Paul and Karla Woronicz were living in Orange County, CA, when the financial crash of 2008 hit. It was particularly bad timing. Paul lost his job as a financial adviser for one of the largest banks in the country while Karla was on maternity leave from her position as an event planner for a hotel chain. She had given birth to triplets four months earlier.
The couple decided to leave California behind and move to Ensenada to be near Karla’s family and friends. After a few months of living on his in-laws’ ranch, Paul got an idea to build a pizza oven modeled after the style used in Naples, Italy, and open a restaurant. They expanded on Paul’s homebrewing experience by buying a 200-liter brewing system from Germany, and Old Mission Brewery was born.
Paul and Karla still serve wood-fired pizza at Old Mission Brewery, and they currently brew 13 beers in styles including Kölsch, stout, porter, India pale ale and pilsner. Their most popular beers are the Ensenada Kölsch and Horchata Porter. Old Mission’s biggest challenge thus far may also help explain the popularity of its Kölsch.
“For us, it’s been importing the ingredients and winning over the Mexican locals to introduce them to something other than the big two brands they are accustomed to,” Paul said. “In other words, to educate them that other beer does exist and has flavor.”
Meanwhile, about 70 miles to the north in Tijuana, another family affair is brewing. Damian Morales and his brother Ivan Morales founded Cervecería Insurgente in 2010 as what was then little more than a homebrewing operation. The brothers have since expanded their systems twice and are now making 60-gallon batches to meet overwhelming response to their beers.
Damian and Ivan are natives of Tijuana, but like many people in the area, they have always had one foot on both sides of the border. As kids, they crossed to the U.S. every day to attend school in San Diego. Damian currently lives in Tijuana but has a job in San Diego working as a manufacturing engineer in the commercial aviation industry. Their love of beer came from their exposure to San Diego’s thriving brewing community, and they wanted to bring their passion to the people of their hometown.
Insurgente’s beers tend toward the hoppy side. They produce four beers year-round: a witbier, an IPA, an American brown and a black IPA. They also have a Belgian pale, an imperial red and a saison that are available seasonally.
The witbier has been a good starting point for some of the people in Tijuana who weren’t familiar with different beer flavors, Damian said.
“For us, we’re mostly hops lovers, so we started making hoppy beers,” he said. “But at the same time, there are other brewers here who love German-style beers and English-style beers. An IPA is an IPA and a hop flavor is a hop flavor, but the fact that it’s been brewed in Mexico is a whole experience. Many of the local ingredients you can’t always find in other places, so that’s definitely a plus as to why (Baja California beers) are different.”
This story appears in the September 2014 issue of All About Beer Magazine. Click here for a free trial of our next issue.