The walk from Muelle Tres to Manzanilla was short, but the contrast was clear between Benito Molina’s two Ensenada restaurants. Muelle Tres is an airy seafood bar located right on the water. Less than a mile away, on an industrial side street, sits Manzanilla, which is surrounded by barbed-wire fencing. The spare, saloon-like interior with concrete floors could easily serve as the backdrop to a scene in a Quentin Tarantino movie, save for the hot pink chandeliers. Molina had some other surprises in store for us during our brief visit.
Manzanilla’s classy bartender was pouring Baja wines at one end of the bar, but Pat and I gravitated to the man with the beer. Alvaro Alvarez is launching Labricha Cerveza Artesenal in-town and had several 750ml bottles on hand. Partner Armando Orozco wasn’t there, so employee Hortencia helped pour Dos Vidas Brown Ale, which was malty and sweet. Monasterio Extra Stout was bitter and dark. Labricha also produces a honey ale and a red ale. This was the best Mexican beer I tried during our Baja bender.
Alvarez learned how to make beer at UC Santa Cruz, where he studed mathematics. He named the brewery for his mix of Labrador and Salchicha (dachshund). Labrador + Salchicha = Labricha. Alvarez also has a winery called Almixia, combining his love of Alchemy and Ximenia. Alvarez said, “With water, sun, air and soil, you can make wonderful things like wine.” No doubt.
Thank you to the Tijuana Convention and Visitors Bureau, Crossborder Agency, Cotuco (Tijuana Tourism Board), and Tijuana Canirac (Tijuana Restaurant Association) for sponsoring our eye-opening culinary tour of northern Baja. Thank you to Bill Esparza from Street Gourmet LA for leading the tour and for supplying so much invaluable information.