In the land of vines and fine wines – and, lets face it, a few other mind-altering pleasures – of warm days and cool nights, there is something brewing in Mendocino County.
It is light and refreshing and also dark and powerful. Sudsy and satisfying.
It is beer, and while Mendocino County may be more known for producing award-winning Rhone, Burgandy and Bordeaux wines, as well as its breathtaking coastline, it is also home to California’s first micobrewery and three other breweries making hand-crafted products.
The theory behind brewpubs is simple: “The beer should be drunk as close to where it’s brewed as possible,” said John Kuhry, General Manager of Anderson Valley Brewing Company. “That’s what craft brewing is all about.”
This article takes a detailed look at the four Mendocino County breweries: Anderson Valley Brewing Company, Mendocino County Brewing Company, North Coast Brewing Company and Ukiah Brewing Company.
• ANDERSON VALLEY BREWING COMPANY
Just around the corner from the highly-regarded Anderson Valley Wine Country sits the headquarters and brewery of the Anderson Valley Brewing Company.
As the name implies it’s in the valley, which means it is surrounded by a lot of grapes. But Kuhry waves off the common perception presented by the latter, saying, “in order to have good wine, you must have good beer.”
Guests are greeted by a large tasting room of sorts; it’s really like a friendly neighborhood tavern. People can sit at the bar, at tables in the bright room or, on nice days, out on the patio. Coolers have beers for sale and there is a merchandise area in the rear.
The beers are on tap with a chalkboard explaining each selection. The choices range from the Poleeko Gold Pale Ale to the Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout; many people new to this brewery may well recognize Boont Amber Ale and its distinctive yellow handle from seeing it in bars throughout the state.
There are even hand-crafted sodas on tap.
Each May, the brewery hosts the highly successful Booneville Beer Festival.
Anderson Valley Brewing Company. 17700 Hwy 253. (707) 895-BEER. AVBC.com.
• MENDOCINIO BREWING COMPANY
The craft brewing business in California was originated by the Mendocino Brewing Company, which started it all in 1983 (Sierra Nevada was launched four years later).
The idea was simple. “When we started, there was nothing to offer,” said current Brewing Supervisor Jason Schrider. “My dad was drinking Schlitz.”
Well he’s not drinking Schlitz now. And nor are any Mendicono Brewing customers. Instead, they are enjoying selections like Red Tail Lager, Blue Heron Pale Ale, Black Hawk Stout, White Hawk IPA, the flagship Red Tail Ale and the potent Eye of the Hawk Select Ale, which packs a punch of 8.0% alcohol. “That one is popular among the 20-somethings,” Schrider commented.
There are, of course, seasonal brews added the lineup on an annual basis.
From its humble beginnings, Mendocino Brewing beers are now available in 44 states across the USA.
So how do you make a good beer, PubClub wanted to know.
“Balance,” Schrider quickly responded. “You want a good balance between barley and hops. Not too much of one or too much of the other.”
People can visit the Mendocino Brewing Company in Hopland. It’s a classic brick building along the four-block stretch that makes up this tiny town. While it offers light food – full meals can be brought in from the Bluebird Cafe across the street – this is not a full restaurant or bar; rather it is an afternoon tasting room, much like the many winery tasting rooms that are its neighbors.
• Mendocino Brewing Company, 13351 So. Hwy 101. (707) 744-1381. MendocinoBrew.com.
• NORTH COAST BREWING COMPANY
In a place called Fort Bragg, there is a place that can brag about its beer.
It is the North Coast Brewing Company, one of two restaurant/breweries in Mendocino County. Located on the northern edge of downtown, it consists of a restaurant on one side and a pub (with full food service) on the other. In between is a small gift shop, which is where the original Red Seal Ale was first brewed.
It opened in 1988 as a local brewpub. Today, it features 15 selections available in 47 states, Europe and the Pacific Rim, including an Acme brand that would have Wiley Coyote and the Roadrunner toasting each other in the pub.
The beer is brewed right across the street. The food is solid – you can’t go wrong with any of the steaks ($20-30) – but keep in mind that the beer-battered fish and chips are the original menu item. Any customer not having the beer-battered onion rings are depriving themselves of a delicious starter.
North Coast Brewing is also jazzed about its association with jazz music. So much so that it makes a contribution to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz for ever case of Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey it sells. It is also the Official Brewer of the Monterey Jazz Festival, which in 2010 will be held Sept. 17-19.
• North Coast Brewing Company, 455 North Main Street. (707) 964-2739. NorthCoastBrewing.com.
• UKIAH BREWING COMPANY
The pride of the Ukiah Brewing Company in downtown Ukiah is not just the beers, but the fact that it’s all organic. And that includes the food.
From the tap, the $5 Ukiah Brewing’s beers honor local places with their names – Pilsner Ukiah (a specialty), Comptche Logger (this was originally a logging area) that is a California “steam” beer, Point Arena Pale Ale and Orr Springs IPA. In all, there are 11 draught selections.
From the food menu, there are burgers, sandwiches, salads and nightly specials.
Ukiah Brewing is in a modern building that looks like an 1800s saloon, if there were 1800s saloons around today. In addition to the main room there is a small balcony and a side room by a fireplace. The brews are brewed at the restaurant and as proof, the steel tanks are visible through a window.
There is also live entertainment nightly and members in the military receive a 10% discount.
• Ukiah Brewing Company, 102. S. State Street. (707) 468-9194.