Eating Out: House of Pendragon opens beer-tasting room in Clovis

The Fresno BeeApril 28, 2014 

A beer goblet at House of Pendragon Brewing Co. in Clovis.

BETHANY CLOUGH — THE FRESNO BEE

Tommy Caprelian isn't the type to color inside the lines.

It started when he ditched his job as a banker to brew beer full time, a gig that turned into House of Pendragon Brewing Co.

Fast forward several years and his Sanger brewery is about to double in size and his tasting room has just opened in Clovis. The tasting room — like a laid-back bar, but with only Pendragon beers on tap — is at 1345 N. Willow Ave., at the northeast corner of Willow and Nees avenues.

The beer — with names such as Coco Crusader and Merlin's Midnight — is a bit atypical, too.

So far, the risks Caprelian, 31, has taken have paid off. When he left his job in banking, his wife was pregnant with their first child. He went to work on his family's farm in Sanger, driving a tractor and doing anything else needed to grow peaches, grapes and almonds.

During that time, he went to a 4-month-long online session with the Siebel Institute of Technology and World Brewing Academy in Chicago. It's a school where students learn how to brew beer, including learning about beer style guidelines. Style guidelines are categories that say a pale ale, for example, has a certain smell or a certain alcohol content, and other nerdy beer-maker qualities that lay people don't always understand.

"I stay slightly in those guidelines, but I don't let those things rule me," Caprelian says. "I love the artistic side. I love getting crazy with it."

He eventually got a job as an assistant brewer and quality control manager for Fresno's biggest brewer, Tioga-Sequoia.

But before long, he was itching to go off on his own and founded House of Pendragon. This time his wife was pregnant with their second child.

The name Pendragon, by the way, came from the History Channel, where Caprelian heard it referred to as King Arthur's last name.

Caprelian gets inventive with his ingredients, which include coffee beans, vanilla and cocoa nibs (bits of dried cacao beans). Smoked jalapeños made it into one batch. And ingredients from the farm — peaches, apricots, lemons — make a frequent appearance, too.

"It's so creative," he says of brewing. "It's just like any other art, but my canvas is beer."

While these ingredients aren't that unusual if you're a craft beer connoisseur, there aren't many Fresno brewers playing around like this, says Oscar Fuentes, the craft beer manager at Peeve's Public House on the Fulton Mall.

"He does like to think outside of the box," he says of Caprelian. "He makes smaller batches. He's more able to experiment with different beers."

Caprelian has grown his own hops and used wild yeast in the Hydra Triple IPA. Unlike regular yeast — which brewers know exactly how it will behave — wild yeast is a bit more unpredictable. It's like the herding cats of beer making, Caprelian says.

It wasn't always smooth sailing. Back when brewing was still a hobby for Caprelian, he dumped his very first batch of beer.

"It didn't look like beer. It didn't smell like beer, so I threw it out," he says. "I never got to taste my first batch."

He later found out that's just what fermenting beer looks and tastes like.

But things are going much smoother these days.

Fuentes says he has heard of customers rushing down to Peeve's or Spokeasy in the Tower District because they heard Pendragon is on tap. Right now, the best chance of tasting the beer is at the tasting room, but it will be back in bars — including Howie & Sons Pizza and Pita Kebob in Visalia — when there is more available.

At the tasting room, customers can try various Pendragon beers, either in small 5-ounce sample sizes for $1.75 or a pint for $5.50. It's not available in bottles yet, but that's in the long-range plan.

In the meantime, says Caprelian: "We're going to do what we do best, which is create off the wall beers," he says.

Details: hopbeer.com.

Peri Peri and more

Tulare County diners have a chance to try something different with the arrival of three new restaurants.

The entrepreneurial Ghaniem family from South Africa has moved to Visalia and brought several of their restaurants with them. The restaurants opened last week.

There actually are three under one roof: Jay's Peri Peri Flame Grilled Chicken, Ocean Basket and Mugs & Beans.

The food isn't exactly South African, but it does have several global influences.

Here's a quick rundown from Marty Zeeb, a real estate broker who is a partner in the businesses.

Peri Peri is a chili — as in the pepper — that's also known as the bird's eye chili. Zeeb says some Portuguese folks in South Africa came up with the peri peri sauce that the chicken is marinated in. It's grilled and then served with the sauce.

Ocean Basket was a restaurant started by some Greek folks in Capetown. It sells all kinds of seafood, including hake fish, along with steak and lobster.

Mugs & Beans is a coffee shop that's open all day long. It serves 20 espresso-based drinks, pastries, soups, salads and burgers.

The first three-in-one location opened at Tulare Avenue and K Street in Tulare. The second opened at Garden and Main streets in Visalia. A third that has just Mugs & Beans is opening at 202 Willow St., near Kaweah Delta Medical Center

'Bottle Shock'

Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena Winery, the man who inspired the main character in the film 2008 film "Bottle Shock," is visiting Vino & Friends on Thursday.

First, if you haven't seen the movie about what put Napa wines on the map, it's worth watching.

The real Barrett will be signing bottles and talking about the experience of his wines beating out French wines from 4 to 6 p.m.

The cost is $25 per person. Reservations required.

Details: (559) 434-1771.

The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6431, bclough@fresnobee.com or @BethanyClough on Twitter. Read her blog on www.fresnobeehive.com.

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