Dining Reviews

Beer Bus

diningSanta Cruz’s new Brew Cruz, award winning ales, mole by el Jardín, and Wildcat Ridge Chardonnay

Brew Cruz is the new brainchild of Annie Pautsch, a woman who understands just how many times you have wished that someone else would drive you to microbrewery tastings—an idea that’s been long overdue. Inspired by a tasting tour via private bus of Boulder, Colorado breweries last year, Pautsch came home to Santa Cruz and got creative.

Armed with a 1989 Thomas International School Bus she found in San Francisco, Pautsch partnered with local craft brewers to create a unique brew touring experience. They drive, you ride, schmooze, visit selected breweries and chat with the brewers, all the while taking in some of the choice sights of Santa Cruz.

“Craft beer has steadily risen in popularity over the last two decades,” Pautsch told us. “I think the reason we’re seeing more microbreweries, pour-houses, and taprooms pop up in Santa Cruz is as much about the people who make the high-quality beer, as the beer itself.”  Pautsch believes the local brewing community itself has inspired and helped educate craft beer enthusiasts. “I wanted to build a sustainable business that, for lack of a better description, made people happy. I have been on wine tours, historical tours, walking and bike tours, and sightseeing tours,” she says. “While they were all enjoyable in their own way, I really wanted Brew Cruz to feel less like a tightly-structured tour and more a free-flowing celebration of beer lore, inquiry, relaxation, and nostalgia.”

Current participating Brew Cruz destinations include Discretion Brewing, Lúpulo, Seabright Brewery, Boulder Creek Brewery, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery, Beer Thirty and Santa Cruz Ale Works. Pautsch believes her target clientele are “people who celebrate life.” “Since the first tour, the vibe on the bus has been fantastic. I have had passengers from age 22 to age 79. I have had long-time craft beer drinkers and folks who don’t drink at all,” she says. The beer tour experience is a no-brainer for team-building, family reunions, and wedding parties. Brew Cruz’s three-hour, 15-person tours operate from 3 – 6 p.m. for public or special, private bookings. Tickets are $69 per person and include a pint of beer at each stop. For more details and bookings, visit scbrewcruz.com or email [email protected]

Brew Who?

Congratulations to brewmaster Michael Demers of Discretion Brewing, whose Good Faith Strong Ale took a bronze medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival. The Soquel-based brewery was recognized by the country’s largest beer competition for its achievement in the category of “Old Ale or Strong Ale.” Now it’s time for us to hustle on over to the 41st Avenue brewery and sample Demer’s amber-hued Good Faith, which some have described as “laced with toffee and dried fruit notes.”

Holé Mole!

The mighty Mole sauce made by George Delgado of El Jardín swept the awards field! It not only wowed the judges at the recent Mole & Mariachi Fest, who gave it the top prize. It also won the People’s Choice pick. Yes, that means that everybody—judges and taste-testers alike—loved this complex creation. Now your job is to run out and sample some of El Jardín’s authentic Mexican menu items over at Capitola Road and 7th Avenue restaurant.

Wine of the Week

The elegantly Burgundian Wildcat Ridge Chardonnay 2012 from Storrs Winery unfolds in layers of pears, minerals, firm savory backbone, and a few mystery hints of citrus and vanilla. We enjoyed it with a full-throated cheese course and practically wept when the bottle was finished. Kudos to Pam and Steve Storrs. Again. Priced in the mid 30s.

Dream Cream

The insanely fine Premium French Vanilla ice cream from Trader Joe’s. $3.99 a pint and guaranteed to fire your endorphins! PHOTO: CHIP SCHEUER

Christina Waters was born in Santa Cruz and raised all over the world (thanks to an Air Force dad), with real-world training in painting, music, winetasting, trail running, organic gardening, and teaching. She has a PhD in Philosophy, teaches in the Arts at UCSC and sings with the UCSC Concert Choir. Look for her recent memoir “Inside the Flame” at bookstores everywhere.

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