Baja Beers Astound

Written by
Ruben Valenzuela, co-owner of Baja Craft Beers in Tijuana, in his pub.

First Baja stop?  Tijuana’s sprawling Mercado Hidalgo to record the market report.
Second stop? Tacos Fitos for beef birria, baja-style, the local breakfast of champions.
Third Stop?  BCB or Baja Craft Beers.  Now that we had full bellies we were ready to start tasting beer.  Who cared that it was 10am?  For someone who never had a Mexican craft beer it was a mind-blowing experience.  But I shouldn’t be surprised.  After all, with San Diego just over the border eager Baja home brewers have folks with tons of experience at hand.  And Stone Brewing really stepped up to the plate with a ton of mentoring.

BCB, the beer bar is designed with a kind of refined roughness (a design sensibility we were to see throughout our trip), e.g. rebar walls filled with stones, kegs as light fixtures, long dark wood bars.  The glass-front refrigerators lining the wall behind the bar were packed with one of the most thorough selections of bottle beer I’ve seen.  It’s like looking at the greatest hits of the US and international brewing scene.  But that wasn’t the high point.  Nope, that was reserved for the Baja brews.

BCB Menu
The beer list at Baja Craft Beers. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Owner Ruben Valenzuela met us early at the bar and immediately began to pour tastes.  What first hit me was that every beer we tasted was incredibly well balanced.  Next, was that super clean smell in the bar and beautifully pouring taps, so I asked Ruben if he’s an engineer.  Of course he is.  BCB is more than a bar, brew pub, or even a gastropub.  They are distributors who before too long will be bringing us tastes from the youngest craft beer region of California.   Here’s a look at one page of their menu.  Note the IBU or International Bittering Units.  I think it’s a great addition to a beer list.

We tried pilsners, ambers, ipas, saisons and stouts.  Maybe because it was still breakfast time I fixated on the Ramuri Porter (nitro). It was like drinking a creamy mocha.  But it was the easy drinking pilsner Filibustera that BCB brews themselves that I chose to take in a growler to accompany the taco trail.

You might know that I don’t drink wine.  Didn’t know?  Oh well, it’s a long story but let’s just say that wine doesn’t like me.  I can’t drink it and experience pleasure so I stopped 10+ years ago.  In it’s place beer and I have developed a close personal relationship.  I know what I like and it’s decidedly not super charged hop heavy brews.  I can get behind the occasional astringent hoppy IPA but my real loves are sours (mostly for sipping like a cocktail) and malty beers (to accompany food).   So I found my foamy heaven in the well-balanced brews of Baja.  It will be fun to follow the development of the craft in that California to the south.  Here’s some info for you including the Breweries and upcoming events.It’s just one more reason to day trip below the border, maybe for one of the upcoming Beer Fests.  If you don’t want to cross the border check out the “Baja Beer Garden” at ¡Latin Food Fest! This September in San Diego.  It will be the largest Baja beer event outside of Mexico.

Baja Breweries:

Agua Mala
Baja Craft Beers
Border Psycho
I nsurgente
Tijuana Brewing Co

Outside of Baja:

Tempus – Mexico City
Minerva – Jalisco
Calavera – Estado de Mexico 

  Upcoming Beer Festivals in Baja:

The 6th Annual Baja Beer Fest: July 19th and 20th featuring 52 brewers

The 9th Annual TJ Beer Fest: August 2nd AND 3rd. This is the biggest beer festival in Mexico featuring brewers from San Diego, Baja and the rest of Mexico