Tijuana, Baja California, Mèxico:
Consorcio Cervecero de Baja California, La Taberna
Monday 21st May 2012
To get to this pub from downtown in San Diego I caught the blue line of the San Diego Trolley (Tram) to San Ysidro Transit Centre. It takes about fifty minutes and at the terminus it is a very short walk to the border bridge.
This beer visit was a first, as I had never been to Mexico before and although I was only an hour away from the comfort zone of San Diego, I came back with the feeling that I had truly seen another world. And it's a world that extends from the USA border all the way south through Central to South America.
The border crossing was easy and the scene on arrival the other side was in great contrast to the US side, lots of hustling going on, as you'd expect. I caught a taxi from the border to the pub. Although I'd been told I should pay only five dollars, I paid ten, but this secured the same taxi, which would wait outside the pub for an hour, and was well worth the extra paid. In fact I was finished in fifty minutes.
I would like to explain the rather wordy title of this brewery. The first part translates roughly as the Brewing Consortium of Baja California, which is the state of Mexico I was now in, and La Taberna is their pub which is attached to the brewery. The brewery is quite large and distributes throughout Baja California. Also their bottled beer is found in Mexico City and nearly every other state in the country. A number of bars and Mexican restaurants around San Diego also stock TJ Beer, which is another name they use.
The brewery and Taberna are contained in a long large pale yellow building that is quite narrow as at the rear is under a sheer cliff face.
I entered and the rather small bar was to the right in a room with a view; of the brewery, through a window! To the left is a long room that leads to set of stairs. The decor throughout is excellent as the rooms are panelled in wood and the walls are festooned with photographs of old Tijuana. All the windows to the street have stained glass, further enhancing the olde-worlde effect.
The brewery opened in 2000 yet there is a painting depicting Gambrinus, the King of Beer, on the wall by the stairs that clearly has a date of 1998; strange. Anyway, I took a seat in the bar room and ordered a taster set of beers in 3 oz glasses. The waitress had to get a senior waiter over because she didn't speak English. He explained that they only had five of the regular six beers. As he went away to pour them, the waitress returned with a complimentary plate of tortilla chips and salsa. I didn't eat any until I'd tasted the beers because I didn't want to spoil my palate. In this I was right as the salsa was very hot.
The first beer was TJ Light (3.5%), a German-style low alcohol beer that I thought was quite nice and refreshing, which I suppose it should be. I followed this with TJ Bronca (4.6%), an unfiltered Czech Pilsener-style beer. I thought it was a very fair representation, having a nice bitter aftertaste. Next was TJ Güera (4.6%) which was a filtered version of the previous beer and it was very similar, yet with a softer, less assertive taste. This was followed by TJ Morena (4.8%) a German Schwartzbier. My notes say I liked it a lot, with a suitably dark taste. The last beer was TJ Brava Original (5.3%); the inspiration for it is Münchener Dunkel. I thought it was good, if a bit sharp, compared with the malty mellow tastes of the originals.
Sadly the beer I was unable to try was TJ Bufadora (7.5%), a massive Maibock. I bet it's a great beer. I think the reason these beers were generally good is because they use top quality ingredients and it shows. It is also beneficial that the senior brewer is Czech, and from a family of brewers.
To summarise, this is a good pub to visit if you are in North West Mexico or, more likely, should you be in San Diego, Tijuana is an interesting half-day visit.
I caught my waiting cab to the city centre, actually Caille Flores Magon or locally La Sesta (Sixth Street). I went into a drinks supermarket that had been recommended and I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the big range of beers available, including several from small microbrewers. My problem was that as soon as I was back in San Diego I had a full program of pubs to visit. If I bought any of these beers, when would I have time to drink them? That said, on this sultry day, I still wanted another beer before walking to the border.
I found I bar that looked decent and went in. There were no draught beers, apparently normal in Mexico, but on the bottom shelf of the fridge I noticed Bohemia. I had this beer once before and liked it. And so it was again with nice bitterness and a real pilsner taste. Coming from a large national brewer it's surprising that it is so good. My thoughts on it were backed up when, during a pub visit in the USA the following day, a brewer said similar and went as far as to say it was the best Mexican beer he'd ever tasted.
I then set out on a hot and slow walk to the border and joined the queue. It took about 25 minutes to get through. I am told this is quite good. Note that when entering Mexico there are no formalities, just two turnstiles to traverse. The entry into the USA is a full border check with immigration controls and customs with sniffer dogs. Note that if you have a passport from a Western country you do not need a visa if you stay within 25 miles (40 kms) of the border, but you must check this before travelling.
Consorcio Cervecero de Baja California, La Taberna,
2951 Boulevard Fundatores, Col. Juárez 22040, Tijuana, Baja California, Mèxico
Open: Monday to Wednesday 13.00-24.00; Thursday to Saturday 13.00-02.00.
There is local bus transport in Tijuana but I'm not sure I'd like to use them, they look pretty run down. The brewery is about two miles (three kilometres) from the border and about a mile and a half (two kilometres) from the downtown area. After walking, taxis are the best choice, but agree the price before getting in.