Mexican craft breweries you should seek out now

The BCB tasting room in Tijuana has an extensive lineup of California and Baja California craft beers.
(Union-Tribune file photo)

On this side of the border, excellent beers from Tijuana’s Insurgente are often available at the Bottlecraft shops in Little Italy and North Park, plus the Puesto restaurants downtown and in La Jolla. Ensenada’s Aguamala can be found at Sprouts, Bottlecraft, Clem’s, the Puesto restaurants and other locations. Baja Brewing Co., based in San Jose del Cabo, has landed its beers in the Whole Foods in Hillcrest.

However, Baja California’s incredible craft beer resurgence is on full display in Tijuana. At the Playas de Tijuana Calimax supermarket, I fell in love with Rámuri’s imperial stout, Odin. In the twisty walkways of Plaza Fiesta in the Rio district, there are about a dozen tasting rooms. My favorite: Border Psycho.

For a one-stop overview, try the BCB tasting room (Orizaba 3003E5 in Colonia Neidhard). Its 42 beers on tap dispense local beers from both sides of the border.

Crime Against Beermanity

Last week’s news brought a reminder about two facts of life:

1. Thieves will be tempted by anything of value, and
2. Beer is valuable.

The Oceanside Police Department reported the arrest of Nathaniel Maynard, a Hemet man who is the suspect behind 20 burglaries in San Diego and Riverside counties. The victims were all family businesses, including restaurants and breweries — hence the suspect’s nomme de crime, the Brewery Bandit.

Actually, the PD listed only one brewery among the victims of the March-July spree, Temecula’s Wiens. But there were others.

“Most people didn’t post or promote it,” said Mike McCague, one of the owners of Vista’s Twisted Horn, which makes mead and cider. “We’d heard that so many were being hit, we figured it was really a matter of time before it happened to us.”

In fact, a burglar broke into Twisted Horn a month ago, scooping up cash and branded T-shirts. Not taken: any alcohol.

Unfortunately, beer makes regular appearances on the nation’s crime blotters for years. Often, it’s a six-pack or case that’s pilfered, but the beery equivalent of the Great Jewel Heist came 10 years ago in Tampa. There, criminals hijacked two semi-trucks loaded with beer. While both vehicles were quickly recovered, the trailers went missing, complete with their contents: 37,260 bottles and cans of Modelo Especial and Corona Extra.


Re-arranging the bookshelves last weekend put me in a David “Ch-Ch-Changes” Bowie frame of mind. Opening a copy of “San Diego’s Top Brewers,” a 2011 book, was like traveling to a long-lost world.

Of the 18 breweries profiled, two — Manzanita and Rock Bottom Gaslamp — are dead. A third, Lightning, has sold off equipment and scaled back production. A fourth, Ballast Point, was sold to a New York conglomerate. A fifth, Green Flash, was sold to investors after founders Lisa and Mike Hinkley over-extended the company.

As for the “Top Brewers,” many — Yuseff Cherney, Sean Farrell, Garry Pitman, Chuck Silva, Jason Stockberger — have moved on. In the last eight years, San Diego’s beer scene has expanded and we’ve gained top breweries like Societe, Thorn and Modern Times. But we’ve suffered some losses as well.

Kings of Beer

This year, rosé beers found their place in the summer sun. Once made only by a handful of Wine Country breweries — Silva Brewing in Paso Robles was a pioneer, with its terrific Pink Stuff — they’re now flowing in from Belgium (Hoegaarden Rosée), Texas (Shiner Brewers Pride Rosé Pale Ale), Minnesota (Surly Rosé) and Colorado (Crooked Stave Sour Rosé).

Here in San Diego, Modern Times entered the rosé fray with a fresh entry in its line of fruit beers. Fruitlands: Rosé Edition (4.8 percent alcohol by volume) is a sparkling tart ale that is exceptionally juicy, yet still offers a dry finish. Modern Times used raspberries, cherries, lemons and, most notably, cranberries in this beer.

That may sound too Hawaiian Punchy, yet this Fruitlands is crisp and refreshing. It’s also a limited edition, due to vanish by the end of August.

Words to Drink By

“Teddy couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a beer. Their server had recommended a local IPA, and the first taste was so bitter he thought he should send it back. Now, the pint half gone, he’d revised his opinion. Somehow the bitterness had become almost pleasant. In his experience, bitterness had a tendency to do that.” — from Richard Russo’s “Chances Are...”

The latest novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Empire Falls,” “Chances” was published last week.