Chef and restaurateur Javier Plascencia is the godfather of Baja cuisine. Founder and operator of numerous restaurants on both sides of the border, he is beloved from San Diego to Valle de Guadalupe for uplifting Mexican cuisine while staying true to the culture, technique ,and ingredients of his lifelong home region. His appreciation of indigenous delights extends to beverages. He has long championed the wines of the aforementioned Guadalupe Valley and appreciates the quality of artisanal cerveza. When he recently sought to produce a beer especially for a pair of his restaurants, Finca Altozano and Animalon, he knew just where to go.
Plascencia consulted longtime friend and chef contemporary Bill Warnke, who owns Bay Ho’s Bitter Brothers Brewing. The duo brought in Bitter Brothers head brewer Tyler Tucker and, together, they hashed out an idea for a beer taking inspiration from Plascencia’s favorite cocktail—the Dirty Martini. They also decided to employ the services of Ensenada’s Cerveceria Transpeninsular. Together, over Dirty Martinis at Tijuana’s historic Caesar’s Hotel, they hammered out a recipe leaning heavily on ingredients found in gin—juniper berries, coriander, angelica root, orange peel, and olive brine.
The resulting highly botanical, slightly salty, 5% alcohol-by-volume beer is dubbed The Martinez. It debuts tonight at a special launch party at the aforementioned Caesar’s featuring Plascencia and the collaborating brewers. After that, The Martinez will be available at the eateries it was crafted for, including Plascencia’s Mision 19, Cerveceria Transpeninsular’s tasting room and, locally, Bitter Brothers’ tasting room.
But Plascencia’s work with San Diego brewers didn’t stop there. Recently, Ryan Brooks, founder and brewmaster of SouthNorte Beer Co. (and former head brewer at Coronado Brewing, the owners of which helped him launch his current interest), approached the chef to help him conceptualize a first-anniversary beer. Brooks came in knowing he wanted to create a beer that would pair exceptionally with food. At hearing this, Plascencia shared the recipe for a famous octopus dish from Finca Altozano, the citrus and umami flavors of which served as inspiration for the beer.
Named Aniversario 1, it’s a saison brewed with Mexican honey and epazote, an earthy, bitter herb often found in stewed beans across the border. It was also “dry-hopped” with cilantro to up the herbaceousness. “I wanted a dry and earthy saison that cuts through the richness of the dish and offers an effervescent counterpoint, without overwhelming the citrus notes of the octopus,” said Brooks. “The spicy yeast character of the saison is the perfect canvas for exploring additional spices like the epazote and cilantro.”
Aniversario 1 will debut at the Valle Food & Wine Festival and hit distribution starting October 1. Each 750-milliliter bottle will be adorned with a neck hanger that includes the recipe for Plascencia’s octopus dish.