Dining Reviews

The Craft

diningFind these local breweries at the annual California Beer Festival

Beer enthusiasts rejoice: for one afternoon this week, on Saturday, Aug. 10, more than 40 craft breweries will land at Aptos Village Park with upward of 70 beers on tap. The lines for another sample may be lengthy, but you’ll have food, live music and a bevy of other beer lovers to keep you entertained while you sniff out the hoppiest IPA, the creamiest stout or the most traditional English ale. 

The multi-city festival’s three-year run in Santa Cruz County reflects our area’s craft beer boom—we now boast around 10 microbreweries and a whole generation of aficionados and home brewers. But only three local breweries will be at the festival this year (hopefully it will draw more next time around), so be sure to seek them out and give their Santa Cruz-influenced creations a try. Here’s the 411 on those local establishments plus two neighboring breweries to note.

Discretion Brewing

The brewery: Business has been good for this family-run organic brewery since it opened earlier this year—just try finding a table in their 41st Avenue tasting room, which also serves locavore pub food courtesy of Main Street Garden & Cafe.

The brewer: Brewmaster Michael Demers has been making beer professionally since 1996. About the forthcoming festival, he says, “this is a good thing for the craft beer industry because those same people [who attend] might be more inclined to buy a new brand when they go shopping for beer.”

The brews: Four of Discretion’s most beloved brews will be available for festival attendees, including their most popular, Uncle Dave’s Rye IPA—an IPA for people who didn’t think they liked IPAs, says Demers. This full-bodied IPA is very drinkable, complete with fruity and herbal aromas and substantial maltiness.

Seabright Brewery

The brewery: A go-to locals’ hangout, Seabright Brewery has been serving up handcrafted beer locally since before it was “a thing,” and has been at all three of the local California Beer Festival events.

The brewer: Jason Chavez started at Seabright as assistant brewer in 1999, and has been the head brewer since 2007. He lays claim to being the longest-tenured brewer in the business’ history.

The brews: Seabright will have several brews on tap at the festival, including the Oatmeal Stout, which took home the festival’s top honor of Overall Best Brew in 2012. This crowd favorite is a sweet and creamy delight with hints of chocolate and coffee.

Santa Cruz Ale Works

The brewery: This six-year-old local brewery is returning to the California Beer Festival for the second time this Aug. 10. “There are not a lot of local beer events in the Santa Cruz area and this one seems to be really well put together and managed and promoted,” says brewer Marc Rosenblum. The Harvey West-based microbrewery recently added a noteworthy delicatessen—helmed by head chef Jeff Greer—to its tasting room. (Read more about that at gtweekly.com.)

The brewer: Now with 18 years of brewing under his belt, Rosenblum opened Santa Cruz Ale Works after learning the trade in England. He’ll be manning the Santa Cruz Ale Works station at the festival himself, and invites folks to stop by for “a really good glass of beer—hopefully the best there.”

The brews: Ale Works bottles three varieties—a Hefeweizen, IPA and Pale Ale—but also continues to whip up a slew of others worth trying. “We’re always coming up with something new for our taps and to sell to local restaurants,” says Rosenblum. Pay Ale Works a visit on Aug. 10 to try its poppy amber ale. Tasters will have the chance to submit a name for this as-of-yet-unnamed brew, which is rich, tasty and chock full of American-style hops.

Peter B’s

The brewery: Just south of Santa Cruz, in Monterey, Peter B’s has been a hub for craft beer for more than 30 years—and claims to still be that city’s only craft brewery. The brewpub will be making its third appearance at the California Beer Festival.

The brewer: Award-winning brewer Kevin Clark grew up on the Central Coast, where he became hooked on fermentation despite the fact that the region’s copious viticulture scene often steals the limelight. He’s been at Peter B’s since 2010.

The brews: Visit Peter B’s outpost to taste their IPA, which is blissfully bitter with a bold aroma, Blonde (hints of honey make this pilsner-style brew memorable), or their tart Raspberry, which just picked up a Gold Medal from the Beverage Tasting Institute.

Highway 1 Brewing Co.

The brewery: This seaside brewery is a new addition to the local coastline, having opened its doors in Pescadero, just north of Santa Cruz, in February. Highway 1 Brewing Co. will be on hand for the first time at the festival—just look for its hard-to-miss California Highway 1 sign logo.

The brewer: Co-owner Jeff Page doubles as brewer for this nascent endeavor.

The brews: Festivalgoers will have the chance to taste three of Highway 1’s truly unique brews, all of which offer utterly distinct drinking experiences. The Pegleg Porter, for instance, is a robust, hearty Baltic Porter that evokes notes of vanilla and is topped off with bourbon. The Trollop is a lighter option, providing partakers with a light, fruity flavor that’s crisp and refreshing on a hot summer day. But the show stealer is the French Mexican War: a French Saison made with fresh jalapenos, making for a tangy (but not spicy) profile that stands out among the crowd. 

event beerSThe California Beer Festival takes place from 12:30-5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 10 at Aptos Village Park, 100 Aptos Creek Road, Aptos. Beer, food and live entertainment from Foreverland, Matt Masih & the Messengers and Blues at Eleven. General admission $45, VIP $70, designated driver tickets $25. Proceeds benefit the Gen Giammanco Foundation. This event is 21 and over. For more information, call (805) 351-5650 or visit californiabeerfestival.com.

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