Beer 511

Exploring the Craft Beer and Homebrew Scenes in Peru (Country Code 51) and the USA (Country Code 1)

Category: California

Five Suns Brewing (Martinez, CA)

Last weekend I had the opportunity to check out the digs for Five Suns Brewing in downtown Martinez (California).

Five Suns is the brainchild of five friends (though I think a couple of ’em might be brothers) who decided to open a brewery together. By putting in a great deal of “sweat equity” into their space they’ve managed to put together what is already a pleasant, welcoming, comfy-feeling place, with a nice bar, vintage sofas paired with modern tables, set in a modern “industrial” space with pleasing interplay between cement, wood, old brick work, and exposed pipes.

They are set up as a 3-bbl. nano brewery, and the plan is to initially be open only on weekends (I presume that means Fri. evening through Sunday), until they can develop enough of a following to be able to afford to increase their brewing capacity.

 A big regulatory hurdle has been surpassed with the granting of their ABC license this week, which clears the way for Five Suns to produce and sell beer on premises. Other local and state permits still need to be cleared, however.  Thus, an opening date has not been set –they won’t even speculate on it– but the owners told me they expect to launch some soft-opening events for friends and backer early in the coming year.

 

Five Suns Brewing
701 Escobar St Unit C
Martinez, CA

www.fivesunsbrewing.com

 

Black Diamond Brewing Co.

Well, it has been quite a while since I posted anything.   I got sick and then busy, what with Thanksgiving thrown in there and a few other things. Pretty much all fun (except for the being sick part) but they kept me busy.

I did have a couple of posts in mind, both on beer fests. One, noting that the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), America’s largest commercial beer festival, had taken place in Colorado. Though I didn’t go, I was enthused because my friend Matt Sager won a bronze medal for the Danville Brewing Co. with Chux DIPA. The other was a note on Lima Beer Week, which was taking place at the same time.

In any case, I missed the window of opportunity and both events are now long over and done.

What is not done and over with is that Concord’s Black Diamond Brewing Company remains shuttered. Apparently for good.

An October 17th post (since deleted) on their Facebook page showed an image taken of a sign taped to their door, which employees reportedly found when they showed up to work that morning:

Due to unfortunate circumstances the locks have been changed and Black Diamond Brewery is closed for the foreseeable future. Thank you to everyone who supported us during our 23 year run!

Naturally, that led to speculation -since confirmed- that the company was bankrupt.

As things stand now, the doors remain shut and the website is gone.

I had a bit of a soft spot for Black Diamond.  Not only was it a longstanding local brewery, but it was, in fact, the first brewpub I ever went to.  That was back in their original location at the former Cadillac dealership building in Walnut Creek, with it’s long curving bank of huge windows, which beautifully framed the brewhouse.  The food was good as well and it became an early favorite spot for a “date night” without the kids.

After a bit, the restaurant and brewpub closed, and though I started to see Black Diamond beers in stores, I lost track of the brewery for a number of years.

Then, through friends in my home brewing club, I found out that the brewery was in Concord and that it had an attached tap room. Since then, I enjoyed many an event there and got to see how much Black Diamond gave back to the community.

Everyone I met who worked there was really nice and generous. It sucks how the closure went down, and I just hope that they were all taken care of and were able to land back on their feet.

 

Drake’s Aroma Coma 2x IPA

In July, San Leandro’s Drake’s  Brewing Company released their latest edition of Aroma Coma IPA.  The company sent me a sample bottle, along with a nifty branded glass to drink it in, which I found waiting for me upon my return from Peru.

The 2017 Aroma Coma is double IPA.  The brewery press release indicates that they have added more Citra hops and more rye malt and light caramel malt. The ABV has also been bumped up to 8.0%.

I found Aroma Coma 2x IPA to be intensely hoppy –as befits a double IPA– with citrus notes, particularly grapefruit and a touch of orange. It is malty, which helps balance the hoppiness.  It is a big beer, but not over-the-top in any regard, and is easy to drink. I’ve gotta say, I found it altogether pleasant and a lovely way to treat myself after the workday.

 

Monterey Coast Brewing Co. (Salinas, CA)

Monterey Coast Brewing Co., is located about 10 miles inland, in downtown Salinas, and has been around for at least a dozen years. Until recently it was Salinas’ only brew-on-premises establishment open to the public. (Monterey’s Alvarado Street Brewery now has a production facility in Salinas with an attached tap room.) The brewpub is actually located in what was originally a bank, and later was a gun smith’s and armory, below the studios of a now long-defunct public radio station that I worked at while in high school. Thus, I have a fondness for the place, and have lunched there on several occasions.

The restaurant has a simple, old-fashioned wood bar with a over a dozen taps, backed up by what looks like four or five 10-bbl fermenters.

A curious detail I noticed on my latest visit is that the mash tun has two manways. It appears that the orientation of the original one must not have allowed enough space for comfortably removing the spent grain given its proximity to the nearby wall, and thus a second manway was cut into the tun.

I’ve always enjoyed the food there, and when they say on their website that it is “where the locals eat”, it is no mere marketing or exaggeration.

Of course, the main reason I chose to dine there when I’m in Salinas is to support a local, independent brewer.  Which, brings us to the beer:

Monterey Coast Brewing has a modest lineup of eight house beers, ranging from a pale ale to a stout. Given that they only sell the beer on premises ($7 32-oz growler refill on Thursdays!), it is probably prudent that they keep the number manageable.

From L to R: Scottish Red, IPA, Belgian Ale

On this visit, I ordered a flight for the first time, tasting five of their beers. This horizontal sampling allowed me to discern a notably similar character in their brews.  I expect that the brew staff has perhaps been harvesting  the yeast from one brew for use in the next, and that, over time, it may have evolved into “house” strain.

I’ve never found their beers to be outstanding, but always enjoyable, albeit with a few allowances –for example, the IPA doesn’t fully deliver on the “heavily hopped…intense and complex” character promised in the description.  One’s most solid bets, I think, are the pale ale, the porter, and the stout.

 

Monterey Coast Brewing Company
165 Main St.
Salinas, California

montereycoastbrewing.com

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