Sippin’ In San Diego: Cerveza Para Nosotras

Latino-owned

Known to many as a prominent craft beer city, San Diego, California, has been atop my list of places to visit since I got into craft beer in 2006. After surviving the pandemic, and the lack of travel for beer opportunities over the last year, I am happy to finally immerse myself in the craft beer culture of this amazing city. I will be exploring San Diego for two weeks. By the time my trip concludes I want to understand why so many cherish this place. I want to discover how a city can support an embarrassment of brewery riches when many contend that craft beer is reaching a “saturation point.” Lastly, I want to recapture the invigoration and soul-satisfying serenity that traveling for beer has brought me over the years.

BIPOC-Owned Breweries in San Diego & Beyond

Since becoming smitten with craft beer in 2006, I have been lucky enough to visit over 350 breweries in the US. Of those breweries, only 5 breweries (Montgomery Brewing, Hogshead Brewery, La Doña Cerverería, Novel Strand Brewing, & Cervecería Colorado) are BIPOC-owned. The fact that only 1.5% of the breweries I have visited are BIPOC-owned is disappointing to me. For many who read this, this statistic is just glossed over with little more than a “hmm.” However, to the small number of people of color who interact with this piece, there are strong words, emotions, and reactions to this minuscule percentage of BIPOC people owning breweries.

Why Belonging Is Important To Me As A Person Of Color

Belonging is such a powerful thing. A disproportionate number of people in craft beer enjoy simply because they are in the majority. To be clear, when I say in craft beer, I mean white and male. White males make up the majority of most demographics in craft beer when it comes to ownership, staff, patrons, and beer writers.

So, for those of us who identify as BIPOC, craft beer is quite lonely. I don’t work in the beer industry, I simply write about my observations as one who spends a lot of time in and around breweries. However, at my day job, I am one of only a handful of people of color. In my neighborhood, I am one of only a small percentage of people of color who live there. At my high school, I was one of a small percentage of students of color. In fact, even in my family growing up, due to the fact that I am adopted from Colombia, I was one of a small percentage of people of color.

Being raised in a suburb of St. Paul by white parents gives me a unique perspective on what it means to be Latino. I am on the lighter side of the spectrum of the Latino color-wheel. This means I can pass for white most of the time during winter and spring. To the best of my knowledge, I am Mestizo, which is a mix of European, Spanish, and Indigenous heritage. Most of the time, I am mistaken more for Italian, and I am guessing that is the European part of the gene pool. In the summertime, I get a lot darker if I spend any time in the sun and it is easier to see that I am Latino.

One of the cool things about visiting San Diego is seeing so many people who share physical similarities with me. Again, for the majority of people reading this piece or sitting in a brewery right now, that sacred phenomenon is a daily occurrence that is barely a blip on the radar. For someone like me who grew up rarely ever seeing someone who looked like them, it is an incredibly big deal.

Mujeres Brew House

Mujeres Brew House is a Latina-owned brewery located in the Barrio Logan neighborhood of San Diego. Barrio Logan is a straight-shot east of downtown San Diego. Walking the streets of this vibrant and colorful neighborhood, I am energized by the murals, variety of different shops, and aromas wafting from the multiple taquerias I pass. However, there will be time for food later, this early afternoon, I am on the search for libation.

I arrive about 8 minutes before they are open at noon. The patio is spacious and there are quite a few interesting succulents growing near the sidewalk that abuts the brewery’s outdoor space. I snap pictures and wait my turn to claim a stool at the bar.

Finally, the minute hand is on the twelve and I try to nonchalantly enter the taproom despite my excitement. I meet Arlene, the bartender on duty for this perfect Thursday afternoon. Arlene is friendly and welcoming. She lets me know right off the bat that I can try anything I want before I settle on a flight selection.

Mujeres Brew House Gets It

I want to stop here and give a PSA for all breweries: If you aren’t taking the time to make your beer accessible-and this means letting patrons try before they buy-you are going to be hard-pressed to bring new drinkers into the fold. Many breweries say that flight glassware takes too long to wash, or they don’t offer samples because it wastes beer. Well, from a time standpoint, having smaller glasses to pour flights into will pay major dividends down the road. When patrons can explore the menu and find things they want full pours of, the small investment of time pays off. Financially, the amount of beer that gets poured down the drain at a brewery dwarfs the minuscule amount that would be lost if given away in the form of a sample.

In fact, if I am reading between the lines of those common brewery statements, I am inferring that they don’t have time or resources to seek out new customers. Ok, PSA over-now back to the Mujeres Brew House story already in progress.

The Beers at Mujeres Brew House

I sample a few beers and they are all delightful. So, I order up a flight of three. The tasters are in plastic glasses, but they are generous pours. I opt for offering from the lighter end of the spectrum. These are my first sips of beer of the day, after all.

The first one is a Pepino (cucumber) Sour that comes in at an easy-drinking 4.5% ABV. The cucumber aroma is so bright and refreshing. The tartness of the sour is well-balanced and resets the palate for another sip. This beer is a perfect match for the sun and breeze that San Diego has provided. This beer is enhanced by the taproom music playing over the speakers and the not-so-distant freeway noise that is an urban reminder of the city.

Beer number two is a blonde ale, Buenas Vibras, and clocks in at 5.3% ABV. Like the Pepino Sour, it is a light and crisp beer to get the system going. I am enjoying the lemon esters that are present in the aroma. As there are more patrons coming into the taproom, I am hearing more Spanish than English as I sip my tasters. This entire experience is a revelation to me because of how few times I have heard Spanish being the predominant language spoken by everyone at a brewery.

My third and final beer of the flight is a Cancion De Sirena Saison at 6.4% ABV. It radiates herbal spicy notes and has a definitive lemon peel flavor. Akin to the first two beers in the flight, this Saison is so perfect for summer. I notice a couple that has stopped in and claimed a table behind me. They are probably in their late forties/early fifties. They look to be launching into a day of unfettered fun just like I am. At one point, the woman asks her partner for some cash in the form of ones. Her partner cheekily replies, “I was saving those for the titty bar.” This caught me off guard and I almost launched beer out of my nose.

As I head back up to the bar to order another beer, Arlene asks how I liked the beers. I am effusive with my praise and make sure to let her know how special it is to be in this space. I explain about where I am from and how rare an experience it is to hear Spanish being spoken in a taproom. She agrees that this is a special place. She also recommends that I try the Café Stout before I leave.

The Café Stout is full of flavors and aromas of dark roasted malt. There is an essence of coffee bitterness which I really enjoy. There is also a slight smokiness that really gives the beer a great depth. All in all, I have to say that Mujeres Brew House should be on your list of you come to visit the Barrio Logan neighborhood in San Diego. I thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality and flavors that came with my inclusive craft beer experience.

Border X Brewing

Located right on Logan Ave., Border X Brewing is the brother brewery to Mujeres Brew House. In fact, Diego, one of the bartenders at Border X Brewing told me that the two breweries are the work of a husband and wife team. That makes sense to me because there was a similar vibe from a hospitality standpoint that I found evident in both places. Border X Brewing is much more electric in regards to atmosphere. The taproom is darker and the music has more volume and bass. While Mujeres Brew House is energetic from a more spiritual feel, Border X Brewing has an edge to it.

The Vibe at Border X Brewing

While Mujeres Brewhouse is a calm and peaceful experience, Border X is more energized. I also think that the bachelor party with matching Hawaiian shirts probably has something to do with that. The aesthetic is more bar than taproom. There are many artistic touches around the taproom that bring a fun character to the place. The tin ceilings add in a classy and timeless touch to the decor.

Border X Brewing Is A Place To Feel Seen

My excitement for this place has been building since before I arrived. Border X Brewing came highly recommended by a lot of people I respect. As I approach the bar, I take a gander at the list of offerings. The beer names and styles illustrate the pride in Latino & Mexican culture. As I peruse the list of beers, I realize how clearly the owner’s culture reflects in the beers.

There are two bartenders slinging beers behind the bar. I introduce myself as a visitor from far away and explain why I am so excited to be here. Diego has a beard and a ton of tattoos. Leo is a tall and lanky guy. They both are welcoming and make sure I know I can try anything I want.

As they pour me a taster of Tiniebla, their Witbier, I ask about their beers and how they unapologetically lean heavily into their culture. Diego explains, “This is what we grew up with, but this beer is for everyone.” Diego continues to explain that this particular area (Logan Heights) didn’t have any brewery that was even remotely celebrating Latino culture in their beers until about five years ago. However, once it started, it really caught on and became a point of pride for the area.

My heart warms as I chat with Diego and Leo because they both recognize the importance of having a place for us. That being said, you don’t have to be Latino to feel welcome here. However, the vibe is a bit louder, happier, and welcoming than a lot of other taprooms I have visited. So, if you come here, plan on being comfortable to be brought into the fold immediately.

The Beers at Border X Brewing

Before getting into specifics about the beers, I have to say how much I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of sitting down and sipping these beers in a place where I felt welcomed and seen. If my comments about the beers are over the top, it is definitely due to the blissful feeling I get from the taproom experience. From time to time, I am accused of being too effusive with my praise. In this particular instance, just like the experience, the beers are also top-notch and there is no embellishing needed.

A Fantastic Flight of Beers

The Colomita (4.2 % American Lager) is a light straw color and has an aroma of Corn Chex cereal. It has a hint of malty sweetness and finishes crisp. This is a beer I could drink all day, every day. The 1st Gen Pale Ale (6% pale ale) has a pleasing level of bitterness and a perfectly dry finish. The aromas of grass and citrus check all the boxes for what I love about a well-brewed pale ale. The Tiniebla (5.3 % Witbier from Cervezería Insurgente in Tijuana, Mexico) has an enchanting aroma of fresh oranges. It is a crisp beer with a nice charge of bitterness for balance. The finish is hoppier than I was expecting which I really enjoy.

The Horchata Golden Stout (9% golden ale)is a wonderful homage to the horchata. The malt character is straight-up Golden Grahams cereal. The creamy and velvety texture of the beer support the perfect blend of cinnamon and vanilla. The sweetness in the beer adroitly approaches the border of cloying without crossing over into the realm of “too sweet.” This beer really impressed me, and I would happily order it in a full pour the next time I am here.

The coup de grace is Abuelita’s Chocolate Stout(7.5% Mexican chocolate stout). This stands out to me as one of the best beers of my entire trip due to its wonderful complexity and depth of flavor. The flavors are a combination of dark malt bitterness and hints of dark chocolate. There is a welcoming aroma of chilis, spices, and smoky roasted malt. The body of the beer is chewy and really supports all the flavors. Each sip is more enlightening than the last as the beer warms.

Hope For A Better Tomorrow

The beers are done and it is time to get back to my home base. In the last 7 years that I have been writing about beers, I have plenty of memorable and heart-warming days resulting from beer travel. However, this day easily sits atop that list because it shows what is possible when people unapologetically brew the beers that reflect their culture and what they want to drink. In the case of Mujeres Brew House and Border X, it meant visiting two fantastic Latino-owned breweries. The fact that there aren’t more Latino-owned breweries is not because there isn’t a demand for them.

The dearth of Latino-owned breweries in metropolitan places and beyond will only cease to exist when people clamor loud enough for them. The time is now for Latino brewers and craft beer enthusiasts to start showing up in force at beer events. The time is now for all people of color who like craft beer to be seen in their respective craft beer scenes. We need to show that craft beer is not only a space for white males with beards, but rather, a place for all people to come together and celebrate our common bonds and celebrate our diverse flavors and brewing styles.

Dan Beaubien has been involved with Beerploma since 2014 although his passion for craft beer dates back to 2006 when he started traveling for beer.  Dan mostly covers craft beer events, festivals, brewery openings/releases, and beer reviews. Dan has a soft spot in his heart for authentic British Style ales, IPAs, and all things barrel-aged.  If you have any questions or comments about this article feel free to email Dan at dan.beaubien@beerploma.com .