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Tijuana Breweries Round 3 – Insurgente, Border Psycho, Norte, and Baja Brew Labs

I have written a lot about Plaza Fiesta, Tijuana’s fantastic beer haven where you can spend the whole day drinking and eating without having to go very far. I haven’t been to Insurgente, Mamut, Border Psycho, or Donkey Punch brewing so I figured I would try these while I was there. I also ended up visiting Norte Brewing and Baja Brew Labs based on recommendations of some guys we met at Fauna while were down there. So the question is, considering Border Psycho and Insurgente don’t open until 5PM and close on Sundays is it worth visiting them rather than just drinking their beers on tap elsewhere? Read on to find out.

Mamut Brewing

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We started our day at Mamut because Insurgente and Border Psycho weren’t open yet. Mamut had some OK beers but they were out of a few of the ones I wanted to try. Out of the four I tasted, only two were particularly good. The imperial stout and American pale ale were both pretty bland. The imperial stout had a strange metalic finish and didn’t taste like the style at all. The American Pale was a fairly standard old style pale ale that puts bitterness over hop aroma. However, the brett session ale was delicious and very fruity with mild amount of funk. The dry stout was also quite good offering plenty of roast and mild chocolate. I wish I could have tasted one of the two saisons that they were out of when I visited.

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Mamut is more of a brewpub than a bar though it seemed everyone was there for the beer when I visited. They have plenty of seating at the bar and don’t blast loud music all the time like others.

Top 2:
Session Brett
Dry Stout

Donkey Punch

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This is the first brewery I visited that was literally bad beer, not just average, but un-drinkable swill. I only tried two beers but I only had a small sip of each before I walked up to the bar and told them that they were serving some seriously bad beer. I tried small tasters of the IPA and the Stout and neither tasted like any example of the styles I have had before and all had a very harsh aftertaste that should not be in beer. I tried to explain to the brewers that their beers were likely infected but they didn’t know what i was talking about. The other guys I saw in the brewery said the beers were OK and had tried a few other styles but I wasn’t about to try more after that. I really hope they get some help from some of the other breweries around because this would be a horrible first experience for someone and might turn them off of Plaza Fiesta entirely.

The IPA and Stout that did not taste remotely to style.
The IPA and Stout that did not taste remotely to style.

Border Psycho

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Border Psycho, like Insurgente, opens at 5PM on weekends and closes on Sundays. They have a fairly large lineup of house beers but I decided to start with four before ordering more. The IPAs weren’t too impressive. The imperial pale ale was smoother than the IPA and a little fruity but not very good. The IPA had a lot of herbal hops and a prominent ginger flavor that was a bit too strong for me. If you like ginger this might be one to try. Stout wise, the peanut butter stout was a solid version of the style that has become fairly common in San Diego. If you like the versions from Karl Strauss or Belching Beaver this is a good one. The imperial stout is tasty but the flavors are a bit heavy on black licorice so if you hate that flavor stay away. It is nice and smooth and otherwise a solid stout, one of their top sellers.

Massive tap list!
Massive tap list!
Yes those are their tap handles.
Yes those are their tap handles.

Border Psycho wins points for their quirky nature and the dildos and butt plugs used for tap handles but they have such a large number of taps for a smaller brewery and can’t get the hoppy beers to the level of Fauna or Insurgente. Fauna is still the best regularly available IPA in Tijuana besides Insurgente’s. I also did not order more tasters because they were playing a lot of death metal while I was there, and loud enough to be annoying.

Flight from when I visited.
Flight from when I visited.

Top 2:
Peanut Butter Stout
Imperial Stout

Insurgente

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They treat their tasting room more like a bar, complete with loud music. Even after requesting that they turn it down that didn’t last long nor did they turn it down much. Their IPA was only available in bottles even at the brewery, which was disappointing because I wanted to try it fresh. Though I was glad to see that they had their own new xocoveza on tap and that I got to taste their delicious black IPA on tap for the first time rather than from bottles. I tried a few tasters, Born to be Mild, berry brown, colaboration bock, and xocoveza. The mild ale was smooth and tasty though I probably couldn’t taste it so well because of the other stuff I had before. The berry brown was nice with a lot of dark fruit flavors like an English IPA. Their Xocoveza was super smooth with subdued spices. I ended up ordering a pint elsewhere simply because I couldn’t stand the music anymore. I did have a pint of the black IPA before leaving though because it is one of my favorites.

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The small flight I tried.
The small flight I tried.

Considering Insurgente is only open in the evenings and plays lots of loud music I would recommend just looking for their beers on tap at the other bars around the plaza. You can find plenty of different beers of theirs at many of the other bars that are open earlier. Paralelo 28 and Fauna are still my favorite places to hang around and drink. Another note about Insurgente’s location, they are just between Fauna and Madueno. They are the really small white place and don’t look like anything when they are closed. If they are open you will see the awnings raised and hear the loud music. They don’t have any signs indicating they are there, and even after asking a few locals you wouldn’t know where it was.

What Insurgente looks like from the outside when it is open.
What Insurgente looks like from the outside when it is open.

Top 2:
Xocoveza
Black IPA

After visiting these breweries we went downtown for some other spots that were recommended to us, Norte Brewing and Baja Brew Labs. As we had already been to a ton of places I didn’t have much at either. Norte had a solid IPA that I drank a pint of, good and balanced with a medium level of bitterness. They are more of a bar feel but are good and relaxed. They are closed on Sundays and open at 2PM on weekdays.

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Baja Brew Labs was just across the street and according to my new friends built their own brewing equipment. I only tried their imperial stout with coconut and ordered an 8 ounce but we happened to visit during a time when they were having a concert so there was pounding electronica on that was even louder than Insurgente. They are closed on Sunday and only open 4PM to late other days.

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In summary, it seems like no matter when you arrive you should have a great time because Fauna is open the earliest of the various breweries in the plaza and serves some of the most consistently delicious beer in a relaxing atmosphere. I detailed the beers at Fauna and Paralelo 28 in a previous post but that is absolutely worth reading about because both have great house beers and often great guest beers. You aren’t really missing out on much if you arrive when Insurgente and Border Psyhco aren’t open especially if you aren’t a fan of loud music.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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  • Demian Bosiger

    Sotano suizos Bosiger beer opens daily at 12pm closed mondays. And its brewed on site also in the plaza

    • Paul McGuire

      Thanks for the comment. I wasn’t aware of this place. Is this inside Sotano Suizo? I knew the bar was there but didn’t know they had any related brewery.

      • Demian Bosiger

        Yeah sotano was tj first brewpub. Been brewing 17 years total . But only 5 years on site
        Facebook: bosigerbeer

        • Paul McGuire

          Sounds like that will be my place to visit the next time I’m down in the plaza. Cheers!