¡Viva Tijuana! Interview with a Baja brewmaster

Editor's note: ¡Viva Tijuana! is a multi-story series about the life and culture of San Diego's modern neighbor to the south. More stories from the series can be found in links below.

PACIFIC: What led you to start BCB Tasting Room?

RUBEN VALENZUELA HERNANDEZ: In 2010, we started a craft beer distributor, Baja Craft Beers. My brother and I were conscious of the great market for craft beer in California, Colorado and Portland, so we decided to open a place with the biggest possible craft beer selection.

When we told friends we would have more than 32 taps, they said we're crazy. They argued Tijuana wasn't prepared for that; even in San Diego, few bars had more than 32 taps. But we made it and you see the results now.

What did you do before opening BCB?
I worked for Televisa; I'm a broadcast engineer. My boss supported me from the beginning, but when we opened the BCB Tasting Room, I had to quit. I miss that job, but beer is our passion.

What was your introduction to craft beer?
We started drinking craft beer in 1994. My first experience was with imported beer, like Guinness, Hoegaarden, Becks, and then real craft beers like Karl Strauss, Sierra Nevada, Pete's, et cetera. One of my great memories was in 1998 when Stone launched Arrogant Bastard Ale. I loved it. We traveled to many states in the U.S. and many countries in Europe to taste as many beers as we could.

BCB opened almost five years ago. What was the initial response from local beer drinkers?
People said they didn't feel they were in Tijuana. They felt like BCB was in another part of the world. Many people started looking for beer they had tasted during European travels. Others were amazed by the amount of beer we have in kegs. We weren't the first place in Tijuana with craft beer, but we were the first to introduce craft beer on tap.

Were any beers immediately popular with customers?
Many. With the IPAs, it was Ballast Point's Sculpin and Insurgente's La Lupulosa. Sours, Duchesse de Bourgogne and Russian River Consecration. Stouts, Young's Double Chocolate and Great Divide Yeti.

What's popular now?
IPAs, double IPAs, New England IPAs and sours.

When did BCB begin to brew its own beers? Why did you do that?
We started brewing before we opened BCB, starting with lagers because the Mexican market was familiar with this style. We have 12 recipes that we plan to develop when we open our BCB Brewing Co.

Craft beer is very popular in Tijuana - you are surrounded by breweries! Is this a fad, or is Mexican craft beer here to stay?
I always say craft beer is a culture, not a fad. We try to get people to understand that always.

What's your next adventure?
Since 2011, we've organized the best craft beer festival in Baja, Expo Cerveza Artesanal. This year, it's planned for June 2 and 3 at the Plaza Monumental in Playas de Tijuana.

For more information about BCB Tasting Room or the Expo Cerveza Artesanal, visit bajacraftbeers.com.

More...

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