Innovators

Forging a Multicultural Future for American Beer

The owners of San Diego’s Border X Brewing use their Mexican heritage to bring diversity to their beers and taprooms

Photo courtesy of Border X Beer.

Awarded for: The owners of Border X Brewing in San Diego champion border-crossing community building, inclusion, and flavorful innovation to foment social change.

Ask the proprietor of an average American brewery to name its best seller, and the answer will probably be an IPA—maybe this hazy one or, well, the other hazy one. 

Border X Brewing, located in San Diego and Los Angeles, wages a different tug-of-war for its top spot. The tingly Pepino Sour, flavored with cucumbers and key lime, dukes it out with the cinnamon-infused Horchata Golden Stout, inspired by the rice-based Mexican beverage. 

“We integrate Mexican and Latino flavors into our brewery,” says Border X’s CEO, David Favela, a first-generation Mexican immigrant who grew up north of San Diego, in Escondido. “We are the ultimate reflection of this border assimilation process.”

In today’s polarized politics, the border wall looms large in public discourse—a literal and figurative divider between the United States and Mexico. But while Donald Trump sows discord and division at his rallies and on Twitter, another narrative is unfolding offline in the brewing world with the success of Border X. It champions border-crossing community building, inclusion, and flavorful innovation to foment social change.

“In today’s political climate, that celebration of the border is really a counterpoint to what our president has done,” Favela says; he adds that “the border is a beautiful place where different cultures come together.” 

Favela and his family founded Border X in San Diego in fall 2013. The brewery’s first location was established about a mile from the Otay Mesa border crossing into Tijuana. With Favela’s nephew Martin as head brewer, Border X distinguished itself quickly by forgoing trend chasing and instead fusing European traditions with Latin American culinary traditions. 

Beers such as the cinnamon-spiced Abuelita’s Chocolate Stout, with its namesake Mexican chocolate, drew in a new demographic of craft beer consumers by putting different taste preferences front and center. The hibiscus-infused Blood Saison, inspired by the Mexican drink Agua de Jamaica, “has a very tart flavor that appeals to Latinos,” Favela says. “There’s a tartness that people grew up with in candies.”

Photo courtesy of Border X.

By 2014, Border X had relocated northwest to San Diego’s largely Chicano neighborhood of Barrio Logan, where it tailored taproom events to local interests. Calendar highlights include lotería, a Mexican-style bingo game, and a Latin jam run by a music teacher who regularly brings students to sit in on sessions. On any given night, Favela says, you’ll find locals mingling with retired bankers from ritzy La Jolla, motorcycle clubs wearing leather cuts, and multigenerational families. 

“It’s not only mixes of ages,” Favela says, “but mixes from different walks of life. You’ve got grandma, the parents, and the kids. When I see that, I know we’re doing things right.”

Border X’s taproom also features educational initiatives, such as the Mujeres Brew Club, a female-led series of events focusing on beer history, styles, tasting techniques, and glassware (mujeres is Spanish for “women”). Carmen Favela, David’s wife, launched the group in May “to create a space for females,” she has said. The six-event series culminates this month, with attendees collaborating on a beer that will be launched during November’s San Diego Beer Week. 

Photo courtesy of Border X.

Having found success in San Diego, Border X is starting to branch out to other “underserved communities,” as Favela calls the brewery deserts that characterize many Latino neighborhoods. “Our target market is Latinos,” Favela says. “We start them with them [as the core audience], rather than making them an afterthought.” 

In March, Border X opened a 7,000-square-foot satellite brewery in Bell, a Los Angeles suburb that’s home to a large Latin American community. The sunny space, filled with long communal tables, debuted to long lines and fast-draining taps; the adjoining Cuban bakery provided pressed Cubano sandwiches. The space has welcomed a diverse clientele, including local residents looking for a comfortable place to play cards, neighborhood teachers, and a running club that uses the taproom as a gathering place. 


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As for future beers, Border X will lean further toward the Latin American palate. This fall, it’s planning a version of ponche, a kind of Mexican mulled wine featuring hibiscus, spices, guava, and tejocote, a sweet-sour fruit that’s native to Mexico. The brewery will also explore indigenous fermentations like tejuino, a pre-Columbian beverage made from masa. 

“Why wouldn’t we dig into our culture to be inspired?” Favela says. “The way I see it, we have a lifetime of exploration ahead of us.” 

Contributing editor Joshua M. Bernstein is a beer, spirits, food, and travel journalist, as well as an occasional tour guide, event producer, and industry consultant. He writes for the New York Times, Men’s Journal, New York magazine, Wine Enthusiast, and Imbibe, where he’s a contributing editor in charge of beer coverage. Bernstein is also the author of five books: Brewed Awakening, The Complete Beer Course, Complete IPA, Homebrew World, and Drink Better Beer (out September 2019).

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