more than 120 craft breweries, delicious food from local restaurants and three stages of live music. The five-day festival at the beautiful Riviera del Pacifico Cultural Center attracted more than 9,000 attendees, according to organizer Paco Talamante.
Such well-known breweries as Insurgente, Border Psycho, Baja Brewing Co., Agua Mala and Fauna poured for Mexican craft-beer fans. San Diego breweries were also in the house: Stone Brewing, Belching Beaver, Bitter Brothers, Amplified Ale Works and Mason Ale Works joined their south-of-the-border neighbors.
While there, I tried Perversa, a 4.8 percent ABV, Mexican red ale by Capital Pecado Cerveceria from Guadalajara. Brewed with chile peppers, this malty treat delivers a nice kick at the end.
As I walked around, I ran in to Benjamin Wood, owner of Hairy Nose Brewery. Wood, who lives in Tijuana but works in Del Mar, is passionate about brewing sours, which was evident when he won in the festival’s American wild and fruit beer category for his Zaz Guayaba, a refreshingly tart sour with a sweet finish. Later, I met Charlie Castillo from Zombie Brew Labs, an Ensenada brewery that took home two awards: first place for an Imperial stout and third for a golden ale. At 7.5 percent ABV, Zombie’s Double D is a double IPA loaded with hops and hints of tropical fruit.
I also met Ryan Brooks, former brewmaster at Coronado Brewing Co. in San Diego. He’s getting ready to open SouthNorte Beer Co. with the help of his former Coronado bosses, Rick and Ron Chapman. SouthNorte just released two of its core beers in cans, the Mexican lager Sea Senor! (4.5 percent ABV) and No Guey (6.5 percent ABV), an IPA brewed with mango and Tajín. Salud to the 2018 Ensenada Beer Fest and everyone who made it a sudsy success! Cheers—and viva Mexico!