Ensenada, Baja: Craft Beer, Potholes, and Street Food

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Bad Water Makes Great Beer

Beware of that bad water, drink the beer instead. Although this is a common phrase used by many Americans, it’s not bad water, but could it be the jellyfish?

Located just north of Ensenada, Agua Mala Cerveza Artesenal, both unique in its shipping container home and in its creative brews, will not dissapoint. With a name translating to bad water or jellyfish in English, and a marine biologist turned brewery owner, Nathanial will revel you with his tales of stingray stings, baby vomit, his passion for the craft, and love of Ensenada and nature.

Dodge the Potholes

Ok, so the roads aren’t quite as bad as we may make them sound, but when you find yourself heading down Mexico 1 or 3 or wherever you are heading in Baja, heed the warnings of not driving at night. Those potholes and topes (speed bumps) appear out of nowhere, and they are not tiny little holes or small little bumps. Hit one of those when you’re not paying attention, and you’ll need more than just a good beer in hand. You’ll need new tires. Before crossing the border, be sure to read our handy guide on doing just that…crossing the border.

Don’t Dodge the Beer

Stock up in Ensenada, they say. Fill up your gas tank, resupply whatever you may need for your drive south, they say. This is the last big city, they say. 

Transpeninsular beer with a view of the Pacific Ocean in Baja

Stop for a beer, is what they should say. Ensenada has a blossoming craft beer scene, and in truth, they’ve had a pretty good one for the past few years. Even if you are only planning on heading across the border for a short jaunt into Tijuana, take a bit longer, head a couple more hours south. Ensenada is worth the time. Being a popular cruise ship stop, it has plenty of shopping, restaurants, bars, and nightlife to keep you entertained for days.

But you all know our entertainment…breweries. And Ensenada does not disappoint. With brewpubs, beer bars, and craft breweries all over the city, you’ll find yourself staying here longer than you thought.

Be sure to visit Agua Mala, of course. With its views of the Pacific, along with its great “bad water” beer and locally made, handcrafted seafood dishes, this brewery should be a stop on any beer lover’s list. But there are more that are also worthy of your time:

Food, Glorious Food

Honestly, we didn’t eat out a lot while here. All of our resources went towards the beer scene. But when we did, it was quite tasty and quite authentically Baja. Enjoying ceviche at Agua Mala was a highlight. However, the real treat was had at La Guerrerense, a simple street cart that serves some of the best seafood in the world. Freshly caught, freshly prepared, and piled high on tostado shells, finding these “street tacos” should be a mission on your next foray into Baja. Located on a street corner in Zona Centro, you can’t miss it. If Anthony Bourdain can find this gem, you can, too.

Ken at La Guerrerense with his plate full of seafood at the famous street food stand in Ensenada Baja

The only thing missing was beer. Bring on Agua Mala. I’ll get stung by jellyfish and mantarrayas (sting rays) anytime if it means I get to drink bad water…err, I mean…great beer.

Bienvenidos a Ensenada!

Agua Mala Video Notes to Highlighted Topics

2:44 Bad Water & Jellyfish – Agua Mala Origins
What do you get when you combine a marine biologist background with homebrewing skills and curiosity?  An explosion, all over the kitchen, of course. And a homebrewing operation no longer with a home. Agua Mala is born, and how he came about the name, is intriguing in itself.

7:21 Sting Rays Hurt Man – Dark Beers Don’t
Kayaking, snorkeling, diving and camping on an island sounds like Baja Heaven. Until you throw in the stingrays. Shuffling his feet this time didn’t work. Those suckers sting! With only a freshly brewed dark beer to ease the pain, Mantarraya Stout was aptly named.

9:38 Meet the Brewer
We caught Alfredo in the act of brewing a chocolate peanut butter stout collaboration beer. Using a variety of ingredients, including Abuelita traditional Mexican Chocolate, which, by the way, we tasted, this baby’s gonna be good. If only I could give you a taste through the lens.

11:18 Fresh off the Tank
Serving ourselves off the tank was cool as shit, especially since this particular stout wasn’t even released yet. We are here so you can live vicariously through us.

13:22 Barrel Aging and Baby Vomit
Trying to achieve the flavor of baby vomit ultimately turns into a pineapple flavor, resulting in baby orca puke.  I can’t explain it, you’ll just have to listen.

15:10 Half Beer Half Wine
Serving ourselves straight from the tank again, we got to experience Nathaniel’s and Alfredo’s creativity first hand. Again, we hope you live vicariously through us. Made from French Colombard juice and fermented as a lager, this is basically an Italian Grape Ale. 

16:24 Craft Beer Beginnings
Go figure. Nathaniel’s love for the craft started in college. Can you guess what his first beer ever was?  How far away you are from the point of production will depend on how good the beer tastes.  No wonder when we go to Mazatlan, Pacifico tastes pretty damn good.  The factory is right there.

18:43 Experience is Foam
Yeah, we’re talking about head retention, but we make this conversation fun. Nathanial says it best, “Foam is the interface between the beer and your nose.” If only you could smell through the screen.

19:59 Collaboration Transcends Nationality
It doesn’t matter what country you are from, brewers work together to support each other.  Our politicians need to learn some lessons from these wise individuals.

20:59 Stout Life
Adventure is Nathanial’s Stout Life. Living in Ensenada, he takes full advantage of Baja and the coastline.  Don’t get stuck, get out.  Go hiking. There’s nothing needed for that! You can feel the passion in his answer, so much so, that it’s time to go for a hike.

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