Crafts delight: Valley beer lovers hop on specialty brew trend

The Fresno BeeOctober 7, 2013 

If your taste in beer revolves around easy drinking brews, get ready for a whole new experience.

The growing trend of craft beers has given suds drinkers in the central San Joaquin Valley a wide array of tastes, flavors and styles. It's also given rise to several new microbreweries, including Southgate Brewing Company in Oakhurst, W Brewing in Clovis, Royal Brewing Company in Reedley and House of Pendragon in Sanger.

For craft beer makers and aficionados, they can't talk enough about their favorite hoppy ale, smooth lager or barrel-aged stout.

"Yeah, we can kind of get geeked out about it," says Tom Caprelian, craft beer maker and owner of House of Pendragon.

But to the novice, deciding what beer you like can seem a little overwhelming.

Tom McCormick, executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association, says that for beginners it's important to know there are two major styles of beer: ales and lagers.

And while there is wide variation in the styles, ales typically have a reddish or amber color with a more complex flavor profile. It is more like the red wine of beers.

India Pale Ales, or IPAs, are big sellers in this category. IPAs are characterized by the spicy aroma and taste of hops, one of the basic ingredients in beer along with barley, water and yeast.

The bitter, sometimes peppery flavor of the hops helps balance out the sweetness of the barley. Some prefer beer with a very hoppy flavor, others do not.

Lagers generally have a lighter, more straw-colored appearance — like a white wine — and have a lower flavor profile.

"Of course, there are beers within those categories that break all those rules, but that is what makes craft beer fun and interesting," McCormick says. "And I hear often that once you try a craft beer it is hard to go back."

Local sellers of craft beer say they enjoy helping people understand the different styles and tastes.

At BC's Pizza and Beer in Clovis, owner Kirk Sommers has 33 beers on draft and 80 beers in stock, including many craft beers. Sommers has one of the largest selections of German beer in town and is encouraged by the interest in craft beers.

On his extensive beer menu, customers can find everything from Floris Apple, a Belgian beer with the aroma of a fresh sliced Granny Smith apple, to Gulden Draak Tipel, a Belgian beer with a deep, complex-flavor with a hint of ripe plum.

"It is really nice, dark and delicious," Sommer says.

Rhett Williams, owner of W Brewing, likes making European style lagers with a smooth, clean taste. You can find his beers at Sprouts Farmers Market in Fresno, Whole Foods in Fig Garden Village and Food 4 Less at Chestnut and Shepherd avenues.

"The great thing about craft beer is that there is no right or wrong, it is what you like," Williams says. "But at the end of the day, there are a lot of hard working people out there who are looking for quality, not the old fizzy water they have been drinking before."

Caprelian, owner of House of Pendragon, wants to tap the growing interest in craft beer with his new tasting room in the Parkway Trails Shopping center at Willow and Nees avenues. Caprelian hopes to be open by the first of the year.

Right now, his beers can be found at Spokeasy in Fresno's Tower District, and in Visalia at Pita Kabob and Howie & Sons Pizza Parlor.

One of his customers' favorites is the Coco Crusader, a sweeter tasting stout beer aged with organic Ecuadorian cocoa nibs.

"For a lot of us, what we are creating is not the norm," Caprelian says. "The best brewers have a good grasp on the science side and artistic side and they are producing some really cool and interesting beers."

Caprelian has refined his beer making skills after having spent some time at Tioga-Sequoia Brewing — one of the leaders in Fresno's craft beer movement.

Other popular places to buy craft beer are Peeves Public House on the Fulton Mall, Das Bierhaus in the Tower District, Eureka Burger and the Yard House Restaurant in Fresno.

Craft beer lovers also have Sudz In The City to look forward to on Oct. 18, from 5:30-9:30 p.m. The event on the Fulton Mall includes 50 brews to savor.


The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6327, or @FresnoBeeBob on Twitter.

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