When Jordan Gardenhire founded Baja Brewing, he did it with a singular mission: bring the craft beer culture of his native Colorado to his new home of Los Cabos, Mexico. Thirteen years later, Baja Brewing is a bulwark in the Mexican craft scene, operating three brewpubs and distributing a handful of beers north of the border. Some of those beers, like Por Favor Mexican IPA and Baja Razz Raspberry Ale, are indeed boundary-pushers, but its classic beers shine even more brightly.
Escorpion Negro is a dark ale inspired Mexico’s famous midnight-black malty beers. You can think of it as a cousin to Modelo Negra—inspired by the same imported love of Munich-style Dunkels but formatted as an ale instead of a lager. Baja Brewing has butted heads with Grupo Modelo before, but Escorpion Negro is by no means a jab at the Mexico City conglomerate. It’s an advancement of an already great tradition.
Escorpion Negro is unexpectedly thick, pouring out in a shimmering ribbon of silk. The head is the same color as chocolate pudding. From the appearance and the brownie batter aroma, you could be tricked into thinking this is a milk stout, but that deception does not last long.
This is a beer that advertises itself as having “no bitterness,” but even with that descriptor, Escorpion Negro is not as sweet as it presents itself to be. The maltiness is deep and complex, popping with a flavor somewhere between Italian barley and espresso beans. But the hop character is absent in everything but the crisp finish. It could use a little bit of pine to liven things up, but the lowly 18 IBU is purposeful. This beer is an exhibit for the caramel Carafa malt.
The carbonation is faint, so you’re not getting quite the refreshment level of a Modelo, but at least you don’t need to pick through a layer of gold foil to unlock it. If you’re ditching the macros, Baja is undoubtedly your best homegrown alternative.