The happy smell is apparent as soon as we enter the breakfast room. There’s bacon. Alexei lets out a little whoop of joy. I manage to contain myself, but I’m equally overjoyed. There are breakfast potatoes and scrambled egg, too.
Andrew sullenly pours packet after packet of sugar into his black coffee. He’s not a morning person.
Breakfasted, we walk to America Plaza to get the tram. Or trolley as it’s called here. It will take us directly to the border crossing at San Ysidro.
On the way, we pass the naval dockyard. “Are they cruisers, dad?”
“Destroyers, I think.” The weirdly-shaped ones. Something to do with stealth technology, I believe.
The border crossing is right next to the tram terminus. Pretty much everyone on the tram seems to be headed for Mexico.
A very pleasant young woman checks our passports, then stamps them. We’re across in a jiffy.
“Well, that was simple. It won’t be that quick on the way back.” I warn the kids.
It’s a new experience for the kids, crossing an international border on foot. Not for me. I’ve walked from Gibraltar to Spain.
We have an appointment at 11 on the Mexican side with our designated driver, Betty Lopez.
She’s a bit late arriving, giving the kids time to soak up the Mexican atmosphere a bit. Which is slightly chaotic, with buses, cars and people buzzing around. Standing under a tree, we’re at least in the shade.
When Betty turns, we jump in her car and trundle through the city. She’s a bright, witty young Mexican woman who brews in Tijuana. Whose English puts my use of any foreign language to shame. Really cool that she’s prepared to spend her Sunday showing us around.
Betty parks the car and we head off on foot. Starting at Border Pyscho, a small brewpub. It looks much like an American equivalent, with its simple furnishings and wall of beer taps. Or ones in the UK or Holland, for that matter. One of the features of the craft beer world is its international nature. The beers and décor are the same the world over.
“What do you want to drink, kids?”
“A beer.” Alexei says, emphatically. He’s glad to have been magically transformed to drinking age again by a short hop over the border. He chooses a Saison. How trendy. I go for something light, too: a Double IPA. They’re out of Hefeweizen so Andrew has a nitro Stout.
My kids are more like “normal” beer drinkers. Andrew mostly drinks mass-produced Lager. But he also drinks Stout, the odd IPA and quite a bit of Hefeweizen. No snobbishness, no evangelical belief in the one true craft – or cask, for that matter – beer. The kids drink what they fancy at that moment, uninfluenced by ideology.
We only stay for the one. Well, I do. The kids knock back a brace of beers. Then head off to another brewery, Mamut. It’s just off Revolución, Tijuana’s main drag. The brewery is on the first floor of the building. We grab some beers and sit on the balcony, which overlooks the street. Being pretty hot, it’s nice to sit in the breeze.
The kids are looking rather sweaty. They’re not great at handling the heat. Though it does give them an excuse to shovel down lots of beer. On this occasion Andrew is drinking a Gose, though I did warn him.
“How do you like your Gose?”
“That’s a polite way of saying terrible in Britain.”
“Just not really my thing.”
“Our next stop isn’t far, but is difficult to find.” Betty warns us, as we head down an alleyway, into a multi-story car park and then a lift. Doubt I would have found that on my own.
It’s another brewery called Norte. It seems to be on the top floor of the building, judging by the panoramic views. Which includes the giant Mexican flag that flies over Tijuana. Andrew and I both opt for an IPA. You can never go wrong with an IPA.
“It used to be a strip club” Betty tells us. ”You can still see where the pole was.”
“Are there lots of strip clubs in Tijuana?” I ask.
“Yes. But there are good strip clubs and others you really shouldn’t go to.”
Alexei is making the best of his opportunity to drink beer. He’s matching his brother pint for pint, which is quite an achievement, given Andrew’s hollow legs.
We head back to Revolución for our next stop. Not a brewery this time, but a joint tasting room of two: Teorema and Lúdica. The interior is a Spartan white with very simple furniture. All very minimalistic.
The kids are on Kölsch, which is the closest to Lager on offer, while I’m sticking with IPA. Partly out of habit, partly because of the ABV. I’m tempted by a Belgian IPA, Lúdica Lumen. At a refreshing 7.5% ABV. A Mexican-brewed Belgian IPA. The world is getting very confusing. So confusing I go for Imperial Stout instead. Even in this heat, it’s better than the brain bending of a Mexican-brewed Belgian IPA.
“Have you noticed how the measures are all in fluid ounces?” Andrew observes.
“No, I hadn’t until you mentioned it. It’s probably because of American tourists.” We’ve spotted quite a few American tourist on our crawl. Quite a high percentage of the customers. It’s probably pricey for many Mexicans. My 15 oz of 9% beer cost 70 pesos: €3.18. Cheap compared to the US or Holland, but I imagine wages are a good bit lower here.
Andrew wanted to take advantage of the 32 oz. serving offered. But they don’t have any of the glasses. He gets two 15 oz. glasses instead. Not at the same time. They refill his glass after he drains it. Which takes a good 30 seconds. “Feeling thirsty again, Andrew?”
“I’d like to buy some tequila.” I say, spotting an offie as we walk along Revolución. I get a quite posh bottle, on the advice of the owner. “Don’t just throw down like a cheap tequila.” He advises.
I’ve been paying by card so far, but get out 500 pesos on Betty’s advice. Where we’re eating doesn’t accept cards.
I understand why when we get there. Telefonica Gastro Park is a brewery with food trucks. “That’s why you need some cash.” Betty says, “The trucks don’t take cards.”
The food is pretty good and dirt cheap. I share some tacos with Alexei. While Andrew had a pile of stuff, including a dollop of mole. I have a sludge IPA. Not sure why, given how much I slag them off. It must be the heat. The kids are still looking pretty sweaty. As I probably am, too. Hopefully their pints of Lager will help them cool down a bit.
At seven, it’s time for us to be heading back to the border. Betty drives us back there and we join the queue of pedestrians.
The queue to get back over the border is really long. It takes a bit over an hour to cross. There are people trying to flog stuff to the queue, many kids of just 8 or 9. Duty free shops, too. I pop in one and buy a random bottle. Not sure what it is. But I may as well get rid of some of those pesos.
We eventually get to the head of the queue. Why don’t they take our fingerprints again?
“Are you bringing anything back with you?” “Just this bottle. Oh, sorry, these two bottles.” He doesn’t seem very interested in looking at them.
The tram is delayed. It’s 9:45 when we reach America Plaza. Andrew plans on getting more beer at the 7/11. We pass a Rite-aide which I notice sells beer. “Why not get your beer here, as we’re passing.” “OK.”
As we’re browsing there’s an announcement: “Last alcohol sales in 5 minutes.” “Best hurry up, Andrew.” If we’d walked that bit further to the 7/11, Andrew would have no beer.
The kids hang out in my room a little, drinking beer, watching TV. It’s freezing cold, despite me turning the airco up to 68º F. I had trouble sleeping yesterday, I was so cold.
I don’t stay up late. Busy day ahead tomorrow. Sleep rushes swiftly at me like a speeding train.
Calle Libertad 1751,
22055 Tijuana, B.C.
Tel: +52 664 379 1235
Carrillo Puerto y o Tercera 8161,
22000 Tijuana, B.C.
Tel: +52 664 685 0137
Diaz Miron y o cuarta 8160,
22000 Tijuana, B.C.
Teorema/Lúdica Co-tasting Room
22000 Tijuana, B.C.
Tel: +52 664 210 0390
Telefonica Gastro Park
Boulevard Agua Caliente 8860,
22000 Tijuana, B.C.
Tel: +52 664 200 2155
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