By Kimberly Horg
A new brewery that recently opened in May in the small mountain community of Oakhurst, Calif. is getting a lot of buzz from local patrons and visitors alike. South Gate Brewery is near Historic Highway 49 and Highway 41 leading into Yosemite National Park.
Owners Casey and Lindsay Hawkins moved to Oakhurst to get away from the crowds of Southern California and raise children in a small town. The couple thought it was the perfect place to open a microbrewery/brewpub because there was nothing similar in town.
“There was really a need in the area for excellent craft beer and great food everyone could be proud of,” Lindsay Hawkins said.
The couple based their brewery on the experiences they had at various breweries down south and around the world. Both have traveled abroad and tasted the best cuisine each new place has to offer. Hawkins says she brings all these experiences to Oakhurst to create their own spin on classic American Pub fare. It is equally inspired and executed by Executive Chef Dawn Pliche.
South Gate Brewing Company’s kitchen uses locally sourced ingredients to make their food. The menu items are made in-house including pizza dough, sauces and dressings. Whether it’s a brick oven pizza, fish and chips made from Sierra Seafood Cod, popular beer-battered artichoke hearts or sweet potatoes fries to munch on, all taste good with South Gate’s own cold beer on the side. It is a family friendly environment too, featuring homemade root beer for the little ones.
According to Lindsay, the Brewmaster Rick Boucke makes handcrafted beer that customers are saying is “the best.”
“His talent of balancing flavors and his grasp of several different styles is something that we believe will continue to grow the reputation of South Gate Brewing Company throughout the mountain area and beyond,” she said.
They have a variety of handcrafted beers to choose from. If one is looking for a light beer, the Gold Diggin’ Blonde is a Golden Ale, light in flavor and consistency. It is cold fermented and is a top choice in the summer. This past summer they also had Honey Badger Wheat Ale, which was an unfiltered wheat beer made with Pacifica hops with the addition of local Orange Blossom Honey. They are currently serving their seasonal 1864 Autumn Ale which is an Oktoberfest style beer, rich in fall flavors with wild hops grown in Yosemite.
“The 1864 Autumn Ale was just released the beginning of October and it sold out in nine days,” Boucke said.
Another full flavored beer that is the most popular (and highest in alcohol at 7.4 percent) is the Sawtooth IPA. The West Coast IPA is brewed with Simcoes and Pacificas. It has a hint of piney and citrus flavors with a floral nose.
Glacier Point Pale Ale is more a classic ale, bursting with citrus flavors and a bit of a bitter after taste. It is brewed with a variety of hops from the Pacific Northwest and is occasionally served unfiltered.
“I am really happy with the Pale Ale, it is my personal favorite. It is well balanced with juicy flavors and a great aroma,” Boucke said.
For a dark beer, customer can try the Deadwood Porter. The smooth English-Style Porter has a chocolate and coffee taste to it. It is brewed with imported British Crystal Malts and East Kent Golding hops.
“I toast 10 percent of the malts in a wood fire oven to give it a toasty flavor,” he said. “The beers are well balanced, hoppy but not too aggressive. So far everything has gone over well.”
Boucke has been making beer since 2005 so he is no stranger to the brewing process. He makes the beer from a five barrel system and it is transferred into a large tank. The brewmaster makes 140 gallons of beer per batch, two to three batches a week.
Boucke says the community has embraced the brewery with open arms.
“The community fell in love with us so I am grateful,” he said. “Everyone says this town has needed something like this.”
The beer is on tap at a couple other places in town. As of right now, it has no future plans to bottle the beer but it would like to open another brewhouse in the future. It also has plans to build an outside patio because the brewery fills up fast. The patio will allow for more room for functions including live music.
The dining room has a wood bar and several tables that can accommodate large parties. It has utilized reclaimed wood and other locally procured materials. The brewhouse dining area is separate to the main room seating with roll-up garage-style doors that are open when the weather is good so customers have a view of Deadwood Mountain. Because Oakhurst is the “South Gate” to Yosemite National Park, the owners gave it a fitting name.
For more information visit southgatebrewco.com or call (559) 692-BREW.
Feature image at top: Photo courtesy of South Gate Brewing Co. and Joelle Leder Photography.