Esteban's 12-packs bought in Chula Vista
Because major-brand beer has become almost impossible to find in Tijuana, some crossborder locals have taken advantage of their essential trips to San Diego to take some cerveza back home.
“I pick up a little something if I pass by a store,” said Estaban, a Tijuana resident picking up two 12 packs of Heineken at the Ralphs store on East Palomar Street in Chula Vista. Due to regular trips across the border for work, he hasn’t fallen into the demand frenzy south of the border.
“Finding beer is normal up here, so it’s not a big deal,” he remarked.
Group user Samuel shows off loaded beer carts for sale.
Big-label beer started running low across Mexico in early April after government officials ordered all beer and spirits production to come to a halt, deeming it a non-essential industry amid precautions caused by the spread of the Coronavirus.
The mandate led the country’s two largest producers, Grupo Modelo and Heineken de México, plus independent craft brewers, to cease all operations.
Many reacted to the ban by making large purchases, which forced retailers to implement product limits per customer as stock depleted. As reported by the Reader’s Matthew Suarez, a limit of three six-pack containers per customer was implemented in Tijuana.
But like Esteban, many beer drinkers who cross the international boundary on a regular basis are handling the situation.
At the Broadway Walmart in Chula Vista, some Tijuana-bound shoppers load their label of choice into their Baja California-plated vehicles.
A shopper who declined to provide his name loaded beer, cleaning supplies and electronics into his trunk. He said all his purchases were for home use but was planning to share his Modelos with a neighbor in the El Soler neighborhood.
When questioned, a Walmart employee said beer sales have been a bit higher than they were before stay-at-home mandates went into place. However, there was a big increase in the days before Mother’s Day, citing some cross-border shoppers taking advantage of the available supply for family parties.
Oscar offers a 24-pack of Michelob Ultra. Caption reads, "750 [pesos] on my way back only delivering in the Obrera neighborhood."
In a reversal of 1920s prohibition-era roles, other cross-border travelers are taking beer from the United States into Mexico to make some quick cash.
In the Facebook group Donde Hay CERVEZA en Tijuana — “Where is there BEER in Tijuana” in Spanish — people can buy and sell beer with other members, or share where they have seen beer in stock. The group was founded on April 29 and has over 2,800 members as of the time of writing.
The group’s About tab partially reads “beer consumption is not essential during these times, but many of us do enjoy having a beer every now and then for pleasure, with family or during videoconferencing, etc.”
Group users share images of what they have in stock accompanied with information such as price and delivery radius. Beer put up for sale in the group often features packaging and labels used in the U.S., as opposed to the different designs used in Mexico — where flat packs of cans or deposit bottles are common. User photos often show loaded shopping carts at U.S. Walmart locations or mention they are crossing back with beer for sale.
On average, a 24-pack of Tecate, Coors Light, Michelob Ultra or Bud Light for sale in the group ranges from 700 pesos to 900 pesos, about $31 to $40. Moderators keep an eye on pricing to prevent highly abusive pricing due to the upsell nature of the group.
Despite the high demand for commercial beer, some Tijuana retailers still have craft beer in stock. Independent breweries are selling their product directly to consumers in the absence of regular taprom activities and wholesale distribution to eateries.
Last week, Grupo Modelo’s Victoria brand released Victoria Chingones, a product with an ABV of 1.8% which allows it to bypass the beer production ban. Although it eased the supply strain and can be found with ease, many are reluctant to consume the new brew.
A resume date for beer production has yet to be set by Mexican authorities.