Cruzin’ the Coast

Going on beer hiatus brings with it a certain amount of heartache. Usually, it’s because we miss out on some really cool beer events. During this year’s hiatus, a couple of new breweries opened near us. Luckily, our yearly beer-free month didn’t make us miss out, only delay, our first visits to these great new breweries along the Highway 1 corridor in the Santa Cruz area.

Highway 1 Brewing. Aptly named

The first stop on our outing was Highway 1 Brewing Company in Pescadero. The opening of this brewery seemed to come out of nowhere. No buzz beforehand. No waiting with baited anticipation for opening day. Jeff Page, the brewer/owner, later explained it to us. The whole endeavor came together in just six months. With speed like that, there wasn’t any time to get the word out. But make no mistake, this brewery would definitely live up to any hype a PR marketing firm would have built had there been time.

The view from the bar at Highway 1

An hour and a half from our house, the views along Highway 1 north of Santa Cruz are gorgeous. And so is the view from the brewery. Although it’s on the other side of the highway, the views of the Pacific Ocean are unimpeded and the large front windows allow the beautiful scenery to come through. Wherever you sit at Highway 1 Brewing, the bar or restaurant, you’ll be delighted with what you see. Even the cars driving along the road proved to be only slightly distracting.


This husband and wife operation (Jeff does the brewing, while Melissa oversees the kitchen) is cozy and inviting. In addition to the great beer, the food and the wooden interior reflect a comforting, welcoming feel. On the day of our visit, Highway 1 Brewing had 3 of their own beers on tap and several guest craft beers. I especially enjoyed the Knuckle Down Brown, with its smooth milk chocolatey flavor. With no IPA on tap, Chris opted for a pint of the Pepper on the Rye, a 6.1% malty rye brewed with peppercorns. The peppercorn flavor was forward without being overbearing, giving it a spicy flare. We also tried the Rock Queen Pale, described on the menu as a “pale ale with an overdosing of Centennial hops.” All of the beers were very well done and very tasty.


A bit too early in the day for a full meal, I chose an appetizer of beer battered green beans with spicy aioli. Wow! Had my mother prepared these when I was a kid, I would have definitely eaten more veggies. Chris enjoyed his chile verde pork street tacos, which also looked very good. I really wish I had been hungrier, though, because one item on the menu stood out like no other: Hop-Fried Chicken, buttermilk marinated chicken infused with whole cone hops. I guess that means another visit is in order. Next time I’ll go on an empty stomach.

Conveniently located right on Highway 1 just north of Año Nuevo and the Pie Ranch, it’s easy to make a whole day of going to this brewery. There’s no tweeting in real time, however, because there’s no service up there.

Discretion Brewing

Making our way back south, our next highly anticipated stop was at Discretion Brewing in Soquel. We had two people on our KRML radio show from the brewery, Dustin and Michael, during our beer hiatus which just built the anticipation more.

All shiny and new

Set back from 41st Avenue, the building just screamed new. And not in a bad way. I especially like their motto (“Wisdom. Wit. Kindness. Beer.”) and the logo of a man with gears crankin’ inside his head. This, is a thinking (wo)man’s brewery!

The exterior is a vibrant red color and the soon-to-be re-opened outside seating area is just to the left of the entrance. A permitting issue misunderstanding caused the closure, but they are busy rectifying it. I look forward to having Porter and Stout join us out there.

Inside, we found a bustling tasting room. Thankfully our friends Sean and Fran from Hollister Hills Taproom & Brewery had arrived earlier and saved us some seats at the bar.

Sample flight at Discretion Brewing. Extra credit for muffin tray

We started out with a flight of 5 beers. While all the beers were very good, I quickly discovered it was a Brown kind of day for me and I ordered a pint of Song in Your Heart, a 4% British-Style Mild Brown Ale. The German-style Pilsner, Shimmer Pils, was also at the top of my list at Discretion. Chris was happy as they had an IPA, Uncle Dave’s Rye IPA to be exact, coming in at 7% ABV.

Beers with friends at Discretion

I would be remiss if I only talked about the beer at Discretion because the food was also amazing! They partnered with Main Street Garden & Cafe to develop a menu of up-scale, small plates made from fresh, local and organic ingredients to pair with the beer. Sitting near the kitchen, we watched as bowls full of Chili (served with cornbread) and succulent-looking bangers went by. We tried the Pilsner-battered halibut fish bites. Served with arugula, avocado, radish, and blood orange, it was a fresh, light take on the pub standard fish and chips.

With multiple people behind the small-ish bar, the service was attentive and friendly. My only complaint is that they were temporarily out of growlers, so I was unable to buy one of the Brown. Last I heard, however, Discretion Brewing is back in the growler business. I think that calls for a return visit.

The happy family at Sante Adirius

Not finished with our beer day, the four of us decided to make a stop at Sante Adairius on our way back to the other side of the Monterey Bay. We’ve written about them before and I could go on for days about my love of Sante Adairius, so I won’t go into it again. But I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed my Bernice Batch #3 and my absolute favorite of theirs, Joe Chavez. It was a dog-filled afternoon, with Porter and Stout joining several other pups in the tasting room as Chris sipped on his 831 IPA.

Easily located along Highway 1, these three breweries made the perfect beer tour route. Whether you’re a tourist or a local, cruzin’ along this coastal beer trail is fun and relaxing, indeed!

View all the images from our day…

Strong Women Brew Strong Beer

Women making beer is really nothing new. Centuries old, actually. But, twenty or so years ago when I first got into craft beer, female role models in the industry were far and few between. Heck, I really didn’t even have any female friends to drink beer with!

The glamour part of brewing (photo by Ivy Villegas Borges)

Decades later, women are becoming increasingly more visible in the craft beer community: girl beer geeks, homebrewers, professional brewsters, journalists, judges, and Cicerones. And it’s about time we celebrate this!

The weekend before last I had the pleasure of joining a group of women at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing’s Strong Women Brew Day.  Listed as an SF Beer Week event, the goal of the annual gathering is to encourage women to take up homebrewing and carry on the tradition that strong women drink strong beer.

The day started with a tasty continental breakfast with the brewers. Participants connected with friends and perked up with some freshly brewed local coffee as the brewery’s co-owner Emily Thomas welcomed us and told us about the day. While we were all lollygagging around, Maggie, Emily’s sister and one of SCMB’s brewsters, started her brewday. The work must go on after all!

Learning to brew

Out in the beer garden, Nicole Todd, an SCMB brewer who also sits on the board of Seven Bridges, the local homebrew co-op, commenced her home brew demonstration. This was no stand around and stare at the homebrewer demo, though. Women crowded around Nicole asking questions along the way and scribbling furiously in their notebooks. With no plans to become a homebrewer, I occasionally left Nicole’s presentation to watch Maggie brew inside.

Mid-day, we were treated to a healthy (very Santa Cruz-esque) spread of cheese, fruit, hummus, tahini and pita bread. Samples of Santa Cruz Mountain’s brews also started making it through the crowd. In addition to tasting their regular line up (Wheat, Amber, Pale Ale, IPA, Brown, Stout and Porter), we were also treated to a couple of seasonal beers.

Valentine’s Day release Love Potion, is a beautiful ruby-colored ale brewed with rose hips, hibiscus, and raspberries. Weighing in at a very drinkable 5% ABV and with just a hint of sourness, it was my favorite of the day. Another seasonal offering included in our sampler was Singular Sensation, a single hop amber made with the new organic hop Rakau. A tasty brew with a nice hop flavor (and without the bitterness), it was an easy drinking 6% ABV.

We wrapped up the day in the early afternoon with a big round of applause to ourselves. A day hanging out at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing with a group of intelligent women serious about beer and brewing was a treat indeed. Be sure to put Strong Women Brew Day on your SFBW calendar for next year. I know I will!

A big thank you to Emily, Maggie, and Nicole for hosting a great day!

View all the images from the brew day…

Our Local Beer Scene – Sante Adairius Rustic Ales

On Memorial Day weekend, Merideth and I took a break from our hectic book lives to celebrate the opening of a new local brewery, Sante Adairius Rustic Ales in Capitola.

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales in Capitola, CA

Like it seems with most brewery openings these days, a myriad of delays pushed back a scheduled January opening to late spring. On a couple of occasions, their Facebook status announced an opening day only to be later cancelled. But the big day finally came Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.

A festive occasion at Sante Adairius Rustic Ales

Despite the delay of maps on the douchephone sending us to a nearby mobile home park, we arrived at Sante Adairius’ industrial park location a few minutes early to find the soft opening already in full swing. We joined our Grillin & Chillin friends in the tiny tasting room.

My first Sante Adairius beer... 831 IPA

There were six beers to try on opening day and Merideth and I had four of them. I started with 831 IPA, a 7.2% ABV brew with really nice pine and citrus hop character. Merideth went with their Belgian-style Golden Ale, Golden Bell. We followed those up with Sara Loves Brett, a tart, pleasantly bretted brew with nice lemon notes. Merideth and I finished with Saison Bernice, a lightly bretted Farmhouse Ale that shined after it warmed up a bit.

Things are really looking up in our local beer scene. This event was the first of hopefully a string of brewery openings on the northern end of Monterey Bay. Congratulations to the folks at Sante Adairius! Not only did they survive starting a brewery but debuted with a excellent selection of beers.

View all the images from the Sante Adairius opening…

2011 Christmas Tree Hunt

After a one year hiatus, Merideth and I returned to the Santa Cruz Mountains for our traditional Christmas tree hunt.

Johnson Farm in Boulder Creek

Johnson Farm in Boulder Creek was festive on the bright, chilly Sunday morning. Families roamed the little forest searching for the right tree while a crowd on the hill roared in delight as they rolled pumpkins down the hill.

A successful Christmas tree hunt

In this jolly atmosphere, Merideth and I set out to find 2011’s edition of our perfect tree. Usually a lengthy process, we almost picked the very first tree that we came across. While not quite perfect, we passed on “Stubby” because picking the first tree didn’t seem quite right. But it was only a few minutes later that we found “Wildwood”, our tree.

Merideth back at Boulder Creek Brewing

Merideth and I  broke tradition last year because Boulder Creek Brewing, our long-established post Christmas tree hunt stop, wasn’t brewing at the time. While that might seem trivial, in our minds this opened the doors for an alternative plan. At the time, we were on the quest to reach 600 breweries so we opted to head south where there were breweries to add to the List. While we struggled with the unfamiliar Christmas tree farm, we did get two new breweries that day.

In the subsequent year, Boulder Creek began brewing again. We heard good things about the new brewer and his brews.

A few beers at Boulder Creek Brewing

Sitting down at the bar, it felt good to be back at Boulder Creek. I started with Dragon’s Breath IPA while Merideth began with Golden Kölsch. Dragon’s Breath was a really nice beer even though it wasn’t an over-the-top type of IPA I usually enjoy. Merideth’s Kölsch-style was wonderfully crisp and flavorful.

The bartender also poured us a sample of Quick Hollow Pumpkin Ale. Made with 175 pounds of local pumpkins, Quick Hollow was subtly spiced and had a really full mouth feel that accentuated the spices. It was even better as the Dreaded Pumpkin, a 50-50 mix with their 7.5% ABV Dreadnought Ale.

The Tyrolean Inn in Ben Lomond

In years past, we would have eaten at Boulder Creek as well, but I had a hankering for some German food, so we drove a few miles back down the hill to Ben Lomond and the Tyrolean Inn. The first customers of the day, we enjoyed the warm and cozy dining room to ourselves.


Lunch was a little slice of German heaven in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Merideth had the uber-cheesy Käsespätzle with a Spaten Helles. I chose the Bratwurst, potatoes and sauerkraut with a Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen. We miss Germany!

Chris doing his best Bumble imitation

All that was left was to return home to decorate the tree. With a roaring fire, our favorite Christmas shows playing in the background and Peter B’s Brewpub Hazelnut Brown in our glasses, Merideth and I decorated our perfect tree. Even the dogs got into the Christmas mood, with Porter donning his reindeer ears and Stout sporting a Santa hat. It was a great way to start the 2011 Christmas season.

View all the images from our day…

Sierra Nevada Night at burger.

Merideth and I ended our 28-day beer hiatus Wednesday evening at a Sierra Nevada “Tap Takeover” event at burger. in Santa Cruz. A very large and cheerful crowd, including Spike from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, enjoyed probably the widest and best selection of Sierra Nevada brews on tap in Santa Cruz County history.

Back on the beer after a 28 day break

Fifteen Sierra Nevada brews were on tap, ranging from the standards like Pale Ale, Kellerweis and Stout to the special, such as three of the 30th Anniversary series, 2009 Bigfoot and Hoptimum. There were even a few unique brews: Empire Strikes Black Russian Imperial Stout, an early Beer Camp brew,  2×4, a blend of two Belgian-style ales and a Pro-Am Old Ale. All in all there was a pretty special selection of Sierra Nevada beers.

Going in, I knew my first beer after a 28 day hiatus was going to be my beloved Torpedo. Unfortunately, that one Torpedo made me pretty loopy. Not wanting to be under the table, I passed on the higher ABV special brews and moved on to a nice, mellow Kellerweis. Merideth, after beginning with a Kellerweis, tried the 2×4, a beer she much enjoyed.

Each of the Sierra Nevada beers had a food pairing. Having gotten through the beer hiatus by indulging my sweet tooth, the dessert items caught my eye. Bigfoot 2009 paired with  a brownie topped with Stout whipped cream and the Empire Strikes Black accompanying a selection of chocolates.

It was a very mellow evening by our standards, but it was great getting out, being sociable and seeing friends. Congrats to Quinn from Sierra Nevada and burger. for putting on a fun event.

View all the pictures from our evening at burger.



Our California Common is being re-released

In other Sierra Nevada related news, we are so proud our Beer Camp brew was one of the four beers selected for Sierra Nevada’s upcoming “The Best of Beer Camp” mixed pack. We look forward to drinking our hopped-up California Common again. Look for “The Best of Beer Camp” 12-packs in mid-May.

If you missed our Beer Camp blog posts:
Our Kind of Camping
Brew Day at Beer Camp