Every summer, I spend at least one evening at the Boardwalk—usually on a Monday or Tuesday when all of the rides and treats are discounted to $1.50 and the crowds of tourists are thinner. The frenetic lights and sounds and the tempo of thrilled screams mixed with the muted hush of nearby surf nevers fails to make me feel like a kid again—as does giving into a caloric splurge in the form of kettle corn and a corn dog.
But it was the adult me that did a double take as I made my way from the Cave Train to the Giant Dipper and passed a craft beer bar, of all things, by the Log Ride.
I was delighted to recognize cans from some of my favorite local breweries. Whiting’s Foods, a local company that has served concessions at the Boardwalk since 1953, opened Bay Brews in May. Jeff Whiting, associate vice president of operations and fourth generation in the biz, says that more and more people are opting away from mass-produced beer, and they’re excited to be able to work with local breweries and expose their products to thousands of guests. “We’re also training knowledgeable beer masters so they can educate customers about the product.”
Bay Brews offers 13 different craft beers from six local breweries—including the “Giant DIPA” Double IPA by Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, from its Boardwalk-inspired series—craft cider from Santa Cruz and local wine from Monterey. Beer and cider comes in 12-ounce and 16-ounce cans, or as a tasting flight. They also offer Stubborn Soda, a craft soda made from natural ingredients, Fair Trade cane sugar and without additives or preservatives. The special craft soda machine at Bay Brews is one of only a hundred currently available in the country, says Whiting.
Aside from being far more palatable than a Budweiser, I love being able to sip a local product while enjoying Santa Cruz’s most quintessential attraction. According to Whiting, I’m not the only one: “The other day a guy walked by with a Modelo or some other mass-produced beer that he had just purchased, and stopped in his tracks when he saw this place. He said, ‘You mean to tell me that I bought this when I could be drinking that?’ He gave his beer away to his friend, came in and bought a local beer.”