Not all that tasty, plus a hangover

Everything is great at Mamut Brewery. Except the beer.

The Classic Burger, keeping it real
  • The Classic Burger, keeping it real

Mamut Brewery Co.

Calle Tercera #8161, Baja

Situated on Third Street in what used to be the Foreign Club building, Mamut Brewing Co.’s main location is top notch. The old hotel is one of Tijuana’s oldest buildings. Legend says that the building was commissioned by Al Capone and that Charles Chaplin was a regular patron.

The entrance leads to a hallway with murals painted by artist Teak that invoke pre-historic times with cave paintings of mammoths being hunted. The space opens up to a roomy bar with multiple craft beer selections. They have a sizeable balcony that overlooks Calle Tercera.

Mamut’s balcony used to belong to the Foreign Club hotel, overlooking Calle Tercera. A steeple was common in old hotels.

Mamut’s balcony used to belong to the Foreign Club hotel, overlooking Calle Tercera. A steeple was common in old hotels.

Across the street from the balcony there’s a large mural of a mammoth, and there’s a mammoth-shaped oven in the kitchen. A mezcal room is situated next to the kitchen where they occasionally show movies. A few months ago they inaugurated their new concert space, which can host hundreds of people.

Three-cheese burger with caramelized onions

Three-cheese burger with caramelized onions

Mamut Brewery Co. also has another location in Plaza Fiesta. The extensive menu is identical, with beer, wine, mezcal, mixed drinks, pizza, burgers, fries, chicken wings, hot dogs, salads, and sandwiches. All for a low price (especially at the current peso exchange).

Street-style hot dog with bacon, onions, cheddar, and a lot of mustard

Street-style hot dog with bacon, onions, cheddar, and a lot of mustard

I have tried almost all of their menu, and I give most of it a favorable review. Nothing is over $5, except for some guest mezcales. The hamburgers get the best rating. Pizza gets the best value and a bonus point for originality (crickets on a pizza!). Chicken wings are abundant and cheap (regular quality). Their home mezcales are cheap — some smoky, some smooth, all of them good. The mixed drinks are better-than-okay for the price. I’m not a wine drinker, and I’ve heard mixed reviews about their wine, but I enjoyed the few I tried. And, again, super cheap.

I wanted their beer to be really good. Alas, it is not. I’ve been a patron of Mamut Brewery for over four years, since it opened on the top room of an art gallery in Pasaje Rodriguez. From there they acquired their own humble small room across the art gallery. You can still find this small room in downtown Tijuana today. Beer used to sell for 15 pesos back then. They filled growlers or one liter plastic bottles for 50 pesos. Now they sell pints for 60 pesos (40 pesos before 8 p.m.), which is still very cheap.

Their beer used to be good. The price, the humbleness, and lack of competition made the quality forgivable. If it wasn’t good, at least it was drinkable. Dry stout, black IPA, American pale ale…when they opened their Plaza Fiesta location they had a Double IPA that was beyond anything they had crafted before.

But they tend to not repeat their beer. In the years they have been active, Mamut has not been able to establish a recognizable beer for their brand. Every time I go to any of their locations the beer menu is completely new. Some beer styles I have never seen. The majority of them turn out to be barely drinkable. Their beer is also prone to give you a hangover. The quality has been constant ups and downs, and even the best ones last only a short while.

In spite of this, Mamut Brewery Co. still holds a place in my heart as the first craft beer that I got to know in Tijuana. Mamut has grown exponentially, covering too much ground, and their beer is getting overshadowed by stiff competition. Their original location continues to be a hub of activity for local artists and curious tourists. And at 40 pesos ($2.25 a pint), it is worth it just for the ambiance and to keep supporting what used to be the only craft brewery in downtown Tijuana.

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I've been going back since I sent this story in.

I was amazed that their last batch of beer is actually quite decent (Session IPA and Imperial Brown). A return in quality might be on its way.

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