Organic, Original, and Oh So Good
By: Sage Priolo
A friend and I stopped in at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, not sure what to expect. I’d read mixed reviews online but ultimately I was drawn in by the fact that all of their beers are organic, and I was curious.
It’s a small operation with a quaint little tasting room and outdoor seating area. They are dog friendly and you can also bring your children.
Though the tasting area is quite small, it has a lot of character and I really enjoyed the atmosphere. It is a place that is definitely eclectic – Santa Cruz in a nutshell. It is a perfect spot to drop in and catch up with a friend or two on a quiet afternoon.
They feature a menu with typical bar snacks like corndogs and pretzels with house-made mustard, and also offer food from neighboring Kelley’s Bakery from noon to 7.
If you have kids along, or if you are the designated driver, they also offer draught root beer and locally brewed kombucha.
They hold regular movie nights, happy hours and host “Thank You Thursday,” where $1 of every pint sold goes to a local charity. For these events expect to be quite close to your neighbor, as the area is small and a big crowd often shows up.
As for the beer itself, it is all hand-crafted and hand-bottled. No part of the brewing process is automated. They use organic hops and grains, and locally sourced organic products as often as possible.
Jenny Price (Tap Room Operations) states, “One of the best things about the brewery is how community oriented it is, both as a brewery and as a business. Everyone involved takes part in, and cares for, the community as a whole.”
My impression is that it’s a place that everyone involved can feel proud to work for and represent. Their website reads, “We don’t strive to make consistent beer. We strive for consistently great beer. We believe in beer that is better for you, for the neighborhood, for our employees, for the local economy, for the planet.”
I’ve read a few not-so-great reviews about the beer itself, however I feel these people are missing the point. Many of their beers are very lightly carbonated, and I will say I was surprised by some of them, but in a good way. Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery is a rare breed, and it’s important to go in with an open mind. It is clear from the tastings that the brewers really love what they do. Brewing is truly a passion and it isn’t just to please and sell to the masses. They aren’t just brewing any ol’ run-of-the-mill swill, they’re brewing an experience for your palate. Their beers are bold and unique, and what they’re doing really works.
I would recommend doing a tasting flight ($7) to get the full beer range, and experience what the brewery is really about. The tasting flight includes seven of their “flagship” ales – which are their regulars – and one seasonal. (If you ask nicely they just might let you try a second seasonal with that as well.)
My flight featured Wilder Wheat Ale, Amber Ale, Dead Brown Ale, Devout Stout, Peoples Porter, Pale Ale, an IPA and Chocolate Pumpkin Porter as my seasonal. The brown ale was smoky with hints of caramel. The IPA, which I assumed would be my favorite, was a bit light for my taste but was still on par. My favorites of the Flagships wound up being the wheat ale and the porter. The porter was light and well balanced with a rush of coffee. You can really taste good coffee in it, which I enjoyed.
Moving onto the seasonal. Their seasonal beers are constantly changing and often feature the unexpected and inventive, such as lavender IPA or Blackberry Sage Blonde. I had their fall brewed Chocolate Pumpkin Porter, made with TCHO chocolate. Chocolate stouts are sometimes too thick and heavy for me and I am extremely picky about my pumpkin beers, so I’ll admit, I was skeptical. It turns out, their Chocolate Pumpkin Stout was out-of-this-world delicious! It was light and chocolaty with medium pumpkin notes. It was well balanced so you can enjoy each aspect of the beer without it being an overload. The only downside is that this is one of the beers that you can only get from their brewery if they have it on tap as a seasonal offering. I wish I could have bought a case to go!
Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing Company is located in the Swift Street Courtyard, 402 Ingalls Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, (831) 425-4900, http://www.scmbrew.com/index.php