Wine routes guiding tourists from vineyard to vineyard are already popular in various Mexican states as a tourism booster, but in Baja California tourism officials have gone their own way, creating a “beer route” that spotlights the state’s microbreweries and artisanal beer culture.
Once an underground network of hobbyist beer makers sharing their products only within a close inner circle of friends and family, craft beer in Baja California has bloomed into a multimillion-dollar industry, one that state tourism officials have recognized as a growing economic powerhouse and a tourism magnet.
Tourism Minister Mario Escobedo Carignan told the newspaper El Sol de México that there are 196 breweries in tourist destinations alone. Despite undeniably heavy competition from giants like Grupo Modelo and Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma, the Mexican Association of Beer Makers has predicted that the number of craft beer artisans statewide will reach over 1,000 in 2020.
“Artisanal beer in Baja California represents 17% of Mexico’s [craft] beer production,” Escobedo said.
Not unlike wineries, many of these craft breweries were already set up to become part of a route, Escobedo said, with sampling rooms and restaurants; some offer pairings that highlight regional dishes made by top-notch chefs.
To make it easy to find Baja California’s breweries and brewhouses and related tourism sites, the tourism ministry has worked with the Baja California Beer Makers Association and beer conglomerate Grupo Modelo to create a mobile application, Ruta de La Cerveza, that allows visitors to find artisanal beer makers nearby.
Celso Guzmán, marketing manager with the Wendlandt brewery in Ensenada, is a believer in the app. He says it will encourage state tourism and point visitors toward the beers that the region has to offer. He likes that the app focuses on a whole tourism experience that doesn’t just point visitors to breweries but to a variety of places where they can enjoy visiting the state.
“[For example], many people already know our beers,” he said, “but they don’t know that we have two taprooms in Ensenada with a menu featuring dishes typical of Baja,” he said.
App users can peruse the profiles of the more than 70 breweries listed in the app and add them to a map function that creates their own personalized beer route map based on where in the state they are. It also provides information on hotels, beer museums, bars, and other tourism-related sites near the user. There is also educational information about beer terms and ingredients, the culture of artisanal beer, and the process involved in making it.
The initiative also has a website with much of the same information.