Text: Denise Nelson Prieto
El Paso is steadily riding the local and craft beer wave. Events like Big Brew are a distinct way for homebrewers to show off their skills, enthusiasts to rub elbows with brewers and distributors, and connoisseurs to talk shop.
The free event happens Saturday, May 6th, at 162 Coronado Road in the Lower Valley. One of El Paso Brewing Company’s brewers and homebrewer, Jonathan Gaytan, has organized and hosted the event for the last several years and graciously opened up his home to for Big Brew.
Big Brew is part of a worldwide chain of similar events. It was incepted after Congress announced “May 7 National Homebrew Day” in 1988. Since then, pockets of American Homebrewers Association members have been showing their love for the frosty beverage. Last year worldwide events netted a new record of nearly 13,000 participants, took place in 48 states and 12 countries.
“It’s pretty cool El Paso’s part of those numbers,” Gaytan said. “It’s a big day where everyone can see beer being made and be surrounded by people who have so much knowledge and are willing to share it.”
While the Homebrewers Association has a recipe it published on its websites to create a theme for each year’s Big Brew, Gaytan said he doesn’t adhere to those guidelines, opting instead for a more relaxed approach.
“We don’t try to go for what they recommend,” he said. “We leave it up to the brewers to decide what they want to brew.”
As more and more El Pasoans opt for craft, local and homebrews, support for events like Big Brew has remained steady, with an average turnout of about 80. Brewers from local breweries Deadbeach and Sun Brewing Company donate kegs and attend the event. Distributors L & F and Ben E. Keith also contribute kegs.
The event is produced by the Borderline Brewers and D & J’s Productions, which is comprised of Gaytan and his father, who is responsible for sparking his son’s interest in beer about 14 years ago.
The Borderline Brewers is a group of local homebrewers that formed 20 years ago. It hosts bottle sharing events regularly. Gaytan, who’s a member, has seen the number of participants dwindle in the last few years.
“We’re getting so busy with our big boy and big girl jobs, and it’s hard to get together just to drink beer; it’s hard to make a date for that,” he said.
That reality is hopefully offset by the spate of local brewery openings that occurred within a couple years of each other—a fact that Gaytan believes points to El Pasoans graduating from the mass-produced brews that used to dominate the shelves, to their more refined, independently produced counterparts.
“The craft beer scene has grown exponentially,” Gaytan said. “I see Ode doing collaborations with several different breweries from out of town, Deadbeach is just rocking n’ rolling and us [El Paso Brewing Company] being the babies . . . we have big shoes to fill.”
Another key point of Big Brew is there’s no admission fee.
“There’s a lot of beer, and it’s free,” Gaytan said. “We’ve never even asked for donations.”
He said at this year’s Big Brew they’re giving out commemorative glasses with each of the 4 local breweries’ logos and the Borderline Brewers’ logo etched on them to everyone who attends. He added he’s open to people throwing money in the donation pot for that.
The beer starts flowing at 11AM and the party lasts well into the evening. Gaytan said there’s a televised boxing match that typically coincides with Big Brew and people stick around for that.