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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing in Santa Cruz, CA

Take a fun California beach town like Santa Cruz, add a forward-thinking brewer like Chad Brill, put up a tasting room in the front of the warehouse space, have a supportive wife, Emily, to help run the business, Kelly in charge of the tasting room, and a brewery dog named Wonder and what do you get? Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing is what it is and what you get is some mighty fine beverage. Rewind to our flight landing in San Francisco and us arriving in Santa Cruz a couple of hours later. Santa Cruz is a beach town with a certain vintage feel to it. Perhaps it's the boardwalk with the old wooden roller coaster. Or, perhaps it's the long wharf that serves as a fishing pier for hundreds of recreational anglers. Maybe it's the omnipresent Woodies on t-shirts and other memorabilia that help flash you back several decades. A little research turned up a couple of breweries and few decent beer bars in Santa Cruz. Also, a homebrewing cooperative which looked rather intriguing to check out. But, we were only there for approximately 24 hours, so we needed to make smart choices. While Patty was getting ready for our evening plans with her sister's family, I said I would "very quickly" go and check out Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing. After all, it was only a two block walk and it closed at 5:30. Uh, it's 4:10 and we need to be at her sister's at 5-ish. Chop, chop... Tucked away in the Swift Street Courtyard on Ingalls street behind Mission Boulevard and Swift Street, the brewery's operations and tasting room is sandwiched between Pelican Ranch Winery, Bonny Doon Winery, and Kelly's French Bakery...among other shops as well. It's quite an eclectic scene, but yet easy to miss if you're not looking closely enough. The brewery has been around for a little over a year. Apparently the first batches of Amber Ale were concocted during college years by Emily and there was a bathtub involved, or so I hear :) Well, they've moved up quite a bit from the college days, I'd say. Twenty-five minutes was all I needed to determine that these folks at SCMB are on to something good. Five tastings, which included Wheat, Amber, Stout, and Brown (oh yeah, the Brown!), were all very good representations of their respective styles and bursting with lively flavors. The IPA left me a bit disappointed as I was looking for a bit more of the legendary west coast hop presence. Instead, the brew was a bit on the thinner side with not such a hop profile as I might have expected. Otherwise, add that the brewing philosophy is organic and you have a recipe for success. Now I don't know organic all that well, I don't know Chad or Emily at all, and I'm only vaguely familiar with the Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay area. But, from what I learned of all these in my short visit to SCMB, it sure seems like these guys will be around for quite a while. In fact, they recently won a California State Fair award for their Brown Ale and have plans to grow the number of accounts serving their beer up from the almost 100 current accounts. (Did I mention that the Brown and the Stout were my two favorite of the day?) In addition to getting kegs, sixtels, and bombers of beer to go, they also carry a line of merchandise (t-shirts, bumper stickers, coasters, postcards, glassware etc.) and their own mustard creation. To sign off on this posting, as their motto states: "Think Organic, Drink Organic"

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