Brewing Battleground: Going a different direction

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— As the craft brew market continues to expand in the U.S., Steamboat Springs High School graduate Jordan Gardenhire went a different direction.

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Steamboat Springs High School graduate Jordan Gardenhire is the co-founder and brewmaster for Baja Brewing Co. based out of San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico.

Brewing battleground

The craft brewing industry is blowing up across the country. It’s no surprise that Colorado is one of the states with a large stake in the claim. Now, two companies are coming to Steamboat Springs, looking to get a piece of an estimated $10 billion pie.

The 1997 Steamboat graduate is the co-founder and brewmaster for Baja Brewing Co. based out of San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico. He opened the brewery and brewpub in 2007 and has gone from producing 800 barrels per year to more than 2,400.

“It’s easily 15 to 20 years behind the U.S.,” Gardenhire said about the craft brewing industry in Mexico. “It feels like what I imagine it was like to be in the craft brew industry 20 years ago in the U.S.”

Gardenhire graduated from the University of Colorado in 2002 and then moved to Mexico where he planned to stay for one year. He fell in love with the area and saw the lack of craft beers.

In 2006, he went to the American Brewer’s Guild school, which allowed him to get into the Mexican market early.

That certainly has helped his business, but Gardenhire points to the camaraderie of brewers as one of the tough parts of being in Mexico.

“We were the only brewery in the whole state (of Baja California Sur) for the first five years,” he said. “But there is something to to be said about the camaraderie and having some friendly competition. It’s different, but I’m not sure if it’s better or worse. It’s definitely different than starting in a place like Boulder.”

Gardenhire has broken into the U.S. market — the brewery’s flagship beer, Cabotella, can now be found in Colorado, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.

The next stop is trying to penetrate California’s craft brew market.

Baja Brewing now brews eight beers, and Gardenhire said he doesn’t see the industry slowing down.

Even the craft brewing industry in Mexico is beginning to take off. When he started, there were no home brew clubs in the country. Now there are at least 10.

At a recent beer convention in Mexico City, Gardenhire said there were more than 40 booths set up.

“In my mind, it’s following what happened in the U.S.,” he said. “People are interested in better-quality drink and food now. They’re more educated on beer in general. It’s going to continue to grow really fast here in Mexico.”

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229, email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @LukeGraham

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