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Craft Beer in Baja: Beer-vana in Tijuana, BCB Tasting Room

Craft Beer and breweries are flourishing in Baja.  Where to taste the foamy nectar?  How about BCB Tasting Room in Tijuana.

By Genáro Valladolid. Reprinted with permission of San Diego Red.

San Diego, let me start of by saying that you do not know how good you have it regarding craft beers. Remember in the Lion King when Mufasa tells Simba about that dark place on the horizon called The Elephant’s Graveyard? Well, that was Tijuana regarding beer not that long ago. Sure, we had our Tecate , Corona and Dos Equis but that was about it. Thanks to the San Diego influence and some dedicated beer lovers south of the border, that has changed dramatically and Tijuana is now considered by many to be the craft beer capital of Mexico.

The best place in Tijuana, and quite possibly all of Mexico, to sample local and international brews is undoubtedly BCB Tasting Room. I went to BCB on a Friday night to try some of the brews and food from their kitchen (hard work for sure!) and met up with Ruben Valenzuela who along with Felipe Vera own the place. Ruben started telling me about the origins of BCB, which stands for Baja Craft Brews, as a local beer distributor. As the craft beer movement started to grow in Tijuana thanks to places like Devo’s, Zebra Mexican Pub and The Beer Box there also grew a need for someone to deliver beers to those places. Inspired by the new wave of beer drinkers they decided to open BCB Tasting Room this past August and it has been an unqualified hit. You can find a good crowd here pretty much every day and on weekends it gets packed around 8 p.m.

It is located near Colonia Chapultepec in an old warehouse and is nicely decorated with empty beer cartons on one wall, a cold room with kegs on another and hanging beer keg lamps. The music is a combination of classic and alternative rock along with rock en español.

VIDEO : The BCB Tasting Room

 

First things first so let’s talk about the “cerveza artesanal.” There are thirty beers on tap and there will be twelve more in the near future. About half of them are from the Tijuana-San Diego area and the rest are from other parts of Mexico and the US. The list rotates depending on availability and the time of year. The menu lists over two hundred bottled beers from twelve countries including beer capitals like Germany, Belgium and the Czech Republic.

Some of the standouts are Ballast Point Victory At Sea and Firestone Union Jack from the USA which were recently among the top 12 according to CNN’s Eatocracy blog. From Mexico they have Insurgente’s IPA Lupulosa and the full line from Ramuri. La Lupulosa won the gold medal for best IPA and Ramuri was selected as Mexico’s best craft brewery in the recently concluded national event called Cerveza Mexico. I asked Ruben what his most popular beers are and he said the people like to order the local Tijuana beers such as Frontera, Insurgente, Ramuri and Border Psycho.

When they opened a few months ago the food was your standard brew pub fare but that has changed considerably with the hiring of Chef Alberto Cancino. Like many of Tijuana’s rising crop of young chefs Alberto graduated from the Culinary Art School and has worked abroad at Michelin rated restaurants in Barcelona and Madrid.

On this night I sampled a German sausage with mustard sauce, a really good cold cut pizza, a perfectly cooked juicy rib eye and a pork belly appetizer made especially for yours truly. I can honestly say that I was pleasantly surprised by each plate.

For dessert BCB has a few options such as tiramisu with a stout beer reduction and crème brulée but I decided to stick with beer!

Some of the great things about the craft beer scene in Tijuana is that all the brewers know and support each other and that everybody is totally into it. The last couple of times I have been there I have run into local and international celebrities such as Fussible and Hiperboral from the acclaimed Nortec Collective and Derrik Chinn who runs Turista Libre. On this occasion I ran into the three guys behind Silenus Brewery in Tijuana and I spoke to them about how they started. They mentioned the San Diego influence and said that they took beer making classes at Ramuri. I also ran into a group of three friends from the USA who were visiting BCB.

Steve , who is originally from Long Beach but now lives in Tijuana, brought his friends Adrian and Jeff down to check out the scene. I asked Jeff from the OC about his experience in Tijuana and he said “I feel just as safe as I would in San Diego.” He mentioned that his favorite brews so far were Insurgente’s Lupulosa and Nocturna.

They all mentioned that they enjoy the different atmosphere in Tijuana and the lower prices for almost everything. I asked them about getting back home and they said they usually walk across at night which takes about fifteen minutes and then they take the trolley.

The craft brew scene is taking off throughout Mexico and especially in Tijuana. Having grown tired of the duopoly held by Modelo and Cuauhtémoc breweries and their bland offerings, micro-breweries are springing up all over Mexico to the benefit of all us beer drinkers. Tijuana is Mexico’s craft beer capital and the BCB Tasting Room is the capital in Tijuana.

Want to visit Tijuana’s craft breweries?  Find out where to stay while you are in Tijuana!  

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About Carla White

Carla White is a freelance writer, public relations/marketing consultant and event organizer based in Ensenada, Baja, California. Carla and her husband Jim moved to Baja in 2003 from the Los Angeles area believing that, thanks to the internet and satellite communications, they could continue working from home while enjoying a richer, more affordable lifestyle. So far, they’ve been right. Connect with Carla Google+

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