Book — Confessions of a Tour Guide: Chapter 21.5 — Beer Guide.

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Chapter 21.5. Beer Guide.

 

I wrote that last entry pretty drunk. I am still certain that the cops were the ones that took my phone. The last activity was at 2:37 a.m. spinning a Pokegym that’s near my house. They detained me around the area. I posted at 3ish a.m. that my phone was stolen by the cops.


 

And because I’ve been saving for a car… I said fuck it, I’m going to get a nice fancy phone instead. And here I am, with my new device, that’s also a camera, and… much more. 

 

A tiny $1,000 computer in my pocket that I carry everywhere and we call it a “phone.” I’m not comfortable knowing how stupid expensive this little gadget is. Which makes me want to return it… 

 

But it is an amazing gadget. And the camera is surreal. The future. A weird fucking future. A really weird fucking future.


 

Time seems to shrink. 

 

Or maybe I’m just getting busier.


I haven’t had a single drink since the incident.

 

Well… that’s a lie. I had a tequila drink. But that was during work. I was taking pictures of tacos and they served me a margarita that I thought was a virgin. It wasn’t. It had tons of tequila.

 

I was thirsty. I drank half of it. 

 

But that’s it.

 

Three nights of not drinking and I’m proud as the first fish that walked out of the water and started breathing air. 


 

I do miss beer though. But my beer consumption has been excessive that I do need to moderate it heavily. Beer is so good and so cheap in this city. So… let’s talk about that. Shall we?


 

Oh yeah. The photoshoot with the sexy chick didn’t go well at all. I was too hungover. The light wasn’t great. We had the idea of taking pictures of her blowing a bubble with gum. She made weird faces while trying that. It wasn’t good. She didn’t like any of the pictures. I am not thoroughly enchanted with them either.

 

I’m not enchanted with her anymore. Awesome body. But she’s not that sexy as I used to think she was… And she tends to annoy me real quick. I want to see her naked… but the effort doesn’t seem worth it.


And now, my college friend from Minnesota is telling me that they are flying me over there for his sister’s wedding. They want someone to…

 

FUCK. NOT TAKE PICTURES. They already hired two photographers for $300 an hour. That’s SO MUCH FUCKING money. 

 

Nope. They wanted me to play guitar at the beginning of the wedding. But I haven’t played guitar in so long. My guitar level is the lowest it has been in more than a decade. And that’s what I studied in college. So it makes sense they wanted me to play guitar there… 

But I can’t. This is happening in less than a month and I don’t have time to practice… 


 

I told them I was going to do photography way cheaper. Wedding photography is a crazy market though. They already booked the other two… and they probably have a ludicrous cancellation fee. 


 

Oh sorry.

 

Beer.


It was Mamut Brewery Co. who started it all. Cervecería Tijuana likes to say they were the first craft brewery in the city… and they are not wrong… but their beer is shit.

 

Cervecería Tijuana has been brewing since the 90s. The generic name implies generic beers. And not only generic… they are not very good. They recently revamped their taproom and it looks impressive. They also redid their whole brand with new slogans logos… that isn’t very impressive.

 

It’s again… just like their beer and their names… generic. And poorly executed.

 

Whoever did their taproom… that’s good. Beyond good. But it’s all make-up. Point being… you can skip Cervecería Tijuana.


 

Mamut started with a little flag in a small art gallery in Pasaje Rodríguez in early 2012. I would walk by the Pasaje and see the flag and ask about beer.

 

They never had beer. They would brew two kegs per month, sell for less than $1, and be out of beer in a day or two.

 

Dry Stout and Hefeweizen I believed they brewed back then. Dry Stout was the popular one but ran out so quick it was rare if they had any left.

 

They were basically the only craft beer around, except of the extensive breweries from the neighbors from up north (San Diego). 

 

BCB or Baja Craft Brew also opened at that time, a bar that resembles hipster LA that gives out an industrial feel. They don’t brew their own beer, but they started bringing crafts from all over the place. Great place, bad execution. Their menu is extensive, but you usually don’t find half the beers they list. It is also on the expensive side.

 

BCB also holds the title for the most popular bathroom in Tijuana. So many selfies in that fucking bathroom. See… it has three-sided mirrors. So the reflection is pretty cool. I must admit I’ve taken a selfie in there while pissing. I never posted it since my penis was on the frame. 


Mamut has exploded since then. 

 

The quality has been a rollercoaster, but the past year… a new brewer came to work there. A young kid that goes by the name “Ham.” All his beers have been on point. Well… let’s say 1 out of 10 is bad. And it used to be the other way around… 1 out of 10 would be good.

 

That made a lot of people stop trusting Mamut. Including myself. They expanded too big, too soon, lost control of quality, went downhill, started getting heavily criticized, downsized, got better, and now it’s expanding again.

 

Yes. Mamut has been a rollercoaster. The owner, Juan José, wanted to be the brewer. He has a passion for beer and his brewery, but he needed someone like Ham to put him on the right track. And he did. Ham ordered all new equipment, cleaned the fuck out of the old one, and now is just brewing excellent beer together with Juan.

 

And I mean it… Lately… they’ve been having some of the best beers in the city. And there is a HEAVY competition in the Baja area for the best beer.

 

Mamut is also one of the cheapest. They have a sizeable brewery and two taprooms in the heart of downtown Tijuana. 

 

Juan José also has always been a patron of the arts. A patron of the city. Mamut displays local art monthly or bi-monthly. They also have a nice space for concerts and they have been bringing important artists.

 

All in all… Mamut is great right now. It went through a long rough patch when their beers were undrinkable… but their recovery has been swift and great. Seriously, nothing is wrong with Mamut beers, from IPAs to Sours, to Stouts and Porters, to Lagers and whatever your heart desires.

 

They also have Mezcal. And at some point wine.

 

The food menu is decent. 

 

… It’s bad for a food snob like myself. But it’s edible and cheap. Very cheap. So it’s more than decent.


 

And Mamut is just touching the tip of the iceberg of the beer community here. And a lot of brewers/beer community probably hates me for mentioning Mamut as an important factor of Tijuana beer… after all… their beers were really complete shit for a long period. 

 

But Mamut was the first true craft brewery I experienced. Their tiny taproom in Pasaje Rodríguez is still one of my favorite hangouts. 


 

Now for the rest…

 

The rest are a lot…

 

A fucking lot.

 

And there’s not only Tijuana but the whole of Baja.


 

The top 5 players (not in a particular order). Insurgente and Border Psycho (Tj), Wendlandt and Agua Mala (Ensenada), and Fauna (Mexicali).

 

They are the top 5 players because they are the ones that can export to the US. They are all excellent… except Border Psycho. Their beers tend to be heavily alcoholic and you can taste it (in a bad way). But they have also been getting better and they are widely popular because of their “naughty theme.” Though they could also use a better graphic designer.

 

They could all use something better…

 

So let’s review the top 5 breweries in the region, you should be able to find these beers all over California and in many other parts of the United States.


 

Insurgente is definitely the top player. I have never had a bad beer from them. Their theme is congruent and nice. Fuck. There’s just simply nothing wrong with them. They are pristine. They are the only ones that do merch, webpage, photos, beers, everything right.

 

Except their taproom. It’s great beer and simply decorated… but it’s TINY! And in Plaza Fiesta. And Plaza Fiesta… well… that’s another story.

 

Juan Cordero, their hoppy pale ale, is my favorite Insurgente beer. Before that, Lupulosa was the best. But they also had a chain sours that were superb. The Xocoveza is a collaboration with Stone Brewery, I’m not big into chocolate beers, but the best of Tijuana with the best of San Diego together… you know it’s fucking good. They just released Hops and Chill, their double IPA. I’ve tried it, but haven’t make a note of it. Juan Cordero is still my favorite.

 

I am sure that by the time you read this… they have a bigger and better taproom and way more beers.


 

Border Psycho. Their first taproom was in Plaza Fiesta. It’s still there… but I don’t think it will last long.

 

They recently opened another taproom in downtown Tijuana. It is much better. It has a decent menu, good burgers, good sopes (soh pehs), okay price. It’s nice that the kitchen is open late. 

 

Their move to downtown Tijuana marks a trend that I see in the future of many breweries opening taprooms in downtown. By the time you read this, downtown Tijuana will have a couple dozen taprooms or more.

 

Like I said… Their beer is very alcoholic tasting (and with good reason, they are mostly high alcohol beers). Even their collaboration with Mason Ale Works, Zonkey, an Imperial Coffee Stout, has a strong alcoholic taste. Many of their beers are above 8%. 

 

They recently brewed Hoptimistic, which is a better IPA than their line beer, La Perversa a double IPA on the caramel, malty, and of course, heavy alcohol side. La Belga Sicotica, what they thought was a Belgian beer, is really a Black Saison. This beer, because it’s called “La Belga” sounds like “La Verga” which means cock. This beer was the reason they started using dildos as their taps. 

 

It started with a big purple dildo at some beer festival (as one of the owners told me), but it graduated to nice glass dildos. Definitely a fun place, but not the best beers. They are improving and trust that they will be getting better.


 

Agua Mala or “Jellyfish,” not “bad water.” Just like Insurgente, there is never anything wrong with Agua Mala. The only thing I dislike is that their IPA (Astillero) claims to have 120+ IBUs. Anything above 80 is barely noticeable. And it’s not even that bitter… So I’m not sure how they got 120+. I prefer their Mako Pale Ale or their Sirena Pilsner. Astillero is still a delicious IPA. 

 

They briefly opened a taproom in Plaza Fiesta with Mamut. That went downhill and now they don’t have one in Tijuana. The Mamut taproom in Plaza Fiesta is also gone. 

 

The theme is “the ocean” so all their beers are related to sea events. Their brewery/taproom in Ensenada is less than a mile from the ocean and it has spectacular views. I’ve only visited once and didn’t get to try the menu, but it looked upscale and expensive. And again, their beers are all on point. 


 

Wendlandt is also another one that never does anything wrong. I know. I know. I repeat myself saying stupid shit. It’s also a brewery/taproom I only visited once. And they weren’t even opened yet (it was a private thing). They are also themed by the ocean as the taproom is right in front of the ocean. 

 

My favorite by them is their Perro del Mar IPA. Awesome labels. A dog captain of the sea with an eye patch… Great stuff. Veraniega (a summery American ale) is a perfect light beer. And the Foca Parlante (chatting seal) is a great balanced oatmeal stout. And again, hilarious label with, a seal with a monocle and a pipe.


 

Fauna. Meaning. Fauna.

 

Speaking of awesome labels.

 

Mother fucking Fauna has my mother fucking favorite labels. All their labels have a magical and “animalistic” feel to it. Very nerdy.

 

I’m going to mention the IPA again as their best beer. Lycan Lupus. And the label… a werewolf in the forest destroying shit. They have a seasonal special beer call “Señor Matanza” a Russian Imperial Stout that only came in a big bottle and a hefty price of $12. I tried one version and wasn’t very impressed, but a lot of people love the fuck out of it whenever it comes out. 

 

They closed their taproom in Plaza Fiesta. It was a magical place. Many of the beer labels were painted on the walls. They had a bartender that is one of the Mexican suicide girls that always gets naked for Instagram likes. I mean… on her IG account, you can pay her to send you private videos. Or she did back then.

 

She looks great in pictures and videos… but in real life, she’s just a short girl with tattoos and big titties. Hot. But not as good as in pictures. Cool chick… though I barely have said a word to her except “I want that beer.” It makes me nervous to think I’ve already seen her naked and she has no idea who the fuck I am.

Too bad the taproom is gone. They only have a taproom in their brewery in Mexicali… and to this day… I STILL HAVEN’T VISITED MEXICALI… and I’ve been wanting too. Hopefully soon.

 

Owned by brothers Larios. Fauna is definitely one of the best breweries in the Baja region and I can’t wait for them to open another taproom in Tijuana. The brothers were painted as gnomes in the entrance of their taproom. Ahhh… it was a magical place but Plaza Fiesta got ruined… 


 

And there you have it, the top 5 players beer in Baja. This doesn’t mean that they are the best… There are so many breweries here. Those are just the ones that you can find in the US and that they are usually available at liquor stores in the area. 

 

Basically, the ones that aren’t going fucking anywhere. Many more are not going fucking anywhere either.


About the death of Plaza Fiesta… I see it in the near future. El Tigre bar marked the trend of all craft breweries moving to that Plaza since the scene was dead and the craft beer scene needed a place to get established. 

 

It’s still there hanging by a thread. The thread… Brew Pub Plaza, which used to be Paralelo 28 (I liked their old name better and now they have an alien theme which is meh), Madueño, Kaminari Secret Pub, and the tiny Insurgente.

 

Those are the ones still alive in Plaza. Border Psycho is still there… but they care more about their new taproom. Lúdica is gone. Fauna is gone. Donkey Punch (which was horrible) is also gone. Tres B (Big Bad Brew from Mexicali) is gone. Mamut is gone. Agua Mala is gone. Legion is gone. Ramuri is gone. I think small players like Vibra still hold their spot in the back.

 

So… Plaza Fiesta used to host many craft breweries… and now they are mostly gone.

 

Madueño and Kaminari make more than excellent beers and they seem stubborn to stay in Plaza… but I’m sure they’ll end up in downtown. 

 

The last one to leave is going to be Brew Pub Plaza. It’s in their name. Unless they change the name… 


 

So… why did all the brewers leave? Why did Plaza Fiesta turn to shit!?

 

Well… it turned into Plaza Fiesta. Party party party.

 

The people saw that the party mall was getting full… a lot of people started renting the empty spaces and doing their own shit bars. And by shit bars… I mean real shit bars. With shit beer, shit drinks, shit cocaine, and worse of it all… SHIT MUSIC. And at unbearable loudness levels. Each bar competes to see who can be the loudest and all the music clashes against each other creating shit dissonance and shitty drunk people.

 

Plaza Fiesta became where people go get stupid wasted with the least money possible. Mostly, people under 25. It’s still a great party… but not for me… 

 

I am barely there after dark. Last time I was there I stopped by Madueño and their Hops and Dreams is still as great as ever. I had the great luck to meet Kaminari at his secret pub and drink a bunch of his beers. Dude knows what he is doing as well. Amazing shit.


 

And an honorable mention. Cervecería Colima. Nowhere near Baja California, but they are aware that the big beers are here. You find Colima beer in many places. And their distributor is a friend of mine… so I get to try a lot of their beers.

Roca Partida collaboration with Insurgente, Ballast Point, Rise and Win Brewing Co (Japan), and Baja Brewing Co was one of the best fucking beers I’ve had in my life. And I don’t even really like porters… but this one had oyster which gave it a chocolate salty taste that was unique.

 

Too bad it was a limited beer and we will probably never see it again. It was fucking delicious.


 

An extra honorary mention. Sotano Suizo and Bosiger. They aren’t moving from la Plaza, they’ve been there since the 80s. Their beer hasn’t impressed me, and in general, I don’t like the place. But it’s a classic Tijuana standard that I doubt will be going anywhere in the following decade. 


And this concludes beer of Baja… Sort of. 

 

And this concludes all the stupid shit I write… Sort of.


I didn’t even mention Norte Brewing Co… I’m painted on the mural inside that brewery…

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