The origami-inspired facade of the work-in-progress tasting room at Valle de Guadalupe's Media Perra Cerveza Artesanal
The following is the fourth in a six-part series about that adventure, which yielded some good beer and a good deal more. Valle de Guadalupe - Part I is the previous stop on this tour of Baja’s craft brewing culture.
The entrepreneurial spirit at the heart of Cerveceria del Valle is contagious. While there, I met the duo working to open a new brewery just down the road and in the heart of the Valle, Media Perra Cerveza Artesanal. Yes, it translates to “half bitch,” and while that’s semi-hilarious, the business is entirely serious. Taking a page from the wine industry, which is already well known and proliferous in the Valle, Lewis McAnally and Carolina Armijo are building an extremely stylish tasting room that will stand out among the hills, brush, and competitive landscape around them.
Cerveceria del Valle in Valle de Guadalupe
Built using 100% sustainable architecture, the outlandishly shaped building—inspired by the Japanese paper-folding art of origami—is constructed from adobe, straw and wood. There are also reclaimed metal elements, most notably in the form of large pointed ceiling pieces that jut out at extreme angles and have holes punched out of them to allow light to pass through onto the building’s entryway. Targeting a December or January opening, Media Perra’s core beers will be English- and American-style pale ales, an IPA, and an imperial stout (though dark beers aren’t wildly popular in Baja, it would seem there are a large number of this brawny variety being produced). Those will all be up for sipping indoors or au natural at a sprawling outdoor beer garden.
Adding to the appeal of the operation is the fact that there are nearby wineries, one of which is in the process of constructing a hotel not far away. And a mile or so down the road is a hop farm called Rancho Loza tended by Miguel Loza Brown from TJ’s Border Psycho, a fun fact I picked up from our driver. Though a different beverage, craft beer has enough similarities to fit right in with and hold its own against the wine that has become Valle de Guadalupe’s calling card. This was hammered home by the Media Perra project, but something I first realized while back at Cerveceria del Valle.
Cerveceria del Valle in Valle de Guadalupe
By now, you’re likely wondering how visiting a beer bar eked out an amazing meal at one of the Valle’s premier dining destinations. After all, I go to beer bars all the time. I sample great beer on a regular basis. What really made this event memorable was the fact that a number of Baja brewers took time out of their busy schedules to meet our craft-driven caravan at Cerveceria del Valle and provide their thoughts on the brewing scene. I took an immediate liking to Charlie Carrillo from Zombie Brew Labs. The business is in a state of flux at the moment. The brewery is based in Ensenada, but Carrillo lives in Mexicali and his head brewer and partner, Mauricio Peralta, recently took a job in Arizona, leaving them at a forked road with many tines to choose from as they figure out the next step for their interest.
For now, they are pumping out as much of their varied line of beers as they can, leading with English and West Coast-style IPAs, a double IPA, red IPA, and, again, an imperial stout. Carrillo used to make regular pilgrimages to San Diego for hoppy beer, because there was none to be had in Baja. Nowadays, his lupulin-inspired cross-border ventures are fewer and farther between because there are so many quality IPA options, his included, for sale throughout the region. But it’s not all about the hops for Zombie—far from it, in fact. The company also rolls out a number of specialty styles including a golden ale, Belgian-style blonde, saison, porter, and stout.
The four-year-old business isn’t cashing in on The Walking Dead-inspired walking cadaver mania. Carrillo and his friends used to drink into the wee hours of the morning and, when his grandfather would come home and see them, bleary eyed and exhibiting speeds ranging from slow to stop, he’d say, “You zombies are still up?” Now, their sleepless nights are the product of laborious hours spent brewing. Zombie has made good headway, but Carrillo still says the business is “in diapers.”
The entire brewing industry in Ensenada could be described in similar fashion. These are still the early stages, even though the tight-knit band of fermentation specialists making the beer has known each other, in many cases, anywhere from 10 to 15 years. They regularly brew together and collaborate. And thanks to Bautista, they have a brilliant place to showcase their goods. But even with this much teamwork and camaraderie, Carrillo cites another region’s brewers when talking about the folks who really have their act together where it comes to channeling energies to raise the collective tide. Enter, Mexicali.
Mexicali - Part I is the next stop on this tour of Baja’s craft brewing culture.