Here’s How This Man Created A Brewery Aimed At Highlighting The Best Of Mexican-American Culture
David Favela isn’t your typical brewer. He’s not fond of IPA’s or your usual German pilsner. His brewery, Border X Brewing, might also look like your typical neighborhood pub from the outside. But you won’t find a jukebox or cheesy neon signs on the walls.
Favela, 52, intends on straying away from your typical brewery business model. Instead, he is trying to create a brewery experience with Latin culture and community at the center of it.
“From the start, we didn’t bother with red ales and IPA’S because in all honesty none of us are ‘that.’ We didn’t grow up with that or any of those flavors,” Favela says. “If we’re not putting our personal experiences or palettes into our brewing then why bother? Quite frankly, we needed to bring some of our Latin background to this.”
This is the heart and mission of Border X Brewing. The brewery opened it’s first doors in 2014 just miles from the U.S.-Mexico border crossing in Otay Mesa before relocating to Barrio Logan, a largely Chicano neighborhood in San Diego. But now, Favela has his eyes set on tapping into the Latino community in Los Angeles.
With an array of Latin flavored beers, Border X Brewing is making a name for its self in the growing Southern California brewery scene.
Favela is the CEO of the growing brewery company that has become popular for its fusion of ingredients familiar in Latino kitchens. Beers like the Blood Saison, inspired by agua de jamaica, is made with hibiscus flowers and agave. Or the Golden Horchata Stout, a gold medal winner at the L.A. International Beer Festival, is brewed with vanilla and canela.
“We’re not the first brewers to use jamaica or horchata but many don’t come from that background to fully understand how important these flavors are and mean to our identity,” Favela says.
Born in San Diego, Favela grew up in a largely Latino neighborhood and quickly realized he wanted community and family to be the base of his work. That’s why after working at Hewlett Packard for 22 years, he decided to invest in brewing. Along with his brother and two nephews, they set on creating a business that revolved around community involvement and beer.
“I really just wanted to hang out with my family and do something special together,” Favela says. “The question in my head was always could we create a space that builds community and at the same time showcases our roots? Yes.”
Border X quickly garnered popularity in it’s San Diego location. After five years of operating out of the Barrio Logan neighborhood, the brewery has expanded to Los Angeles.
Border X Brewing opened the doors to it’s newest location in the City of Bell back in March. The thriving Latino suburb in Southeast Los Angeles has seen immense growth in the last few years. Favela also sees the expansion in Bell as a way to connect with another working-class Latino community.
“We are a community-based brewery, we’re about events and we’re about the people living in those communities. Bell fit the bill for us,” Favela says. “A lot of people come here and they don’t even drink; they just like being part of this experience we’re trying to create.
Upon walking into the new location you’ll see framed photos of local low-rider groups and Chicanos dressed in zoot-suit style attire. The work comes from local artists which is something Favela is proud of. In the four months that the location has been open, it’s hosted multiple local musicians, a low-rider event and a community art show that are all part of the brewery’s core mission.
“We host fundraisers, we have art shows and, in many ways, this place becomes a crossroads for so many different walks of life,” Favela says. “In Barrio-Logan we connected with ex and current gang members, artists and locals. It’s a collective of different people all connecting.”
The City of Bell wasn’t the first option for the newest location. Favela originally looked at Boyle Heights, another largely Latino working-class neighborhood.
When planning the move to Los Angeles, Favela originally considered opening in Boyle Heights, the community home to the Chicano movement of the ’60s. Yet he eventually reconsidered after thoughts of gentrification. He knew about the rapid changes in the neighborhood and didn’t want to intrude and have the community turn on them as other new businesses have.
“Things like coffee shops and art galleries should be community assets but they’ve become easy targets. I grew in these barrios and I’m all for them but it begs the question of how to improve these communities without hurting or displacing people.” Favela said.
There are many factors he considers when expanding the brewery, the biggest being the community. This is important to him and he knows the effect a new business can have on a neighborhood like Boyle Heights.
“There are certain criteria I’ve established and one of them is ‘Are you creating a service for a demographic waiting to come into the community or are you serving the community that’s already there,” Favela says. “When you come in here you’ll find the demographic is 90-95 percent Latino. We try to recognize and celebrate that local history where our taste rooms are.”
For Favela, he sees the brewery as a way to connect his Latino background to a demographic that’s been waiting to be heard.
Border X Brewing has seen it’s a first and second wave of success in San Diego and now in LA. But for Favela, he knows this is just the start. He plans to expand to more locations such as Long Beach and Santa Ana, both largely Latino areas. That also means brewing new beer flavors that represent those communities.
“In Latin America, there are over 2,000 fermentation practices. Most of the beers here you won’t find anywhere else and we’re just getting started,” he says. “Mazapan beer, abuelita chocolate and peppino sour, this is just who we are.”
Favela smiles as he recalls those first days back at the original brewery location near the U.S-Mexico border. He reminds himself of how important it is to stay true to himself and how the customers have been a huge reason behind this passion.
“I’m constantly told by people when they walk into the brewery about how much they feel at home,” Favela says. They say ‘I feel so comfortable here’ and “I feel like you made this place for me’ and I say to them ‘I absolutely did’ and that’s special.”