SouthNorte Beer Co. makes its debut this week. The company, founded by Coronado Brewing Company alum Ryan Brooks, has announced two beers being released in bottles and kegs throughout the San Diego area (with cans to follow within the next few months).
A press release positioning SouthNorte as a borderland company describes the operation as "a new kind of brewery," producing beers that combine "the artisanal expertise of the San Diego craft beer scene with the free-spirited experimentation found in Mexico's breweries."
However, for the moment, it's not any kind of physical brewery. Until establishing its location, Brooks will continue to make SouthNorte's inaugural beers in a familiar brewhouse: Coronado Brewing's place in Bay Park, where Brooks led the brewing team to a World Beer Cup championship in 2014.
The borderland bona fides stem from Brooks’s involvement with a number of cervecería artesanales — craft breweries that have emerged over the past several years in Tijuana, Ensenada, and Mexicali. Brooks became particularly engaged with Baja's brewing scene back in 2012–’13, while living in Tijuana.
"It really started with me judging homebrew competitions," he says. "I would give honest feedback and leave my contact info on the judging forms. A lot of those guys would hit me up afterwards, asking for advice on how to make better beer." As homebrewers opened breweries, Brooks stayed involved, offering ingredients, advice, and enthusiasm. "It’s been rad to see the scene evolve over time," he adds. "I love spending time down there."
Mexican breweries Brooks has connected with include Tijuana's Cervecería Insurgente and Border Psycho Brewery; Ensenada's Wendlandt Cervecería and Aguamala Cervecería; and Cerveza Fauna in Mexicali. He recently made a SouthNorte beer with Fauna and looks forward to more cross-border collaborations, as well as a few with San Diego breweries.
The first two beers out of SouthNorte take different approaches to the borderland concept. Sea Señor is a crisp, unadulterated Mexican lager — one of the best-selling beer styles in the U.S. these days. An IPA dubbed No Güey takes inspiration from a popular Mexican snack mango served with tajin, a condiment of chili, lime, and salt. Güey is a Spanish slang term analagous to “dude.”
The Mexican public will get its first taste of SouthNorte when the brewery serves a beer called Big Jefe Weizenbock at the Copa Mexico in November. But otherwise, distribution is all local to the San Diego side of la frontera. "We think the idea behind SouthNorte resonates on both sides of the border," says Brooks, "so we’d like to sell in Mexico as well, but nothing is final yet."