Shanty Shack Brewing may be the thirteenth brewery to open in Santa Cruz County, but it has a soul of its own. I felt it right away as soon as I stepped into the light-filled warehouse on Fern Street near the Tannery Arts Center. The pub glows with fresh, bright green accent walls painted with trailing hops vines and colorful local art. A garage door rolls up to a huge outdoor patio with picnic tables, a variety of potted fruit trees and fire pits just waiting for the sun to set. Warm, appetizing smells from the sausage cart Sun’s Out Buns Out parked nearby fill the beer garden on most days, and local food trucks are scheduled to pop in on the weekends. Spending an afternoon at Shanty Shack feels like you just stepped into the quintessential Santa Cruz backyard party, where the beer is cold and friends are always welcome.
Owners and brewers Brandon Padilla and Nathan Van Zandt, both barely 30, have been brewing partners for more than five years, and their repertoire includes a range of fresh takes on American and European styles. Their “Quick Wit” witbier currently on draft is a refreshing creation, bright and lemony with a kick of coriander. IPA lovers will undoubtedly reach for the “Holidaze” pale ale, hopped up with fragrant Citra and Columbus hops. The low-ABV “Lunchpail” pale ale with rye would be a great choice for anyone stopping in from one of the nearby offices for a low key pint on their lunch break. Padilla and Van Zandt admit that they’re constantly experimenting and trying new brews, and plan on rotating their offerings regularly.
However, it’s hard to miss the mountain of neatly stacked oak barrels directly behind the bar. Padilla and Van Zandt are big fans of barrel-aged beers, and it’s clear that this may be where their passion truly lies. The vanilla and oak aromas from a kettle sour beer aged nine months in a red wine barrel were so delightful, I had a hard time taking my nose out of my glass. Each barrel contains a different beer—Padilla calls them “unique snowflakes”—and if one can judge by the current selection, beer enthusiasts have a lot to look forward to.
Open Wednesday-Sunday, noon to 10 p.m. 138 Fern St., Santa Cruz. 316.0800. shantyshackbrewing.com.