Beer Maverick

SouthNorte Beer Co., Bay Park

SouthNorte, a guest brewery at Coronado Bay Park, now has four permanent taps at that location’s tasting room—two of the four 2019 GABF medalists. Plus Coronado Brewing had two other winners this year, one of which is also a permanent offering. All three of those are available in cans, which is absolutely amazing. Go get some.

[In fall 2019, the CEO of Coronado left for AleSmith. One of the other partners in SouthNorte bought out the shares belong to that former CEO and to Coronado itself. SouthNorte still guest brews at Coronado’s Bay Park facility.]

This is one that doesn’t neatly fit any categorization I’ve been able to come up with. But it is great, so damn the categories.

SouthNorte is run by Ryan Brooks, an internationally recognized beer judge and brewer. Brooks, formerly a touring metal drummer and award-winning homebrewer, worked at Malt Shovel Brewing Co. (Australia) and Black Market Brewing (Temecula) before starting at Coronado Brewing Co. in 2012. Eventually he worked his way up to brewmaster at Coronado. Under Brooks’ leadership, Coronado won the extremely prestigious 2014 World Beer Cup Champion Mid-Size Brewery award.

Eventually, Coronado agreed to set him up in his own business. SouthNorte is thus an independent cousin/brand/offshoot of Coronado. Perhaps this in itself is not too odd (think: Port Brewing’s relationship to Pizza Port). But SouthNorte started on, and still brews for production on, Coronado Brewing’s main system in their Bay Park production facility. I think they share some staff, too. I therefore put SouthNorte’s brewing operation in my “guest/contract brewery” category. (If that’s not the place for it, it would have to be treated simply as a brand of Coronado, but that isn’t right, either.)

Brooks lived for a time in Tijuana (where he met his wife). While there, his homebrewing and beer judging skills made him a big influence on Mexican homebrewing. Because of Brooks’ love for Mexico, SouthNorte’s goal is to bring Mexican brewing traditions and flavors to the US beer market.

It is no surprise, then, that Brooks opened a second SouthNorte location at Telefonica Gastro Park in Tijuana. The Telefonica location produces smaller batch beers mostly sold on site.

In 2019, Coronado Brewing put four permanent SouthNorte taps (three core beers and a seasonal rotator) on at their Bay Park tasting room in the production brewery’s tasting room. That’s the location this post is about.

The best I can figure it, SouthNorte Bay Park is a guest tasting room in a tasting room of the brewery where it is a guest brewery.

Like I said, this one defies ordinary classification.

The beer, though, is easy to classify. It is awesome.

How awesome is the beer? Agavemente, a Mexican lager with agave and hibiscus, won a 2017 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) bronze medal in the Specialty Beer category. Then, at the 2019 GABF, Agavemente won silver while Sea Senor, a Mexican Lager, won gold in the Cream Ale category.

It was a good year for Coronado Brewing: The main brewery also won two medals, including a silver for a barley wine and a bronze for Weekend Vibes in the highly competitive and prestigious American IPA category (342 entries, the second most entries after the 348 in the Hazy or Juicy IPA category).

Perhaps even more amazing is the fact that three of those four medalists are available year-round in cans. In San Diego you can usually find all of them at Von’s and Whole Foods, for example.

This weekend, for after our sailing race on South Bay, I picked up four six packs. A brand new release, Salty Crew, a blonde beer explicitly advertised as a “boat beer”, which seemed designed exactly for our crew. Agavemente. Sea Senor. And Weekend Vibes. I was very popular on the boat.

There isn’t much to add about the SouthNorte tasting room in Bay Park beyond what I said about it when I visited it as the Coronado Bay Park tasting room (though I have since revised my opinion of Coronado beers upward quite a lot). Overall, the experience is great: Service is friendly and helpful, the tasting room is large enough but cozy-feeling because of the way they’ve built it into the brewery, the beer on tap is reliably excellent,  the beer fridge is well-stocked with a large variety of cans and bottles, you can get anything on tap to go in growlers, and the large, new side patio (formerly a parking lot) is fun and comfortable. There’s food on site, too. The only drawback  is that there is not nearly enough parking for the crowds that want to go here.     1205 Knoxville Street, San Diego, CA 92110