So, I’ve been living in the United States for the last 3 or so years, basing myself in San Diego while my wife studies at UCSD. During this time I’ve got to appreciate how great the craft beer scene is in San Diego, one of the best with more independent microbreweries than anywhere else, most just down the road from us in the Miramar area.
So you’d think my favourite place to go out for a few decent craft beers would be right here in San Diego – you’d be wrong. When I want to go and taste a whole bunch of new beers and order a few flights with some food, theres only one place I go – and thats Tijuana in Baja, Mexico.
It’s only a short drive south on the I-5 freeway to the port of San Ysidro, where you can park in one of the large parking lots, try to be sneaky and hope you don’t get a ticket parking at the mall, or if it’s after 6pm on a weekday, or during the weekend park for free on the street in San Ysidro boulevard. Then its a quick walk to the Border, line up for a day pass (or if you are a regular like me, ask for a 180 day multi entry visa for around $15) and you are in Mexico.
Tijuana has a seedy reputation from years of it being the only place under 18 year olds could drink, or where people go for hookers and cheap generic drugs, but after the cartel wars from 2008-2012 it was considered too dangerous for the average American and a lot of the regular gringo day tourism dried up.
Since then, Tijuana has really cleaned up it’s act, and changed significantly (or so I’ve been told, I’ve only been in the USA since 2014) and developed a really artistic, bohemian, some would even say hipster vibe as young people have returned to the city with their education and money to invest in a wide variety of new businesses.
Restaurants, cafes, galleries, music stores and more are popping up in the side alleyways off Revolution, while other areas such as Zona rio are developing into one stop shops for beer loves thanks to some unique liquor licensing laws. Plaza Fiesta is one such place, that quite possibly has the highest concentration of craft beer (Cerveza Artesnal) and microbrew tasting rooms (with a few Mezcal and Pulque bars thrown in for good measure) in the world.
Every single time I’ve visited there have been new tasting rooms open, and the beer is almost universally of a high quality, and incredibly cheap – I’ve had nights out with 2-3 friends and its cost less than $20, including food – total. The list of breweries (there are at least 90 in Baja) and tasting rooms is growing but includes (I’ll update the list next time I’m there):
- Border Psycho Brewery
- Tres B (Big Bad Brewing Co)
- Donkey Punch Brewing
- Agua Mala
- Silenus Cerveceria
- Paralelo 28
- Lucida Artesnal (Inside El Tigre)
- Puerto El Sauzal
- Besieger Beer (Inside Sotano Suizo)
Other Breweries/Tasting Rooms in the area include:
- Azteca Craft Brewing (near Ave Revolution)
- Norte Brewing CompanyNorte Brewing Company (near Ave Revolution)
Baja Brew Labs (near Ave Revolution)(Sadly now closed)
- Mamut (Two bars near Ave Revolution)
- Funes Brewing Company(near Telefonica Gastronomica Park)
- BCB Tasting Room
- Cervecería Ki’li
- Cervecería Zesde
- Cerveceria Urbana
- Cerveza Mutualismo (Zona Norte)
- Public House
- Cervecería Comuna
A few hours away in Mexicali you have:
While down the coast in Ensenada you have:
Of all of them Border Psycho is currently my “go to” bar, with an excellent selection of beers and a “unique” tap setup. Though if you aren’t worried about driving, I’d suggest bar hopping and ordering flights to share with some friends.
The craft beer scene in Tijuana is probably the best in Mexico (there is also some great stuff in La Paz and Ensenada in Baja, and a few places we found in Mexico city, but nothing compares to the selection in TJ), which is no surprise due to its close proximity to San Diego. It’s well worth checking out if you are a San Diego local, or a tourist exploring Southern California looking for a day trip to Mexico.
The easiest way is to park on the US side of the border (or take the trolley to San Ysidro) to avoid the long lines on re entry, cross and find a cab at the taxi rank. An even cheaper (and many regulars would say better) way is to walk across the river to Revolution, check out Mamut on 2nd Ave or Collectivo 9 (9 Collective) between 6th and 7th Avenues (Av Revolución 1265, Zona Centro, 22000 Tijuana, B.C., Mexico) before grabbing an Uber (yes Uber works in many big cities in Mexico) to “Plaza Fiesta” (Erasmo Castellanos Q. 9440, Zona Urbana Rio Tijuana, 22010 Tijuana, B.C., Mexico) across the road from the mall in Zona rio. A cab will probably cost $5+ while an uber will be $2-3.
If thats sounding like all too much, there are companies that offer guided tours of the Tijuana food and beer scene such as Turista Libre, Baja Test Kitchen and other tour companies that are popping up frequently.
Getting back is just as easy, especially if you are using an uber. Ask to be taken to Chapperal which is the new border crossing, and you’ll be dropped off right outside. It’s much safer than the old one and is well lit and patrolled by Mexican military, unlike the old crossing that was super sketchy when it was late at night. Crossing is a breeze if you do so at night, usually there is no line and at least 4-5 of the 10+ lanes open. Remember to bring your passport of passport card if you don’t want to end up in secondary inspection on the way home. You’ll exit at the very edge of the outlet malls and its a short walk to your parking or to the trolley that will take you back to San Diego.
Looking for Somewhere to Stay Nearby?
I live in San Diego, so I can go home afterwards, but lets say you want to have a few, and don’t want to drive – use the Booking.com form below to book a decent hotel nearby. Remember to drink responsibly – don’t drink and drive!