BajaBound.com – Think Mexico, think beer, and the names are easy to recall, Corona, Pacifico, Tecate with a number of darker brews. But Baja California is poised right on the edge of being well known for its microbrewers and they are springing up all over the city of Ensenada. Not fifteen years ago, wine production began to make itself known in the Guadalupe Valley, like Napa Valley did in the 70s.
Now passionate brewmasters have opened the door of opportunity and caught the attention of Carnival Cruises, who have launched a new Mexican Craft Beer and Brewery Tour into Ensenada. The brewmasters are pushing the envelope as they incorporate el Sabor de México, the flavor of Mexico, into the golden liquid. New brewers are opening for the summer tourist season and several well-established breweries are in full operation.
To create a truly fine artisanal beer, it is much more than just the grains. It is much more than the fermenting time. It is much more than ending up with a cold beer on a hot summer day. It has everything to do with being an artist, driven by the same passion as a painter or musician. The grains are the media for the craftsman, but it is the play of hops that creates a signature for the brewery. For the hop lovers, there is an amazing array of varieties to experience that will not disappoint. The artisanal brews far surpass what the industrial beer producers can ever accomplish.
How great it is that the two featured breweries here are easy to find. Both are just minutes past the Ensenada toll booth going south. So, with a designated driver, it is a simple one day trip from San Diego. The first stop, Wendlandt Cerveceria. Watch for the sign for Ruta del Vino (Mexico Highway 3) which will take you off to the right.
Coming to a stop, turn towards the ocean. This is going to take you into some unfamiliar territory and don’t be dismayed by the pungent fish smell. You will pass by the processing plant and soon catch a crisp Pacific breeze. It will also be worth the drive as Wendlandt is an award winner, having claimed, “the best Brewery in Mexico.” The honor was given to them in 2015 by the Copa Cerveza competition in Mexico City.
You pull into a wide-open courtyard and find the structure itself impressive, but it isn’t until you step inside that you realize this is a very serious brewery. Monstrous stainless steel tanks stand like guardians around two walls. In the center, there are wooden tables for large groups of visitors to linger over a draft or two. Here again, you will find that Mexican flare for humor in the labeling. Try a Perro Del Mar, (Sea Dog), an “aggressively hopped” India Pale Ale; its label, a one-eyed dog wearing a sailor’s hat. Too cute.