One Baja brewery with a more prominent presence on our side of the border is Cerveceria Agua Mala, and one of the spots where you’re guaranteed to find their liquid wares is Puesto. A recent trip to the California upscale taco chain’s location at The Headquarters in San Diego’s Marina District turned up a trio of beers from the Ensenada operation: Sierna Pilsner, the World Beer Cup award-winning Astillero IPA, and 811 Pale Ale. The latter is a rarity that can only be found at Puesto’s San Diego eateries.
811 Pale Ale is the first in a line of collaboration beers presented under the heading “Puesto x Agua Mala.” Though such cross-border fraternization is commonplace these days, the roots of this beer stretch back five years to the first time Puesto’s beverage director, Lucien Conner, put Agua Mala’s beer on tap. From the get-go, there was a deep-seeded, mutual respect between Conner and Agua Mala owner and brewmaster Nathaniel Schmidt. Conner was so impressed by the quality of Schmidt’s beers that when Puesto held its first beer pairing dinner, Agua Mala was the featured brewery. Later on, Conner started taking his staff on educational excursions to Baja, and made Agua Mala his go-to brewery stop.
Brewing a beer together represents the next phase of an ever-evolving relationship built on trust and friendship, one made possible by Agua Mala recent opening of a larger production facility. In crafting 811 Pale Ale, the duo sought to create a flavor profile that drew off ingredients indigenous to Baja as well as San Diego brewers. For the latter, they went with hops that are big on citrus flavors and aromas. From there, the recipe reads like a dish off Puesto’s menu care of nopales (cactus paddles), epazote (an earthy herb), cilantro, and Morita chiles (lightly smoked red jalapeño peppers).
Its culinary semblance isn’t surprising considering Puesto at the Headquarters’ chef de cuisine, Edgar Chong, helped conceive it. The resulting beer comes in at 4.5% alcohol-by-volume, possesses a piquant earthiness that meshes well with light toast and caramel notes from the grain bill, and pairs exceptionally with various items off Puesto’s menu.
Conner and Schmidt plan to continue crafting collaboration beers, then bring favorite varieties as permanent menu offerings. 811 Pale Ale is an inventive, encouraging start to a program that shows the brilliant ways beer can bring people—and cultures—together.
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Puesto’s Ceviche Acapulco
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
1 pound Mexican white shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut into ½-inch cubes
3¼ cups fresh-squeezed lime juice
3 Roma tomatoes, diced into ¼-inch cubes
½ red onion, diced into ¼-inch cubes
1 or 2 Serrano chiles, minced (per personal preference)
1 avocado, peeled, seeded and diced
1 radish, thinly sliced
extra virgin olive oil
tortilla chips or tostada rounds
lime wedges, for garnish
Place the shrimp in a glass bowl. Add 3 cups of the lime juice and 1 teaspoon of salt. Toss to coat, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator and drain the shrimp. Place the shrimp in a bowl and add tomatoes, onion, chiles and the remaining lime juice. Toss gently to combine. Season with salt to taste.
To serve, transfer the ceviche to a serving platter. Dot the ceviche with avocado and radishes, and drizzle generously with olive oil. Serve immediately with tortilla chips or tostada rounds and lime wedges.
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Puesto’s Spicy Atún Taco
Yield: 8 tacos
2 ounces fresh-squeezed orange juice
1 ounce fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
1 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
½ tsp Jugo Maggi seasoning sauce (or Worcestershire sauce, to substitute)
1 pound sashimi-grade tuna, cut into 8 2-ounce pieces
2 tsp olive oil
8 corn tortillas, warm
1 avocado, diced
Creamy Jalapeño Salsa (recipe follows)
Chipotle Crèma (recipe follows)
lime wedges, for garnish
Combine the orange, grapefruit and lime juices with the Jugo Maggi sauce in a shallow dish. Whisk together and add the tuna pieces to the marinade. Leave submerged for 30 seconds, then flip the tuna over and leave submerged another 30 seconds. Remove the tuna from the dish and set aside.
Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place the tuna in the pan and cook for 45 seconds on each side. The objective is to sear the outside while allowing the middle to remain raw. Remove the tuna from the skillet and set aside.
To serve, place the tuna inside the tortillas and top each with cucumber and avocado. Garnish each with salsa, crèma and cilantro. Serve immediately with lime wedges.
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Creamy Jalapeño Salsa
Yield: 1 cup
1 quart water
½ pound jalapeños peppers
3 cloves garlic
1 bunch cilantro leaves
2 ounces fresh-squeezed lime juice
½ tsp kosher salt
4 ounces olive oil
Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Lower heat to a simmer and add the jalapeños. Cook for 15 minutes, making sure to flip the peppers over halfway through the cooking process. Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Strain the vegetables and let cool to room temperature.
Discard the stems from the peppers and use the back of a knife to scrape out the seeds. Transfer the jalapeños, garlic, cilantro, lime juice and salt to a blender. Turn the blender on and slowly stream in the olive oil until the mixture emulsifies and is thoroughly blended. Season with additional salt, if necessary. Transfer to a squeeze bottle or condiment cup to serve.
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Yield: 1½ cups
2 to 3 tablespoons canned chipotle peppers in adobo (per personal preference)
1 cup mayonnaise
½ pound cream cheese, at room temperature
Combine all of the ingredients in a blender. Blend until a homogenous mixture is achieved. Season with salt, if necessary. Transfer to a squeeze bottle or condiment cup to serve.
—Recipes courtesy Chef Katy Smith, Puesto