Deep inside Tijuana's Plaza Fiesta — amid the dizzying walkways of craft brewery tasting rooms that are taking over the former mall of nightclubs — one of the city's best breweries finally has a public face.
The doors of Cerveceria Insurgente's new tasting room, which opened a few months ago, are made from the siding of repurposed shipping containers, and they fold up to reveal a minimalist bar of white paint and plywood sheathing (the only interior design element is a custom white neon light, fashioned in the shape of the brewery's owl logo). The draft list includes year-round releases like La Nocturna, a bitter black IPA; La Lupulosa, a West Coast–style IPA; and Tiniebla, a Belgian wit, alongside specialty releases such as Tres Cabras, a dry saison made in collaboration with two Dutch breweries, and Lupulillo Rivera, a wet-hop ale that plays off the name of a famous Long Beach–bred corrido singer.
But beer names are not Insurgente's only connection to Los Angeles, where the brewery launched with bottles and kegs earlier this month. Ivan Morales, who along with his brother Damian started Insurgente on the balcony of their mother's Zona Rio apartment, lived in L.A. for several years in the late 2000s.
"It was in San Diego that I learned about craft beer, but while living in L.A. I honed in my passion for it," Ivan Morales says. "My favorite bottle shop was Red Carpet, which used to be in Glendale, where I'd get suggestions and reserve special beers. I also spent a lot of time at spots like the Surly Goat, Verdugo, Beer Belly, Tony's Darts Away, Lucky Baldwin's and Sunset Beer. Back then, craft beer wasn't as ubiquitous in L.A. as it was in San Diego, but those spots really kept my taste buds happy for several years."
Ivan and Damian Morales started Insurgente with an elevated homebrew setup in 2010. Today, Insurgente is one of Baja California's top breweries, winning awards and titles at Mexican beer competitions and, last year, moving production into a 15-barrel brewing facility in the lot adjacent to the apartment building where it first started.
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The new, three-story compound with a mezzanine level, backyard patio and rooftop beer garden soon will include a restaurant and tasting room, all designed by SciArc graduates from the firm Heleo+ (the same bi-national team behind Insurgente's Plaza Fiesta tasting room). "We envision it as a destination brewery," Ivan Morales says, "where people will be able to grab a bite, a beer, and watch the brewery in action, all in a very beautiful building."
Insurgente's launch at more than 40 retail locations in L.A. this month makes it the largest local release yet for a Baja brewery. Instead of trying to track down the limited quantities of beer from smaller Baja producers at the few places that may or may not have them, you can now regularly get Insurgente's SoCal-style beers at bottle shops like Ramirez Liquor, Sunset Beer Company and Valley Beverage Company, plus on draft at restaurants like the Tripel and El Condor.