2019 Ensenada Beer Fest!

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Before I tell you how much fun the 2019 Ensenada Beer Fest was why don’t you tell me why you didn’t go? You don’t like craft beer from 120 breweries?  You don’t like Live music from 5 different stages?  Or maybe you don’t like great food, not just Mexican food but everything from pizza to sushi was offered at this year’s Fest. This was the ninth year of the EBF and it just keeps getting better, the music was great, more live acts this year, the beer was also markedly improved, so let me say this for those in the back, Go! Go! Go! to next year’s EBF!!

Our trip started with a pit stop for lunch in Rosarito, we stopped at Tacos El Yaqui, if you have never been then mark this on your foodie bucket list. These tacos are BOMB! Please refer to the picture I posted, they are huge, they’re packed with carne asada that is grilled right before your eyes, then they add beans, guacamole, salsa all in a sturdy AF flour tortilla. I had 2 of these bad boys but I probably should have just had 1 so my food coma wasn’t so intense.  We drove in on Thursday, the event is on Friday and Saturday and tickets go for $500 pesos( about $25 to $27) beers are not included but they do offer very small tasters for free, a pint will go for $3.50. If you only want to attend one night then buy your tickets ASAP because Saturday sells out fast. I attend on Friday so tickets were still available on the day of the event. If you don’t want to drive there are groups that meet in San Diego and take the bus R/T, Google Ensenada Beer fest 2019 and you will find different groups, some even offering hotels if you want to stay the night. We go on Friday and leave Saturday for the Valle de Guadalupe, but that’s another review.

We stayed right across the street at the Corona Hotel and Spa, there’s also Airbnb available and of course other hotels but book early for the best deals! Friday we had a great breakfast at my favorite spot in downtown Ensenada, El Rey Sol, It’s an old school restaurant with a big dining room complete with a piano player tickling the ivories as you eat, I really enjoyed the shrimp omelette with a slightly spicy cilantro sauce. YUM! For lunch we paid a visit to Tacos El Fenix, some of the best shrimp and fish tacos in town! The Beer fest started at 4 PM so we wanted to make sure we had a good base going, we’re professionals. Ha!

It was almost 5 PM by the time we walked into the fest, outside I could hear the music and I was surprised that it was a live band playing, I thought a DJ was playing, the band was so good, Pearl Jam, RATM, The Cure, Nirvana, one after another they killed it! My first beer was a Hazy IPA from Heisenberg Brewing, they won a Gold Medal for it and it was GOOOOOD!!! Seriously. Very good stuff from one of the oldest breweries in Ensenada. Cheers! We went around trying little tasters from different breweries, all good too, I finally had a full pour from another old school joint, Insurgente, I was hoping they would be pouring their version of Xocoveza but no luck, I did enjoy their La Lupulosa, their intense IPA that is both hoppy and malty, best of both worlds. Viva Mexico! From there I went to visit my buddy, Charlie Carillo from Zombie Labs, last year they had won for a stout and again this year they won again! Click the link for our interview! Everything is going great with Charlie except that they had to close their tasting room in downtown Ensenada, they are looking for another location, I hope so, their beer is tasty!! I drank a full pour of Zombie Lab’s stout then went inside the complex to meet up with some friends, this year like the year’s past we have a great group of friend’s that we meet up with and get muy borracho, this year I also met up with a few friends from the home brew club I belong to, SoCal Cerveceros, the largest and fastest growing Latino home brew club in America. There’s another stage inside so we enjoyed some salsa music and a few more beers. I also met Paul Woronicz, originally from Boston but has lived and brewed in Ensenada for the last 10 years, he is the owner of Old Mission Brewing, his mole stout was phenomenal!! After drinking a full pour of the mole stout I went to say hi to Benjamin Wood who I had met last year at EBF, he is owner of Hairy Nose Brewery from Tijuana, he told me that he’s pouring his suds in a tasting room in Tijuana called Colectivo Cervecero La 20 Tasting Room. I’m looking forward to paying a visit to La 20 on my next visit to Tijuana. Ajua!

Unfortunately this is all I can remember, Ha! I did notice that there were not as many breweries from San Diego this year. In the past there was always a few, in fact last year there were at least 10. I hope you try to make next year’s Ensenada Beer fest, you won’t be disappointed! Cheers!!


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Road Trip! Mason Ale Works/Urge Gastropub and Whiskey Bank in Oceanside
Mason Ale Works

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I’ve always enjoyed the brews from Mason Ale Works, they do so many collabs and I feel that their Respeto Mexican Lager is one of the best in that category, hints of corn on the back end remind me of a fresh tortilla. So when my pal, Rudy, asked if I’d like to go with him and another friend to Mason Ale Works in Carlsbad on Ash Wednesday in the rain during the day I was like, Helles Yeah!

We left before 10 a.m. and got there shortly after 11 a.m., it was a quick trip, light traffic and minimal rain, you take the 5 south and take the 78, Hop Highway,  into Carlsbad, from there it’s about ten minutes. The Oceanside area is where the Hop Highway begins, starting with Bagby Beer Company and Mason Ale Works you will encounter a third of all breweries in San Diego County as you go East towards Julian. Road Trip!!

Mason Ale Works is part of Urge Gastropub and Whiskey Bank, which is a member of 3LocalBrother.com group of businesses, owned by Grant Tondro, and brothers Nate and Zac Higson. This location opened in 2015, their original Urge opened in 2010 and they just opened another brewery/gastropub in San Marcos(Hop Highway West). We found our seats at the bar and sat there admiring the beautiful restaurant, it’s located in a former bank and you can still see the bank vault doors. In case you don’t drink beer Urge carries 260 whiskeys and 30 wines, they pour 40 draft beers, 26 from Mason Ale Works. With so many beers to choose from we decided to do some tasters so we can try as many different styles as we could. Of course I had the Respeto, I also had Donny’s, their Pilsner, Charley Hustle, their Red Ale and so many more. We had a great lunch, I enjoyed the Wedge Salad, Rudy attacked the cheeseburger with fries, the menu is impressive like everything else. I have to say that my favorite beer was Jackie, a cream ale or as they describe it their take on a white Russian, notes of coffee, vanilla and cinnamon made this a super enjoyable and different brew.

We decided we would definitely come back but next time take the Amtrak from Santa Ana, it’s a $12 trip one way or about $25 roundtrip, well worth it because also in this area is the aforementioned Bagby Beer Company check out their website for food menu and their phenomenal beer menu. Road Trip!!  #BobbyKnowsBeer


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Santa Ana River Brewing Company is OPEN!!
Santa Ana River Brewing Company

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The doors are finally opened at Orange County’s newest brewery, Santa Ana River Brewing Company, three years I’ve been following their journey on Instagram and I’m happy to say it was worth the wait. Geoff Brand, Mike Miller and Ian Maddux are the homebrewers behind the hops and grain, they are focusing on hoppy, West Coast Style beers but the menu has a little bt of everything for everyone.

SARB (Santa Ana River Brewing) is located in the south western corner of Santa Ana, near the corner of Harbor and Warner, the address is 3480 W. Warner but it’s actually set back in a newer looking industrial building complex anchored by a Self Storage unit. It might be hard to find at first but once you do find your way you’ll be welcomed by one or all three of the brewers, they are a very friendly group and will help you decide on your choice of suds. The area when you first walk in is where you order your beer, you can sit there at the bar or go back into their large warehouse area where all the brewing equipment is. It’s cool to see that they still use their homebrewing set up to brew beer, using it for small batches which I’m looking forward to. This part of Orange County is totally devoid of fresh brewed beer, Fountain Valley is close by as well as Costa Mesa, and they’re a welcome addition to the other breweries in Santa Ana. Drink Up People! 😄

I started off my visit with the Par for the Course Pale Ale 6.4% ABV, Single Hop w/Citra, very refreshing, hop forward but not bitter at all. Delicious! Sometimes Pale Ales are, well, Pale, no body, just blah, not Par for the Course, this Pale would compliment a juicy steak or burger, YUM! I then had to have the Saigon Stout 6.8% ABV Nitro Milk Stout w/Cascade Hops and Vietnamese coffee. Smooth AF! The coffee is from a local roaster, Delta Café Roasting, excellente!! Rich, wonderful flavors, one of the best Stouts around. Next up was the FarCryo All Cryo Hops IPA 7.4% ABV using Simcoe, Citra and Mosaic. Fantastic IPA, again this beer was super hop forward but with no bitterness, smooth, enjoyable, so much going on with all the hops.

I was told to let the homebrewing community know if you want to hold your meeting here you are more than welcome. SoCal Cerveceros let’s meet up! SARB is closed on Mondays but Tuesday they will start having a Trivia Night with a Taco Truck @tacos_el_gringo. For more information follow them on Instagram @santaanariverbrewing or www.santaanariverbrewing.com

Cheers! BobbyKnowsBeer!

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Happy 30th Birthday to the Real OG, Karl Strauss Brewing!
Karl Strauss Brewing in Anaheim and Costa Mesa

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Yes I know there is a brand new brewery in Downtown Disney, I’m sure it’s big and beautiful, the beer is probably pretty tasty but let’s hear it for the OG of breweries, still independent after 30 years! Happy Birthday to Karl Strauss Brewing! On February 2, 1989 two friends and one Uncle opened the first Karl Strauss Brewery on Columbia Street in San Diego. Before that date craft beer did not exist in San Diego, they were the first to brew hand crafted beer, recipes invented by a Master Brewer named Karl M. Strauss, uncle of Chris Cramer who along with his college roommate, Matt Rattner changed the world of beer as we know it. Bow Down!!

I have to be honest, the first time I reviewed Karl Strauss Brewing in Costa Mesa I assumed it was a corporate company with a made up name to sound official. I had even seen the real Karl Strauss introduce Social Distortion back in 2003 at the San Diego Street Scene, I assumed it was an actor named Karl Strauss who did all the events. Boy was I wrong! When Chris Cramer asked his uncle to help with opening their brewery, Karl had already helped as a consultant in planning 50 breweries and brewpubs. Mr. Strauss fled Nazi Germany in 1939, he had already been working in a brewery and ended up in Milwaukee at Pabst Brewing Company, he worked his way up the company, and after 44 years he retired in 1983. He worked at the company that carried his name until his death in 2006. #Respect

I recently paid a visit to the Karl Strauss Brewing location in Anaheim to celebrate my brother’s birthday, I hadn’t been there in quite awhile but the last time I was there everything was great, the service especially. On this visit things haven’t changed, from the moment we walked in we were treated very well, the staff at Karl Strauss are trained well and other restaurant’s should take notes. We all ordered our beers, I always will order from the beers that are brewed on premises, small batch brews that don’t last long and are always very good, the brewer at the Anaheim location is Jarrod Davis and he’s an exceptional brewer. The rest of the beer menu are the core beers and season beers of Karl Strauss Brewing. They have won  109 awards over the years with Red Trolley being one of the most popular. The waiters and bartenders have a nice habit of bringing you tasters of beers that pair with the food you order a nice touch. Be comfortable in knowing that whatever beer you order is going to be top shelf!

The food also excels at Karl Strauss Brewing. The executive chefs are constantly changing things according to season and as new beers are introduced they will have new food pairings. You have to try the pretzel bites fried in duck fat! Oh My! They pair with any of the beers on the menu, dip them in the aioli or ask for some mustard. I’m usually good with just those but since we were celebrating a birthday we all ordered burgers and I ordered the Mesquite Chicken sandwich that came with in house made chips. Everything was so good, my brothers enjoyed their burgers and when it came to dessert we mentioned to the waitress that the pickles were just the best we had and she brought us all an extra one!

Go over to Karl Strauss and enjoy the festivities as they celebrate their 30th! Here’s a link to a great interview I found in San Diego Magazine with owners, Chris Cramer and Matt Rattner. Still Brewing! Still Independent!!!  Cheers! BobbyKnowsBeer!

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My 2018 Year in Review, BobbyKnows….

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2018 is now a distant memory and I’m over my bout with the flu so let’s reminisce a bit. Craft beer enjoyed another year of growth and creativity, not only here but all over Southern Cali and Baja. I started the year writing for the OC Weekly and I eventually decided to do my own thing so I can write more than reviews, I’m thankful for my time with the Weekly as I watched Orange County go from about 18 breweries in 2016 to now almost 40 and more on the horizon. I now write about not only the local craft beer scene but I will cover Baja Norte, some L.A. and Long Beach, I’ll do homebrewing stories, interviews and food reviews. Yeah!

The first beer fest for 2018 was the DTLA Breweries United Fest 3.0, this was held in the Triangle Lot next to Angel City Brewery and featured the 7 breweries from the Art District. A small, intimate fest that was so much fun! This year’s fest is coming up on January 20th, take the train and Uber/Lyft over to the site, it’s $45 and Pearl’s BBQ will be offering food. Tickets available at Eventbrite.com

Next up in 2018 was the Ensenada Beer Fest held in early March. You got to check this fest out! 120 breweries from all over Mexico plus some San Diego breweries such as Stone Brewing and Mason Ale Works. This last Fest I met Charlie Carrillo from Zombie Brew Labs, check out my interview with Charlie here on my site, I also met Ryan Brooks from SouthNorte Beer Co. an up and coming brewery that I will be reviewing soon. The Fest  starts at 4pm till midnite, bring your dancing shoes and your stretchy pants! There’s so much besides the beer, music on three stages, food galore. Tickets are already on sale, price doesn’t include beer but you can get a taster for $1 or a pint for $3. I’ll be there for the Friday session so let’s meet up!

Next up was Coldchela 2108!! I was fortunate to be a judge at the biggest Latino homebrew club event, it was a blast! 20 groups of home brewers, 2 bands and DJ’s plus food! This event sold out so follow @socalceverceros for ticket info for Coldchela 2019 which will be held in April. I’ve been writing about SoCal Cerveceros for almost 3 years now, they started with a group of friends and now have over 100 members in their home brew group. Membership is opened to all, the more the merrier! Home brewing is a great hobby, it’s fun when you have the support of other members to help and share your brews with. Orange County has some big groups, they meet at different breweries, OC Mash Ups will meet at Barley Forge and Phantom Ales hosts 2 different clubs. I am getting ready to start brewing my own suds soon! 🍻

In 2018 Orange County breweries did well at two of the biggest competitions for craft beer, the World Beer Cup that was held in May in Nashville, Tennessee and the Great American Beer Fest which is held in Denver, Colorado in September. At the World Beer Cup Orange County breweries won 16 medals, an all time record, at GABF they took home 12 medals, another great showing. Now I’m not trying to start any beef with other cities or counties that claim to be the “Capitol of Craft Beer” or “Best Craft Beer City” but facts are facts. Your county/city might win more awards but how many breweries do you have? Uh huh. Right. With 35 breweries the chances of you drinking an award winning brew in Orange County is far greater than in any other metropolitan area in the United States. Fact! From San “Suds” Clemente to “AleAHeim” the quality of craft beer is The Best in the World. BOOM! Go ahead @ me!

In December I had the honor of teaming up with Sarah Raphael Garcia who runs the smallest, biggest book store in Downtown SanTana, Libromobile, it was her idea to pair Books and Beer which we held at Alta Baja Market located in the 4th Street Market. I’ve written more than a few times about the beer selection at Alta Baja, owner Delilah Snell does a fantastic job carrying local craft beer along with an extensive selection of Baja craft beer both in bottle and on draft, they also make 7 different Micheladas on premises, so we had plenty of beer to try! It was a great success and we plan on holding more Book and Beer tastings in 2019! 🍻📚

Here’s my list of some Best’s for 2018

Best Brewery: Tustin Brewery! Winning 2 medals at WBC a Gold and Bronze! But they win everyday at their home away from home in Tustin. Always a good time at TBC. RIP Kat

Best New Brewery: Gamecraft Brewing in Lake Forest. Owner Scott Cebula has put together a winning team, from Head Brewer Andrew Moy to the Crew in the kitchen making all that good grub! Keep on eye on those lagers!

Best Pro Am team that didn’t medal at GABF: Riip Brewing and Thien Le for Parts Unknown Pandan Stout. Smooth as silk and slightly sweet on the back end, what do those judges know anyways. Riip took Le’s award winning recipe and also did a coffee version that was out of this world! Looking forward to more collabs with Thien.

Best Coffee Roaster: Brot Coffee in Orange. I haven’t written my review(I’ve been sick!) but if you haven’t been then be prepared for some very good fresh roasted coffee beans with some Toast! ❤

Best Tacos: Anepalco in Orange( State College and Chapman location) hands down the best tacos I’ve had that were not from Mexico. Chef Danny fills his tacos to the pinche brim! Yeah they’re pricy but fuuuuuuuuck you get your dinero worth. Try the Hibiscus Margarita!

Best Taco Tuesday that doesn’t involve Tacos: Asylum Brewing in AleAHeim. Buy a pint and get a slice of pizza! Free! Helles yeah I’m down for a slice of pizza with an Achtung Lager! Tuesday!Tuesday! Tuesday!

Best Beer Dinner: Chapter One in Santa Ana paired 5 courses with Modern Times suds and the results were astounding! One course after another blew you away as did all the tasty craft beer. Look for more beer dinners in 2019 from Chapter One and Chef Chicken Wang!

Best Brewery in Tijuana: This is easy. Border Psycho on Revulocion. Basically I go there with intentions of visiting other breweries in Tijuana and I never leave. The beer is always great plus they have food and mescal! See you there! Ajua!

I hope your 2018 craft beers were as good as mine and here’s to 2019 and more excellent suds, more reviews!, more interviews!,  BobbyKnowsBeer!


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The Undisputed Champion Collaborator Coffee&Beer Roaster: Mostra Coffee

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Coffee and beer go together like chicken and waffles, separately they are delicious but combined they become a unique duo that gives your taste buds a soothing jolt of happiness. Ahhhhh….coffee…ohhhhh……beer……

They have much in common, both are brewed, they both have different levels of satisfaction, roasted coffee beans, roasted oats, so it was just a matter of time before someone combined the two. The first commercially brewed coffee beers were brewed in the mid 1990’s when three breweries, Seattle’s Red Hook Brewing, Delaware’s Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Wisconsin’s New Glarus Brewing all brewed a coffee stout. These days it’s not just coffee stouts that are being brewed but coffee IPA’s, Saisons, sours, red ales, it’s all about the coffee! Earlier this year at the World Beer Cup, Tustin Brewing won a Gold medal for their Portola Breakfast Stout using beans from local roaster Portola Coffee Labs. Orange County breweries have been collaborating with local coffee roasters to brew up some great tasting coffee beers, along with Portola there is Bodhi Leaf, Hidden House and Bangarang to name a few. But there is one roaster, not local, but none the less prolific in the coffee and craft beer game, Mostra Coffee from San Diego.

In 2013 five friends, Mike Arquines, RJ Ocubillo, Beverly and Sam Magtanong and Jelynn Malone were looking to start a business, they all come from different backgrounds in business and the arts, they wanted to also give back to the community here and in the Philippines. After dabbling in a few different ventures they found that specialty coffee roasting would be their niche, they would use beans from the Philippines and from all over the world. While they were concentrating on roasting and brewing specialty beans, they started to collab with breweries in San Diego one of the most craft beer centric cities in the United States. Karl Strauss came knocking on the door, then Stone-ever had a Xocoveza?-one after another they came for the beans but also for the customer service.

Mike Arquines is the Head Roaster at Mostra and he will sit all day with the brewer to make sure they get exactly what flavor profile the brewery is looking for. On my visit to Mostra I was fortunate to meet Mike, I went to pick up some beans I had ordered, take some pictures, drink a cup of coffee, I didn’t have an appointment- he was so cordial and we talked for a few minutes but I could tell that he really enjoyed his craft and was a very friendly guy. I had read that they had collaborated on anywhere from 200 to 400 different craft beers so I had to ask him for the most recent number. Now, at 200 collabs they were already considered the world’s most collaborated coffee roaster with craft beer, so when he told me the number was now over 500! WOWEE! You can go to their website for the list of breweries, here in Orange County there are 4 breweries that have worked with Mostra Coffee, The Bruery, Bottle Logic, TAPS and Good Beer Company. I’m sure there will be more.

On January 19, 2019, Mostra is celebrating their 5 year anniversary, they will have a festival with unlimited coffee, craft beer and food. Tickets went for $75 and $165 for VIP, I tried to get a pair but they sold out in 1 minute! Of course there was a limited amount available, but it’s a testament to their craftmanship, quality and that customer service for Mostra Coffee to be so in demand. Follow Mostra on Instagram @mostracoffee for all the latest news and offers,  or just get down there for a cup of Mostra!


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Gamecraft Brewing Grand Opening!!!!
Gamecraft Brewing

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Saturday, December 8th, is the official Grand Opening of Orange County’s newest brewery, Gamecraft Brewing. They’ve been in soft opening mode for a few months, getting everything ready, testing out food and brews, making sure all the kinks are out before they cut the ribbon on their beautiful Tasting Room and Game Room. Owner Scott Cebula has brought in award winning brewer, Andrew Moy, who won a Silver Medal for Riip Brewing at The Great American Beer Festival in 2016 for his Super Cali IPA. Hoppy suds are Andrew’s thang but at Gamecraft he will be offering Stouts, Ales, and plenty of Lagers. assisting Andrew with the brewing is Mike Ewoldt, They will be opening with 7 beers brewed in-house and about 6 guest beers, the lagers will be introduced soon, the first thing I noticed when I walked in was the 6 lagering tanks, yes, 6! Me thinks Andrew has big plans for those tanks and I can’t wait for the results, I’m going to go ahead and predict more awards for Andrew and Gamecraft Brewing down the road. 🥇

The Tasting Room is super comfortable, it’s managed by Demetria Dorame and Ian Frailey, there’s also a patio and a huge video game room, along with traditional board games you will have plenty of cool stuff to do while you enjoy the fresh suds and tasty pub style food. Lead cook is Jesse Robinson, he likes to give some of his dishes some kick so expect some spicy treats from the kitchen. There’s cheese and charcuterie boards, flatbreads, karaage chicken( get the hyper-spice), pulled pork sandwiches, tots, and both entrée empanadas and dessert empanadas. Everything can become addictive, it’s so good, if you order an empanada take a close look at the custom stamp, a nice touch.

On my visit I had the Not Your Father’s Brut Beer IPA 6.3%(ABV) super fresh and crisp, nice and dank some notes of fruit and finished very clean. Another in-house brew was the Imperial Stout, Dark Archon with Portola Coffee 9%(ABV) BOOM. Yummy rich with loads of chocolate and fresh roasted coffee. I’m keeping my eye out for the lagers and some more IPA’s as Andrew builds his menu. Scott has done a fabulous job in hiring some great staff, you can tell that everything has been given plenty of thought, it’s a very nice location, he has lived in Laguna Hills for a long time and has put his heart and soul into Gamecraft Brewing, Scott even has a plan in case they need to expand. If you are planning an event please contact Kanda Chokkijkarn Events/Merch Manager. Gamecraft Brewing will be open 7 days a week and open at 11 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m. Sun-Tues. and 10 p.m. Wed-Thurs, @ 12 .am. on Fri-Sat.

Congratulations to Scott and Thanda, to Andrew and to the whole crew at Gamecraft Brewing! A great addition to the craft beer community of Orange County.                 BobbyKnowsBeer!

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Hail! Hail! Stereo Brewing (and Rock’n’Roll)
Stereo Brewing Company

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Seems like yesterday that I was at the soft opening for Stereo Brewing in Placentia, I was there with my buddy, “Late Nate” Jackson, Music Editor of the OC Weekly. I was  the craft beer critic for the Weekly at the time and we were both impressed with the beers as well as the ambiance, the tasting room was packed with friends and family as well as those in the craft beer community, all there to break in the place. We drank our suds, ate some sausages from the Viking Truck and were serenaded by Master Brewer and DJ, Rick Smets, spinning his best vinyl while pouring his soon to be award winning brews. Amanda Pearce, now Amanda Pearce Smets was the hostess with the mostess, answering all questions and making sure we had full pints of beer at hand.

Now fast forward to today, Stereo Brewing has won back to back medals at The Great American Beer Festival for their Oatmeal Stout, Wall of Sound, a smooth AF stout with notes of chocolate and toffee, in 2017 it took Gold and in 2018 it won a Bronze medal. They also won a Silver in 2018 for Robot Imperial Red, a maltlicious red ale, beautiful  rich caramel notes, full body of flavor. That’s a very impressive start for a new brewery, of course there’s a whole playlist of beers on tap, Hazy IPA’s, Kolsch, Pale Ale, Scottish Ale and small batch brews that don’t last too long. Rick and his crew are keeping his customers happy with great brews, rock’n’roll and a chill space to enjoy it all. There’s board games, big screens for sport events, food trucks and a constant list of events. Currently they’re having a food drive, follow them on Instagram @stereobrewing for all current events. Stereo Brewing is kid and pet friendly, everyone behind the bar is always very friendly and helpful. On my recent visit I unfortunately got a flat tire right when I drove into the parking lot. I drank my beers and decided to leave my car there and come back the next day to fix the flat, the folks at Stereo were very cool and said it was OK to leave my car over night. I came back in the morning to try and fix the tire and at the same time Rick and Amanda showed up, they were going to pick up some equipment from a festival, Rick saw that I had a flat and he brought out 2 beers for my brother and myself. “I hope this makes it a little better”     WOW    🍻😍  Yes, Rick, thank you so much for your kindness. I ended up having to pay someone to change my tire, those damn lug nuts!!

Stereo Brewing is more than a brewery, it’s about community, it’s about bringing people together to listen to music to drink some craft beer to laugh to talk to relax.   Hail! Hail! Stereo Brewing! Cheers! BobbyKnowsBeer

And, in the end, the beer you take, is equal to the beer you make” -anonymous brewer



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Tepache Sour by Agua Mala @Alta Baja Market Downtown SanTana
Alta Baja Market

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Downtown Santa Ana or as us long time homies call it, SanTana, has become craft beer heaven over the last few years. The Good Beer Company keeps us happy with their latest fermented wonders, El Indio has a wide selection of Baja Craft beer and Mission Bar always has the latest local and top trending suds. Not to be ignored though is Alta Baja Market where you can find all the previously mentioned styles under one roof.

Owner Delilah Snell is not only serving up delicious grub all day but stocks a wide variety of craft beer, both Baja and local, to wash it all down. Alta Baja serves up breakfast and lunch all day long, chilaquiles, breakfast tortas, quesadillas, frittatas, along with salad and sandwiches for lunch, try the La Llorona, it’s packed with carne adovada(shredded pork with Hatch chile) with a nice spicy kick! There’s plenty of vegan options, every last Sunday of the month they are serving pozole  with pork or vegan version, Delilah also  partners with her neighbor Electric City Butcher and uses their products throughout her menu.

Besides food and drink Alta Baja Market stocks a wide variety of home goods, in-house branded spreads, jams, pickled goods and spices. Take some time and browse every shelf, there’s always something cool to find at Alta Baja, they also stock the flour tortillas from Burritos Las Palmas. There’s plenty of room to kick back and enjoy one of their 7 Micheladas, yup, 7 different and original spicy Michi’s to tantalize your taste buds. If craft beer isn’t your thing there’s plenty of wine! Check out the website for upcoming wine tasting events and classes. There’s always something going on at Alta Baja and on my most recent visit I enjoyed a beer rarely brewed by the Baja breweries, it was a pineapple sour beer, Tepache Sour 3.7%(ABV)by Agua Mala, one of the best breweries in Ensenada. Tepache itself is a fermented drink using the peels and rinds of a pineapple, it’s then sweetened with piloncillo or brown sugar. There was nothing sweet about this version, it was crisp and tart, the slight note of pineapple was at the back end of the back end, ha, usually if there is pineapple in a beer it’s too damn sweet and that’s probably because they used syrup, so I really enjoyed this Tepache Sour from Agua Mala. I hope to see more sour beers coming out of the Baja California breweries, especially with a Mexican twist! Cheers! BobbyKnowsBeer!

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My Interview with Charlie Carrillo of Zombie Brewing in Ensenada: He’s Brewing a Caravan of Beers!

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L to R Mauricio Peralta, Daniel Lugo, Charlie Carrillo

I’ve attended the Ensenada Beer Fest for the last few years, it’s a very fun festival with craft beer, food, live music, DJ’s , dancing, I have met so many cool folks including Charlie Carrillo of Zombie Brewing. He’s agreed to answer a few questions, we’re just scratching the surface here, if you have any other questions feel free to message me. The craft beer scene is huge in Baja California, breweries are opening in Tijuana, Mexicali and Ensenada, along with the culinary offerings and wine tasting in the Valle de Guadelupe,  visiting Baja is a blast so wear your stretchy pants! Salud!

How long have you been brewing? Did you start on your own or with friends?

We started homebrewing around 2009, it was amongst childhood friends that are in the industry today, Mauricio Peralta(Zombie), Jose “Cheche” Arce(Bruer), Daniel Lugo(Zombie), Minoru Nomura(Distrito Barra Publica). It all started because we heard Ballast Point had the Home Brew shop in SD and some people were brewing for some time now, it wasn’t that “hard” and we could brew our own craft beer that was practically impossible to get in Mexico around that time.

What was the specific reason that got you interested in brewing? Was it a certain beer?

We always liked beer and were tired of not having good craft beer available, we could clone our own Stone IPA, Pliny the Elder, Green Flash Barley Wine, Nelson, etc. At least that’s what we thought back then, and after we got good at doing these clones, maybe do our own stuff with a Mexican twist.

What was your first craft beer?

 My first craft beers that I remember are Sam Adams, Fat Tire, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, but the one that really shocked me (in a good way) was Stone IPA. I try to go to as many concerts as I can in San Diego (cause we don’t get most of those shows down in Baja) even as far as LA or Phoenix, and while attending a concert at the Casbah ( I think the band was Pinback) I made a brave choice when the bartender asked me what I wanted, I thought to myself “that IPA with the gargoyle looks pretty cool, let’s give it a try”, when I first took a whiff of this beer I found myself in the middle of a forest, then I took a sip and was rewarded with a never before sweet/bitter liquid that would change my beer preferences forever. After that I really got into the independent beer scene and never looked back.

Is it difficult to get brewing ingredients or supplies in Mexico?

It’s not so difficult anymore, well you can’t go into any brew shop and get Nelson Hops or Vic Secret, or whatever, but there are some guys with home brew shops locally and the internet has made it pretty easy for anyone to order online. Some people sell in bulk and cross it over the border for you (legally) there are some local ingredients that can be purchased as well. We have a friend, Miguel Loza, who started to grow hops in El Valle de Guadalupe at Rancho Loza, was the owner of the first home brew shop in Ensenada but had to quit because his daughter got diagnosed with cancer and had to fight that battle with her, I am glad to say that she is doing great now. It’s easier to get supplies now but not yet a great experience. I do know some breweries with hop contracts that get a steady supply from the states, there are some local yeast suppliers and there are plans to further develop the supply chain for craft brewing.

What about water? While there is no shortage or rationing I know water is an issue in Baja, is it a concern with the breweries?

I don’t think there is a shortage of water in Baja, Constellation is trying to tap into that source in Mexicali, because Mexicali has a great amount of untreated water that can be a great source for local breweries. Constellation’s coming into Mexicali has been a big issue in the past few years. It’s a political issue but not sure what’s the status on that.

Please tell me about your brewery. What’s currently on tap?

The brewery is our hobby, we have fun going to the local festivals in Baja and selling some of our beers at the tasting room (which is no longer managed by us) and in cans on special occasions. It is by far our main means to get by but we are hopeful that someday it will be. I do love putting in long hours into the brewery that doesn’t even seem like work. As of today the brewery is in Ensenada, Mauricio our head brewer and co-founder is working in Alabama and I am living in Mexicali, we are both Industrial Engineers and work as such, we might one day quit our day jobs and do the brew thing full time, who knows. On tap we have 2 beers, our Bronze Medal Zombie Gold and a NEIPA called Alien Gangster that was a collaboration with Cerveza Cardera. Our long time friend and owner of Cerveza Bruer is helping us brew our Zombie Brews, we kinda work together and apart, it has been like this for quite some time, he just won Gold at Cerveza Mexico for this Porter that he brewed for Cerveza Hussong. So as you can see he has his own brewery and is also a brewer for hire, pretty versatile.

How many breweries are open in Ensenada?

Around 20 with constant production, not all have permits to sell alcohol from the city yet but most are working on it. There are a lot of small breweries that are trying to start up and would be considered more of Home Brewers at this point.

What’s the big issue right now in Baja concerning breweries?

It’s always Big Beer vs Us Small Guys, and that is done via the Alcohol permits, we are better off now than a couple of years ago, a new Craft Beer permit was created for us small guys, but there is still a ton of red tape to get that permit approved and we guess it’s all that pressure from Big Beer on the government. Taxes are a big deal because as you may know there is a 30% tax called a Luxury tax on beer (IEPS). On the bright side Baja took home more medals than any state in Mexico at the Cerveza Mexico (40), Mexicali was the city with more Gold (9) and in total Baja took 19 Gold. Fauna won Best Brewery for a second year.

How many awards have you won at the Ensenada Beer Fest? Do you see the Fest becoming even bigger than it already is?

We have won a total of 6 medals, in our first Ensenada Beer Fest in 2012 we won Honorable Mention for our English IPA, in later editions of the festival we won Gold for our ESB, Gold for our Double IPA and Silver for Best in Show, Gold for Saison de Valle, Bronze for our Gold Ale (ironic) and Gold for the Imperial Stout.

The Ensenada Beer Fest could definitely be more than it is, it could very well be bigger than Cerveza Mexico, but we lack the infrastructure to hold this type of event in Ensenada. For starters there is no commercial airport in Ensenada, the closest one is in Tijuana, I have spoken to many people that have attended Beer Festivals in many parts of the world and think that the Ensenada Beer Fest is one of the Top 10, it might not be the same in terms of quality of beers yet, but we think we are getting there. But the weather, the vibe, the music, the people make it all worthwhile. I think that this is a big part of why it’s such a great beer festival, you still feel important when approaching all the breweries, it’s not as fun when you are waiting in line to be served by somebody who doesn’t really love the beer as the brewers. Also, once done with the beer fest you can go to the wine country (Valle de Guadalupe) experience the amazing culinary scene and enjoy the beach, what more can you want.

Can you predict the future of craft beer in Baja California?

Since we started we have been at the forefront of the craft beer movement, Cerveza Cucapa, Cerveza Tijuana and some others paved the way for us, sad to see most of them sold out to Big Beer, but I guess that’s the dream of some of these craft brewers, build a successful brewery and sell it to retire or do something else. Also those breweries didn’t have the backing most of the craft beer has today, they had to fight tooth and nail to sell those beers and I guess they got out at the most “optimal” moment for them. I expect for Baja to keep on this path, make exceptional beers, distribute them farther and farther into Mexico so people can enjoy drinking what we enjoy brewing. I love how in California you can go into any supermarket and see craft beer everywhere, even at Walmart you will see a six pack of Stone or some other Big Craft beer breweries. You can go into some super markets here in Baja and see something like that already happening, not just Tecate and Modelo all over the place, that puts a smile on my face. The next step I think Baja needs to move towards is Barrel Aged beers, stouts, sours, etc. We are pretty good at IPA’s, Pale Ales, and many other common styles. I think it’s time to move into bolder flavors, I think that the customers are more than ready for these types of beers. We do have breweries doing 1 or 2 a year but I mean doing something like Lost Abbey, Firestone Walker, a whole barrel aged program, a whole line of sour beers.

Charlie mentioned Cerveza Mexico a few times, it is to Mexico what Great American Beer Festival is to the U.S. Baja has ruled that competition for years, Mexicali is the San Diego of Mexico as far as winning medals, they kick ass!  This is the first of many interviews I will have with folks that brew craft beer in Mexico, I hope to talk some more with Charlie and some other hoppy people I have met in Baja. Feel free to message me with any questions, we just scratched the surface of what’s going on in Baja, there is so much more and I am happy to answer any questions or we can ask Charlie. Viva Mexico! Cheers! BobbyKnowsBeer!


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