Unlike Santa Cruz County, which rapidly expanded from five to 13 breweries within five years and shows no sign of stopping, Monterey County has been slower to start its beer revolution. The exception is Alvarado Street Brewery & Grill, which has gained legions of fans for their juicy, unfiltered IPAs and crisp Bohemian lagers and pilsners since it opened in Monterey in 2014. In two short years, Alvarado Street has expanded its beer garden, won multiple awards and opened a production facility and tasting room in Salinas, where head brewer J.C. Hill and his team are delving into barrel aging under the title Yeast of Eden.
Like many of their fans, I can’t get enough of their East Coast-style IPAs, which show up at local pubs like Lúpulo and Beer Thirty Bottle Shop & Pourhouse for a few hours, if you’re lucky, before thirsty beer geeks drink them dry. A different beast than their bright, resiny West Coast cousins, East Coast IPAs have more body and a slightly silkier mouthfeel from the addition of oats. Their trademark fruity, tropical aromas can be so deliciously intense that brewers sometimes feel the need to emphasize that they’re not appropriate to drink with breakfast. A perfect example is Alvarado Street’s Contains No Juice IPA. Other beers to watch out for are Mai Tai, which won Gold at the GABF this year, Haze of Our Lives, and Minesweeper.
Since they opened the production facility in Salinas, you can now pick up an ever-evolving set of creations in cans at local beer-minded establishments like Beer Thirty, Lúpulo and AJ’s Market. If you’re not in the mood for an IPA, pick up Monterey Common Vienna-style lager or the Haoli Punch, a light, tart brew brimming with guava.
Hill, who got his start brewing in San Diego, doesn’t really enjoy producing the same beer over and over again. “It’s kind of selfish, really,” he admits. “But we want to constantly keep experimenting.” In the spirit of innovation, Hill invited local brewers from Capitola-based Sante Adairius Rustic Ales down recently to collaborate on a hoppy pale ale that will be available for a short time in cans in the coming weeks. More info at alvaradostreetbrewery.com.
Update 10/28/16 12:02pm : The GABF award was for Mai Tai, not Contains No Juice. We regret the error.