From the Beer Writer: Just when I thought I’d seen it all when it comes to beer…boom…something completely unique shot into my life. It arrived in the form of a saison, but thanks to a host of ingredients from across our southerly border, it came across as being more Mexican than Belgian. That perceived character came from its Hispanic name, Aniversario 1, the cross-border brewery that produced it, SouthNorte Beer Co., and the Baja chef that operation’s brewer took inspiration from, Javier Plascencia. Attempting to create a beer to celebrate SouthNorte’s first year in business and pair with an octopus dish from Plascencia (the recipe for which comes tethered to bottles of this beer), founder and brewmaster Ryan Brooks utilized Mexican honey and epazote (a pungent, earthy, and somewhat minty herb), then dry-hopped this farmhouse ale with cilantro. It was that last part that lit a fire under me to seek out and try it, and I’m glad I did. While fruity, flowery esters made it clear I was drinking a saison, Aniversario 1 came across more like a cocktail. By that I mean many components meshed together to create a comprehensive final product. Medium-bodied, 7.5% ABV, and leaning toward the red side of the SRM spectrum, the beer tastes earthy in its herbaceousness (think rosemary and marjoram…or epazote and cilantro), and fruitily sweet—but only slightly so—like apple brandy infused with orange peel and nutmeg. It’s a food beer if there ever was one, but also a fun one to enjoy on its own for its many merits. In a day and age where it feels like it’s all been done in the brewing world, it was nice to be surprised by something not only different, but quite delicious.
From the Brewer: “I’m very proud of what SouthNorte has accomplished this past year and I wanted our first anniversary beer to be something really special. We brainstormed as a team and came up with this concept where we partnered with a chef to come up with an awesome beer-and-food pairing together. When we thought of chefs who really embodied the best of Baja, Javier Plascencia was the first to come to mind. We reached out to share our idea and he was on board! He gave us the recipe to his famous grilled octopus dish from his restaurant Finca Altozano in Valle de Guadalupe. The dish has a lot of citrus notes, umami and herbs, and I thought a bright, effervescent saison would be the perfect complement. I knew I wanted to put a SouthNorte spin on a saison, so I added Mexican honey to the boil, as well as the Mexican herb epazote for a touch of earthy bitterness. I ‘dry-hopped’ with a small amount of fresh cilantro to add a touch of freshness at the end. I am really excited for how this beer came out—its complex but very drinkable, and it’s the perfect pairing to Javier’s dish. We put a neck hanger on each bottle that features Javier’s recipe, so fans can recreate the pairing at home. We debuted this beer last weekend at the Valle Food and Wine Festival and people really enjoyed it. We’re excited to keep this concept going and pair with a new chef each year. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.”—Ryan Brooks, Founder & Brewmaster, SouthNorte Beer Co.