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A beer party of epic proportions with the Chicali Brewers Association

The life and hard times of a beerfluencer

Ladies and gentlemen, start your judging!
Ladies and gentlemen, start your judging!

I went back to hell, but not for the bewitching Little Satan. The Chicali Brewers Association read my Reader cover story on Mexicali beer and invited me to the city’s Beer Week as a “beerfluencer.” The itinerary promised a beer party of epic proportions.

Thursday: Pretend Judge at Copa Baja

My friend Willy picked me up early in the morning; he does the commute once a week for his job. Mexicali cools down during winter, and we arrived around noon to a comfortable 70 degrees. From his work, it was an easy walk to Cervecería Catus, where the 5th edition of Copa Baja was being held. The warehouse was filled with 52 international beer judges, including Grand Masters Gordon Strong, Sandy Cockerman, and more. I sat with Ryan Brooks of South Norte Beer Co., who was judging porters with two other judges: Paige Martin — certified Ciceron from Texas and manager of Second Pitch Beer — and Rodrigo Plancarte from Querétaro, salesman of Yakima Chief Hops in Mexico. I spotted some beer left in each bottle, so I partook in the drinking and observed their input, pretending to be a judge. Backstage, I found a table filled with almost-empty beers. I took a sip of more than a dozen and peeled off the labels of the few I liked to learn what I had just drunk.

Whatever shall we do with this leftover beer?

Day 1 of judging ended around 6 pm. The after-party was held at Cerveza Fauna, with plenty of free beers and more beer talks with judges and brewers. At around 10 pm, I went to Kim Koh, the grittiest dive bar in Mexicali, to meet with my host, Roberto. We drank caguamas until past midnight. On our way to his place, the cops stopped us. The only money I spent that day was 1000 pesos to bribe the cops to let us go.

Friday: Hungover/San Luis Río Colorado/Awards

I woke up on Friday morning and took a shower. My host took me for birria tacos he said were passable. They were okay, but tiny and expensive. He dropped me off at Copa Baja at 11 am. The judges were already busy drinking.

I met “beerfluencer” Tenorio from La Barra Geek. He wanted to show me his town of San Luis Río Colorado, a small city an hour east in the state of Sonora that shares the border with San Luis, Arizona. On our way there, I started to feel sick. But I took some aspirin and powered through for more beer drinking. We visited Cervecería Alto Golfo, the only brewery with a tap room. I tried a handful of their beers and was blown away by the quality, especially the Xmas Spiced Ale they did in collaboration with Tijuana’s Bosiger. The usually sleepy small town was in a festive mood for the fair “Vive San Luis.” The fair had six local beer tents, but only two were open when we got there: Cerveza Sonoran was serving beer for the first time and served me a great light saison. and Santa Clara Brewery served me a basic single-hop Mosaic session IPA.

Sponsored
Sponsored

Tenorio drove us back to Mexicali for the awards ceremony as night fell. I was feeling worse, but took more medicine. The big winners of Copa Baja were Agua Mala (Ensenada), Fausto (Monterrey), Fauna (Mexicali), Averno (Mexicali), Kaminari, and Cardera. With 54 medals in total, Baja took 57% of the awards. There were also a few surprises: gold winners from other breweries in Mexico, as well as some categories in which the gold award was left out on purpose.

The after-party was held at Amante Brewery. There was live music, free tacos, and all the leftover beers the judges didn’t drink. I didn’t know this, and ordered a chili dog and the local silver-awarded foreign stout called “La Panocha.” I was still feeling unwell. Luckily, my host was nearby, and he picked me up to go to bed early.

Saturday: Mexicali Beer Fest

I woke up feeling okay Saturday morning and waited for my friend Adly to get off work to pick me up. We made it to the Mexicali Beer Fest before 3 pm. I had with me my camera and a bundle of Readers to give to the breweries mentioned in the cover story. The entry to the festival included a commemorative plastic cup and a pint of a West Coast pilsner by Tirano Brewery, a dry, hoppy, yet smooth beer. The festival featured more than 52 breweries and a dozen food stands. You paid as you went (around 50 pesos per pint). I started my eve with a bitter hoppy pale ale from Fauna as I delivered a handful of copies to Luis Larios, the brewer featured on the cover. I delivered another handful to the beertenders of Cervecería Averno, the brewery on the story’s first page. They served me their silver-awarded “beast” IPA. From there, I jumped from brewery to brewery, trading a copy of the Reader for half a pint at each: Colmena (honey blond ale), Pintito (silver Golden Stout), Malgro (stout), Deserto (silver Dunkelweizen), Juguete (bronze Oud bruin), and Mandala (gold Hefeweizen and a cannabis pale ale).

A couple of “asado Chilenos” paired perfectly with the beer.

When it got dark, I went to grab a traditional ‘asado Chileno’ by Patagonia: a variety of meats on a stick cooked over a charcoal grill. At 150 pesos (around $8), they paired perfectly with beers. I ended up eating two. After that, I asked Adly if I could pass out in the back of her car — a power nap to brace for the rest of the night. It was cut short by the cops, who knocked on the window and asked what I was doing. After explaining I was simply taking a nap and that I worked for a newspaper, they left me alone.

I went back to the festival. This time, I grabbed as many samplers as I could from breweries that I didn’t know: 2 Rayas, Emekisele, Tres Cachorras, Te Maquilo Tu Cheve, Palmas, Heatstroke, San Felipe, and Malbicho. The last was the best one I tried, and I ended my night with a pint of their Chamagosa IPA. Before midnight, while banda Tiranos del Norte was on stage and the large crowd drunkenly danced norteña, I went to say my goodbyes to brewers and “beerfluencers.” Luis Larios served me more Fauna beer, and I also got more beers handed to me from Amante and Gato Gordo.

I hitched a ride back to Tijuana the following morning with two judges (one from Tijuana, the other from San Diego) and another “beerfluencer,” Carlo Osuna of Dos Cheves Podcast.

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Ladies and gentlemen, start your judging!
Ladies and gentlemen, start your judging!

I went back to hell, but not for the bewitching Little Satan. The Chicali Brewers Association read my Reader cover story on Mexicali beer and invited me to the city’s Beer Week as a “beerfluencer.” The itinerary promised a beer party of epic proportions.

Thursday: Pretend Judge at Copa Baja

My friend Willy picked me up early in the morning; he does the commute once a week for his job. Mexicali cools down during winter, and we arrived around noon to a comfortable 70 degrees. From his work, it was an easy walk to Cervecería Catus, where the 5th edition of Copa Baja was being held. The warehouse was filled with 52 international beer judges, including Grand Masters Gordon Strong, Sandy Cockerman, and more. I sat with Ryan Brooks of South Norte Beer Co., who was judging porters with two other judges: Paige Martin — certified Ciceron from Texas and manager of Second Pitch Beer — and Rodrigo Plancarte from Querétaro, salesman of Yakima Chief Hops in Mexico. I spotted some beer left in each bottle, so I partook in the drinking and observed their input, pretending to be a judge. Backstage, I found a table filled with almost-empty beers. I took a sip of more than a dozen and peeled off the labels of the few I liked to learn what I had just drunk.

Whatever shall we do with this leftover beer?

Day 1 of judging ended around 6 pm. The after-party was held at Cerveza Fauna, with plenty of free beers and more beer talks with judges and brewers. At around 10 pm, I went to Kim Koh, the grittiest dive bar in Mexicali, to meet with my host, Roberto. We drank caguamas until past midnight. On our way to his place, the cops stopped us. The only money I spent that day was 1000 pesos to bribe the cops to let us go.

Friday: Hungover/San Luis Río Colorado/Awards

I woke up on Friday morning and took a shower. My host took me for birria tacos he said were passable. They were okay, but tiny and expensive. He dropped me off at Copa Baja at 11 am. The judges were already busy drinking.

I met “beerfluencer” Tenorio from La Barra Geek. He wanted to show me his town of San Luis Río Colorado, a small city an hour east in the state of Sonora that shares the border with San Luis, Arizona. On our way there, I started to feel sick. But I took some aspirin and powered through for more beer drinking. We visited Cervecería Alto Golfo, the only brewery with a tap room. I tried a handful of their beers and was blown away by the quality, especially the Xmas Spiced Ale they did in collaboration with Tijuana’s Bosiger. The usually sleepy small town was in a festive mood for the fair “Vive San Luis.” The fair had six local beer tents, but only two were open when we got there: Cerveza Sonoran was serving beer for the first time and served me a great light saison. and Santa Clara Brewery served me a basic single-hop Mosaic session IPA.

Sponsored
Sponsored

Tenorio drove us back to Mexicali for the awards ceremony as night fell. I was feeling worse, but took more medicine. The big winners of Copa Baja were Agua Mala (Ensenada), Fausto (Monterrey), Fauna (Mexicali), Averno (Mexicali), Kaminari, and Cardera. With 54 medals in total, Baja took 57% of the awards. There were also a few surprises: gold winners from other breweries in Mexico, as well as some categories in which the gold award was left out on purpose.

The after-party was held at Amante Brewery. There was live music, free tacos, and all the leftover beers the judges didn’t drink. I didn’t know this, and ordered a chili dog and the local silver-awarded foreign stout called “La Panocha.” I was still feeling unwell. Luckily, my host was nearby, and he picked me up to go to bed early.

Saturday: Mexicali Beer Fest

I woke up feeling okay Saturday morning and waited for my friend Adly to get off work to pick me up. We made it to the Mexicali Beer Fest before 3 pm. I had with me my camera and a bundle of Readers to give to the breweries mentioned in the cover story. The entry to the festival included a commemorative plastic cup and a pint of a West Coast pilsner by Tirano Brewery, a dry, hoppy, yet smooth beer. The festival featured more than 52 breweries and a dozen food stands. You paid as you went (around 50 pesos per pint). I started my eve with a bitter hoppy pale ale from Fauna as I delivered a handful of copies to Luis Larios, the brewer featured on the cover. I delivered another handful to the beertenders of Cervecería Averno, the brewery on the story’s first page. They served me their silver-awarded “beast” IPA. From there, I jumped from brewery to brewery, trading a copy of the Reader for half a pint at each: Colmena (honey blond ale), Pintito (silver Golden Stout), Malgro (stout), Deserto (silver Dunkelweizen), Juguete (bronze Oud bruin), and Mandala (gold Hefeweizen and a cannabis pale ale).

A couple of “asado Chilenos” paired perfectly with the beer.

When it got dark, I went to grab a traditional ‘asado Chileno’ by Patagonia: a variety of meats on a stick cooked over a charcoal grill. At 150 pesos (around $8), they paired perfectly with beers. I ended up eating two. After that, I asked Adly if I could pass out in the back of her car — a power nap to brace for the rest of the night. It was cut short by the cops, who knocked on the window and asked what I was doing. After explaining I was simply taking a nap and that I worked for a newspaper, they left me alone.

I went back to the festival. This time, I grabbed as many samplers as I could from breweries that I didn’t know: 2 Rayas, Emekisele, Tres Cachorras, Te Maquilo Tu Cheve, Palmas, Heatstroke, San Felipe, and Malbicho. The last was the best one I tried, and I ended my night with a pint of their Chamagosa IPA. Before midnight, while banda Tiranos del Norte was on stage and the large crowd drunkenly danced norteña, I went to say my goodbyes to brewers and “beerfluencers.” Luis Larios served me more Fauna beer, and I also got more beers handed to me from Amante and Gato Gordo.

I hitched a ride back to Tijuana the following morning with two judges (one from Tijuana, the other from San Diego) and another “beerfluencer,” Carlo Osuna of Dos Cheves Podcast.

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