A Dispatch from the Bureau for Better Beer
Ever daydream about quitting your job, moving somewhere gorgeous, and starting your own business? The enviable Jordan Gardenhire did just that. In 2004, Gardenhire left his native Colorado for Cabo after becoming disillusioned with his stiff, formal job. He sold real estate for a few years before founding Baja Brewing Co., a brewpub, in 2007. Since then, Vice has lauded him for his refusal to use GMO grains in his beer, Playboy Magazine has sung his praises, and major culinary talent Rick Bayless promoted its red ale for Food and Wine. So, no, we don’t think Gardenhire’s going back to Colorado anytime soon.
You founded the Baja Brewing Company with your father in 2007. What are the biggest challenges and rewards of running a small company in Cabo… and doing so with a family member?
Running the brewery in Los Cabos has been a whirlwind adventure. The ups and downs of the Cabo economy over the past 10 years have been like a roller coaster on fire. When we opened our doors in 2007, Cabo was booming. A year later, Swine Flu hit and the economy crashed, then recovered only to crash again in 2014 with Hurricane Odile. That storm practically washed away the brewery. Working through the peaks and valleys has been a challenge and I have a lot of respect for all the businesses that went through that with us and are still around.
If you had to pair a few of your beers with dishes from local restaurants, what matches would you make and why?
Baja Black is our black ale with almost no bitterness. I just had a Baja Black at Toro Guero with a fish ceviche and the beer’s light maltiness combines expertly with the fresh fish, chilies, and lime.
Pelirroja Red (Redhead Red) is a perfect combination with a fully loaded hamburger at The District. Pelirroja Red sports a malt and hop balance that both cuts and compliments the ground beef and bun of a District burger.
How have you seen attitudes toward craft beer—and food and beverage in general—change in Cabo over the past ten years?
There has been night and day change in people’s perception of our products over the years. I remember people coming into our pub in the early days here in San Jose, ordering an easy drinking Baja Blond and making the “bitter face”—you know, where you scrunch up your face in pain from the bitterness. Today, it’s totally different. People come into all three of our pubs asking for the most bitter beer we offer (which is the Peyote Pale Ale) and ask us to make even more bitter styles. This puts a big smile on my face as it tells me we have shown people the way to better beer.
Favorite spots on your days off?
I don’t take many days off, but when I get out, I like to kite surf with friends at La Fortuna on the East Cape or take a drive out to the Pacific with a cooler of Baja Beer and no plans except to find a beach to enjoy. After all, that’s why I moved here in the first place.