Early February marked one year since Machete Beer House brought craft beer to National City. In that short time, Machete has already earned a reputation for having one of the more intriguing beer selections south of Highway 94. After following its tap updates over the past few months, I would say Machete consistently offers one of the most come-hither taplists in the county.
This has much to do with the efforts of its proprietors, Eddie Trejo and Joann Cornejo, who take care to strike a balance between beer styles and tastes across Machete's 30 tap handles. It also likely reflects relationships Trejo has made working for several years within the craft industry prior to opening a bar.
Most new craft beer bars in San Diego don't have the wherewithal to furnish beer lists comparable to those of pubs like Hamilton's, O'Brien's, and Churchill's — longtime craft beer champions with longstanding connections to the industry's most revered brewers.
But Machete is on their heels. For its anniversary, it hosted a party featuring some notable Green Flash, Cellar 3, and Alpine releases, including a cask of Alpine's Duet IPA with passion fruit. It also offered AleSmith's highly sought Vietnamese Speedway, and Paper Mache Té, a tamarind sour made by ChuckAlek Independent Brewers to mark the occasion.
Granted, most bars break out their best for special events like this. But when I visited the Friday night following the anniversary, once again some pretty impressive beers graced the chalkboard taplist. Local notables included Lost Abbey's Framboise de Amarosa and Modern Times' Orderville IPA, released that day for the first time outside its tasting rooms.
There were also a couple of Colorado standouts — Oskar Blues' excellent Death by Coconuts porter and Avery's bourbon barrel aged Vanilla Bean Stout. And for the first time I encountered beer from Mexicali craft brewer Cerveza Fauna, specifically its pointedly bitter Lycan Lupus IPA.
After trying the Lycan, the girl seated next to me caught my eye. Rather, her pink beer did — served in a tulip glass rimmed with what appeared to be red salt. This turned out to be a mix of Tajin and chamoy — the former a chili lime seasoning, the latter a savory pickled fruit sauce.
The popular latino condiments are sometimes used to dress the tomato juice and beer cocktail, Michelada. Sometime during this first year, though, some regular customers enticed the Machete team to add them them to fruited versions of Council Brewing's Beatitude, and it stuck. In this case it accentuated Council's latest release, made with prickly pear.
I happen to have recently learned to love Tajin, so I gave it a shot. I would never have thought to drink a beer this way, but the salty spice and fruity acids brilliantly contrasted the tart saison. I might be hooked, but doubt I'll get around to trying it again. Because next time I visit Machete, I know there'll be at least four or five other beers I want to try first, and I will happily go south to try them.