REGION — Beer lovers from Mexico and the United States gathered to announce the inaugural Tijuana International Beer Festival during an April 26 press conference in San Diego.
The event, which showcases independent craft brewers, will take place on June 11 and June 12 at Caliente Stadium (Estacionamiento Caliente). Organizer Enrique Jimenez said he expects about 3,000 attendees each day, with a capacity of 5,000 daily visitors.
The festival will include 60 breweries from Mexico and the U.S. along with food, music and transportation for Americans parking in the U.S. and crossing the border, according to Mexico Consul General Carlos González-Gutiérrez.
“There is a vibrant craft beer production movement that has developed in recent years, both in Tijuana and Mexicali and, in general, Baja California,” said González-Gutiérrez. “San Diego has always stood out in its role of production and marketing for craft beers. The festival … seeks to be a meeting point, a dialogue point between the community of brewers and businessmen on both sides of the border.”
González-Gutiérrez, Jimenez and other officials all said Tijuana and Baja California are currently experiencing a craft brewery boom in the country. Tijuana has become the central figure in Mexico’s bubbling craft brewery industry growing in the shadow of San Diego, one of the top craft brewery cities in the U.S. and the world.
According to Jimenez, Tijuana experienced a beer shortage at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which left imported beer difficult to find. However, craft brewers filled the void, which allowed them to build new customers and expand their operations.
However, Jimenez said with recent world events and inflation, the industry may be in for a tough haul over the next several months. Regardless, Jimenez and González-Gutiérrez are pushing to attract a new audience to the Mexican beer scene, along with showcasing their IPAs and West Coast style of brewing.
“We have world-class breweries,” Jimenez said. “Baja California has learned a lot from the independent craft brewers in San Diego. We want to be a conduit for that conversation. There are a great many business opportunities for brewers in San Diego that they haven’t tapped into.”
Ryan Brooks, brewmaster of South Norte Beer Company in San Diego, said Mexico was an inspiration for him to open his own brewery and bring the flavors of Mexico to the U.S. At one time, Brooks lived in Mexico, where he met his wife and collaborated with Mexican brewmasters for years.
Brooks has assisted in getting the festival off the ground, which is dedicated to independent craft brewers, unlike so many events hosted by major corporations or third parties.
The four men also stressed how the event can be used as a bridge to open more people to Mexico and Tijuana, specifically. Several questions centered on safety for Americans crossing the border, with González-Gutiérrez and Jimenez saying they intentionally created a pathway with security from the border to the hotel with transportation to the stadium.
“This festival is going to be a great way to promote independence in craft beer,” Brooks said. “It’s really important and good for the brewers. It’s also a good chance for Americans to go down there … and see every brewery in Baja.”
Brooks said there is still availability for brewers in Mexico and San Diego to be a vendor at the festival. General admission tickets are $25 ($40 for two days) and VIP are $75 for each day. The event runs Saturday from noon to midnight and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m.