If you’re a fan of craft beer, you’re going to want to take a road trip to Mexicali soon.
Last week I spent a few days with friends who are in the Mexicali craft beer scene. Mexican hospitality is legendary, so suffice it to say I had a great time. As a craft beer industry analyst, I was also given an up-close look at the challenges and opportunities that shape the local industry.
Mexicali beer is hard to find in San Diego; you’re more likely to encounter a beer from Tijuana in our specialty liquor stores. At last count, there’s about 10 Mexicali craft breweries, most of them reaching small “nano” production levels. But production is growing, and the popularity of local craft was easy to encounter — busy tasting rooms and craft beer bars filled with patrons.
The city has a lot to offer; Mexicali is the state capital of Baja, and with more than 700,000 residents it’s larger than Portland, Ore. With the current dollar-peso currency exchange rate, you won’t have to spend much money when you’re there. I had phenomenal seafood (mariscos) at an outdoor restaurant, and Mexicali is of course known for its world-famous Chinese restaurants.
My friends drove me everywhere, but I could have biked or taken a taxi around; all the breweries and craft beer bars I went to were a short drive away from each other, similar to the Mira Mesa/Sorrento Valley beer scene. My wait time to re-enter the U.S. also only took 40 minutes, a far cry from the hours I’ve endured waiting at the Tijuana/San Ysidro border crossing.
My recommendations on places to check out while in Mexicali include Cerveceria Tres B (Big Bad Brewing), Cerveceria Legion, The Show Beer Rock Bar, and El Sume Bar. They all have Facebook pages and can answer any questions you have through Facebook Messenger.
Get out of your comfort zone, and have an adventure! You don’t need to be fluent in Spanish to travel to Mexico, but I’d definitely brush up on Spanish words for basic Q&A you’d expect to have on any trip you’d take. Rest assured, most brewers, bar tenders and waiters you’ll meet are also well educated, fluent English speakers. For trip planning, you can email Cerveceria Tres B for assistance at firstname.lastname@example.org, or directly email Rodrigo Hernandez Mijares, partner at Tres B and Managing Director at The Show Beer Rock Bar, at email@example.com.
If you’re heading south of the border, Mexicali is about a 2 ½ to 3 hour drive from North County, taking either Interstate 8 or state Route 78 to 111 South. You can safely park your car for $4 a day at Double AA Parking Lot in Calexico, and walk a few blocks to get to the pedestrian border crossing.
PS: When you visit, try a Colita, a unique Mexicali drink that’s similar to a Bloody Mary cocktail.
Vince Vasquez is a think tank analyst based in Torrey Pines. He is a Carlsbad resident.