Our Local Beer Scene: Alvarado St. Brewery & Grill

It’s been a while since we were able to highlight developments in our local beer scene. Thank goodness the long wait is over with the opening of Alvarado Street Brewery & Grill in Old Monterey.

The newest addition to the Monterey beer scene

Right up the street from Peter B’s Brewpub, Alvarado Street Brewery is a great addition to the Monterey Peninsula beer scene. Located in the renovated Regency Theater building, it also includes a small outdoor seating area with a great view of all the action on Alvarado Street. Inside, the marble counters and long, narrow shape give the place a sleek fancy feel, but don’t let that fool you. Alvarado Street is a comfortable and casual brewpub with an exciting menu and awesome beers!

Unfltered Minesweeper IPA

Head Brewer, JC Hill, stays very busy, with an average of 8 different house beers on at any given time. And I do mean different. JC has already introduced dozens of beers since the place opened in May. The IPAs have, of course, been a big hit with the likes of Minesweeper, a dank brew made with Citra and Chinook hops (7.2% ABV) and Duane’s World, a 7.5% American IPA with Nelson and Amarillo hops, leading the way.

But while JC definitely knows his way around the hops, that’s not all he has to offer. A variety of Belgian-style beers have rotated through, including the Bixby Belgian Blonde (5%), Alvarado Street Table Beer (3.9% Belgian-style tafelbier), Grains of Wrath (6.8% Belgian Farmhouse) and Doc Brown (5.8% American Brown brewed with Belgian yeast).

One of the things I enjoy most about Alvarado Street is that there is something for everyone. The beer list, which also includes guest taps and bottles, is always varied with everything from IPAs for the Hopheads, low alcohol beers for those taking it easy, and German-, Belgian-, and English-style beers for a more international flare.

Bright salads are one of the highlight the food menu

The food is also fantastic, ranging from small bites and fresh salads to flatbreads and larger dishes. I especially love the Mac-n-Cheese with white cheddar, brie, broccolini, and leeks (especially when I remember to ask for the addition of bacon!). The Artisan Cheese and Salumi plate also offers a substantial portion suitable to share before a main course. The flatbreads are tasty, with the Duck Ham (pineapple, gruyere, pickled chili and hoisin sauce) being a house favorite. Chris and I like the Butcher’s Bacon & Egg with a nice blend of cheeses, a Flander’s Red Ale tomato sauce and a fried egg on top. Admittedly, I have never had one of the larger plates, choosing instead to create a full meal from the small bites and salads. However, the desserts cannot be missed. The fresh and fluffy Beignets are terrific and be sure to ask for a spoon to finish off the bitter chocolate ale sauce.

Be forewarned, Alvarado Street Brewery & Grill’s reputation is growing and it is usually quite busy. With a knowledgeable and friendly staff, the bar is always a good option. Otherwise, be patient. It is well worth the wait. It can also be a bit loud in there, making it the perfect spot for socializing with friends and watching the game with fellow sports enthusiasts.

With the addition of Alvarado Street, I guess Chris and I can no longer call our home a beer backwater. Welcome to Monterey, the new California beer destination.

Getting Punchy at MBF

Not even one speck of fog greeted Merideth and I as we arrived at the Monterey County Fairgrounds mid-Saturday morning. With only blue sky above us, it was going to be a glorious day for the 2012 Monterey Beer Festival.

All set up! Our booth with Peter B’s Brewpub

With Merideth’s book to sell, we weren’t at Monterey Beer Festival to make merry, rather to promote Teachings from the Tap. But that doesn’t mean Merideth and I were all business. Setting up next to our friends at Peter B’s Brewpub, we were guaranteed an afternoon of fun and good beer.

The festive crowd at Monterey Beer Festival

The VIP Session was mellow. We chatted with friends and a few book customers. Once that first hour was up, however, the floodgates opened and our relaxing afternoon was over. From our vantage point away from the main area, we could see a large mass of people busily getting into the business of drinking beer.

Keeping the beer flowing at the Peter B’s booth…

We were happy to see that Peter B’s was very, very, busy. With long lines continually in front of the booth, the wonderfully dry and tart Alvarado St. Raspberry Wheat quickly ran out. Our collaboration Bavarian-style Hefeweizen was also very popular, despite it not being served with the banana round with clove mohawk, a garnish I recently invented. Even with the warm weather, the bright and smooth Oatmeal Stout aged in Chardonnay barrels was also a hit. I focused my limited beer drinking on the delicious IPA, both keg and cask versions. Being big proponents of our local brewpub for the last 18 months, Merideth and I were so pleased to see their beers heartily consumed and enjoyed.

Kevin’s turn to be punched

A bit of levity during the busy day was provided by Kevin, brewer at Peter B’s and the ‘mature’ one of the group. He had this ‘punch’ sticker which he tried to stick on other people. In the end, Kevin unknowingly sported the sticker the longest, while Petra from Trailside Cafe gave the sticker an extended tour of the festival. Somehow, I was the only one who was actually punched, courtesy of the Celebrator’s Mr. Pitsker.

All and all a great day for us at Monterey Beer Festival. Thanks to Kevin, Carrie, Christian, Sonny, Renee and the Craft Beer Gnome for making it a fun day!

 View all the images from the Monterey Beer Fest…

Monterey Peninsula Urban Beer Hike

For whatever reason, the section of California’s Central Coast that Merideth and I call home has always been immune to the beer revolution happening all over the country. Of course this has been a great disappointment to us. Luckily, the craft beer revolution appears to have finally come to our little beer backwater. While the Monterey Peninsula won’t be in the running for “America’s Best Beer City” anytime soon, the progress in our beer scene over the last year has been very encouraging. Wanting to highlight this positive development, Merideth and I planned a Monterey Peninsula Urban Beer Hike.

A foggy Sunday morning in Monterey

On a foggy Sunday morning, Merideth and I got off the bus in downtown Monterey and headed to the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail. Stretching 18 miles from Pacific Grove to Castroville, one of the nice features of our Urban Beer Hike route was that 75%-80% of it would be done on this paved recreation path. Joining the throng of Labor Day weekend tourists, we headed towards Cannery Row and our first destination.

The aptly named Trailside Cafe

We rendezvoused with our fellow hikers, Dave, Kevin and Corrie at Trailside Cafe, conveniently located off the recreation trail. Owned by our friend Sean, Trailside is mostly known as a breakfast/brunch/lunch establishment. However, Sean caught the craft beer bug several years ago and his restaurant features a small but nice selection of domestic and international craft beer.

Brunch at Trailside Cafe

With over five miles to cover and five stops planned, a proper brunch was a key to our Urban Beer Hike. Merideth went for scrambled eggs with bacon paired with Paulaner’s Hefeweizen, a traditional German breakfast beer. I started with “Seanie’s Delight,” an egg, cheese and bacon breakfast sandwich. Knowing it was going to be a long day, I began my Urban Beer Hike with a lower ABV brew, Scrimshaw Pilsner from North Coast Brewing. As we enjoyed our delicious food, our group chatted about our upcoming adventure.

Cannery Row Brewing Company

The second stop of the day was located only a hundred or so yards up the recreation trail. Cannery Row Brewing Company, which celebrated it’s first anniversary a few months back, was unexpectedly quiet when we arrived around noon. I guess the hordes of tourists weren’t quite ready for a beer. We, on the other hand, were very ready for beer!

CRBC was just a quick beer stop in our day’s schedule. Our quintet ordered a variety of beers from their selection of 70 plus brews on tap. Since it was a rarity in our area, I went with the Rodenbach Grand Cru. Merideth drank North Coast’s Le Merle, with a New Belgium 1554, Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere and El Toro’s Poppy Jasper rounding our group’s beers.

Peter B's Brewpub at the Portola Plaza Hotel

The sun finally made an appearance as we set out on our first long leg of the Urban Beer Hike. It was a little over a mile to Peter B’s Brewpub. I have talked a lot about Peter B’s in recent months. While there are a number of positive things going on in our beer community, in my estimation, the rebirth of Peter B’s was the most important development of all.

A day-old Belgian-style Witbier

Squeezing our five-some into the only available outside table, we settled into trying some of the latest creations from Kevin, Peter B’s brewer. A bevy of the house brews, including the Blonde, Amber and IPA were eagerly consumed after the mile-long walk. Then several of us indulged in Kevin’s newest seasonal: Dark Side. A 5.5% ABV jet black ale, Dark Side was bold and assertive, the closest thing to a shot a espresso I have ever had in a beer.

Having Peter B’s brewer on our beer hike had it’s advantages. Kevin disappeared for a short time and reappeared with a beaker of his Belgian-style Witbier that he had brewed the previous day. It still had the malt-sweet taste of wort, but there were definitely hints that this brew is going to be a winner.

Three miles deserves a beer

It was very relaxing on Peter B’s patio, as we enjoyed Kevin’s beer and hospitality, chatted and listened to the Greek music from a nearby festival. But as with all beer hikes, there is a time to move on and we needed to move on. Upcoming was the biggest leg of the day, almost three miles to Post No Bills.

Heading north along the recreation trail, we passed the beach crowds lounging in the sun. The last few hundred yards of this leg, we finally departed the pedestrian path for the city streets. In just under an hour, we were sitting at Post No Bills’ stainless steel bar.

Merideth enjoying the Almanac at Post No Bills

Some thirst quenching brews were ordered first. Several of us started with the Weihenstephan Hefeweizen with Drake’s 1500 Pale Ale being another popular choice.

With our thirst quenched it was time to drink something REALLY special. I grabbed the last bottle of Almanac Summer 2010 that Post No Bills had in stock. What an amazing brew to finish up the fourth stop!

The last planned stop of the day was the wonderful German restaurant, Stammtisch, in Seaside. Our group was really looking forward to some good German food and beer to end the day. In fact, we had talked about it all day long.

Beer can soothe any disappointment...

I called Stammtisch the previous day to confirm their opening time. Finishing the call with “See you tomorrow evening,” I never thought we would need reservations. We have never had to make reservations at Stammtisch. Unfortunately, we needed them on this night. We could have had a table if we came back two hours later, but that wasn’t very convenient. Even the collective look of disappointment on each Urban Beer Hiker’s face wasn’t enough to get us squeezed in.

After picking up some food at a nearby noodle house, we returned to Post No Bills to finish out the night. With the added mileage of going to Stammtisch and back to Post  No Bills, we covered close to seven miles. We had a good day with our friends and enjoyed some wonderful beer. Thanks to Sean at Trailside and Kevin at Peter B’s for their hospitality.

View all the images from our Monterey Peninsula Urban Beer Hike…

Map of the five stops

View Monterey Urban Beer Hike in a larger map

Our Local Beer Scene – Post No Bills Craft Beer House

Disclaimer: Merideth and I helped with the opening of Post No Bills.

Ever since the demise of Ol’ Factory Cafe, local beer geeks have waited for a replacement beer haven. What drew many people to OFC was not only the best beer selection on the Monterey Peninsula but the relaxed, casual atmosphere in which to enjoy these brews. A little over eighteen months later, Post No Bills opened this week down the street from the old OFC location. Situated on the ground floor of the Design Center Monterey Peninsula, Post No Bills made a positive showing Monday night toward filling that missing niche.

Post No Bills on opening afternoon

Post No Bills is a taphouse/bottle shop along the City Beer Store model. Customers can choose from a draft selection of 14 beers or an extensive array of bottled/canned brews in the coolers. The packaged selections can be consumed on premise or taken home.

The theme of Post No Bills is graffiti art and two colorful works dominate the room. The stainless steel covered bar centers the cozy space with most of the seating at high tables made from reclaimed redwood. For more relaxation, a couple of couches and a lounge chair rest in the corner. The Beer coolers fill the wall by the entrance.

First time behind the bar in 17 years for Merideth. photo by Richard Herbert

Both Merideth and I were behind the bar opening night. The trickle of people at 3pm turned into a deluge of customers within a few hours. It was quite chaotic as Merideth and I, along with manager Paul kept the beer flowing. Neither a wonky dishwasher nor learning how to use the cash register (thanks Marcus) could stop us. Nothing like learning on the fly under pressure. Big thanks to all the customers who displayed the utmost patience.

A few of the opening night selections

First night customers were treated to wonderful brews on draft, including Magnolia Kalifornia Kölsch, Ninkasi Spring Reign, Uncommon Brewers Golden State, Lagunitas Wilco Tang Foxtrot, Firestone Double Jack and Drakes 1500. The big crowd pleaser (and my personal favorite) was Highwater Hop Riot IPA, making it’s Monterey Peninsula debut.

Perhaps due to the limited bottle selection at opening, it took people time to embrace browsing the coolers. Half way through the evening, though, an increasing number of customers came up to the bar with bottles in hand to drink right away. Over the coming weeks, as the coolers get filled with more beery treats, I’m sure that customers will spend more time perusing the non-draft selection.

Obviously, Post No Bills is a work in progress, but the positive feedback from the crazy opening night is encouraging for good things in the future.

View all the images from the evening

Our Local Beer Scene: Toast Carmel Valley

With sunny and warm weather returning to Carmel Valley, this is a perfect opportunity to introduce the latest entry to the Monterey Peninsula beer scene — Toast Carmel Valley. In the heart of Carmel Valley village, Toast is a locally-owned, neighborhood bistro that opened in September 2010.

Merideth and I love where we live in Carmel Valley. Unfortunately, our beer options are very limited. Either we could  go into town, a half hour drive, or hang out at our only local option, the redneck bar with a pretty standard selection of beer. More often than not, we ended having a beer a home.

Our local beer hang out

So, it goes without saying that Merideth and I were really excited to learn about the coming of Toast. While not really a beer bar or pub, Toast, with its casual atmosphere and friendly staff, is a great place to drink a beer and relax with friends. With it’s welcoming atmosphere and dog-friendly outside seating, Toast will be OUR place to hang out in Carmel Valley Village during the Summer season.

The taps at Toast Carmel Valley

I don’t need a gazillion beer selections at my local. Toast has six taps with our staple brews being Green Flash West Coast IPA, Allagash White and North Coast Scrimshaw. Offerings from Lost Abbey and Port Brewing also are regularly featured in the draft beer line up. As for bottles, there are 15-20 to chose from including all-time favorites Rodenbach and Allagash Black.

My usual dinner entree... Fettucine with Local Foraged Mushrooms, Humbodlt fog and Truffles

To be honest, I wasn’t really concerned about the food they planned to serve. It was all about the beer for me. However, the food has been the pleasant surprise. All the dishes are simple, reasonably priced and delicious. A few things on the menu that Merideth and I regularly order:

  • Marinated Olives, Hummus, Roasted Garlic with House Flatbread
  • Monterey Calamari with Green Grapes
  • Mussels Steamed in Reisling Butter with Frites
  • Fettucine with Local Foraged Mushrooms, Humboldt Fog and Truffles
  • Roasted Chicken with Mascarpone Enriched Orzo

And the desserts are excellent too!

From its sunny deck, Merideth and I will be spending many an afternoon and evening enjoying a few beers and watching Carmel Valley life pass by.