The 559 Local Tasting Room in Old Town Clovis offers eight craft beers on tap – each with a story to tell. The stories reflect love of family and an appreciation for this Valley’s agricultural heritage.
“Anyone can get ingredients and throw them together to make beer,” said Rhett Williams, who along with his family owns 559 Local.
“If there’s no story to tell, what’s the reason for making the beer?” Williams continued. The stories of 559’s beers are printed on their bottles.
The 559 Raisin Farmer Ale, for example, pays homage to the late Al Gomes, a Caruthers raisin farmer. Gomes is the grandfather of Rhett Williams, the brewmaster, and his brother, Ryan Williams, who helps in the business.
Rhett Williams took a maple bar and cup of coffee to his grandfather in the hospital every morning in the weeks before he died. They would talk about the microbrewery that Williams was in the process of starting.
“Rhett remembers his grandpa saying, ‘You’re going to go broke buying coffee and doughnuts for me every day. Better get to work,’ ” the story says.
Bottles of the Raisin Farmer Ale also feature a picture of a blue tractor. That’s because Cheryl Gomes Williams – Rhett and Ryan’s mother – drove a real blue tractor in her parents’ vineyards while growing up.
Al Gomes died on Oct. 31, 2013, and two months later, 559 Raisin Farmer Ale was created. Red mahogany in appearance, it has a malted body and a taste of raisins from Caruthers.
In May 2015, the Williams family opened the tasting room on 4th Street. It has a limited food menu that includes hot wings, vegetable spring rolls, mozzarella sticks and a cheese tray, plus a specialty item: Bourbon Barrel Ale Bratwurst.
Bourbon Barrel Ale – described as “a richly smooth amber ale with a bourbon barrel finish” – is another 559 creation. It was inspired by a Williams family vacation to Kentucky, which included visits to bourbon distillers.
Gomes Williams takes the ale to Fresno State, where it’s mixed with the university’s popular sausage to produce the bratwurst. It sells for $6 in the tasting room.
559’s six other craft beers are:
▪ Cheryl’s BelAir Ale – light in taste and named for a 1956 yellow and black Chevrolet BelAir that belonged to the Gomes family. As a teenager, Gomes Williams didn’t think it was cool to ride in the car, and she sometimes hid on the floorboard so friends wouldn’t see her.
It’s a different story today. “Cheryl has expressed many times to her family that she would love having one more day riding in the ’56 alongside her parents,” says the story on the bottle. Her mother, Irene, still lives in Caruthers and still owns the BelAir.
▪ Wawona Strawberry Ale – sweetened with strawberries grown by the Wawona farming operation in Clovis.
▪ Wawona Peach Ale – brewed with peaches grown by Wawona.
▪ Clovis Independence Ale – brewed with several kinds of hops and finished with a note of grapefruit and wild mountain blossoms. It celebrates that the Gomes and Williams families have lived in the Clovis-Fresno area for more than 100 years.
▪ California IPA – featuring a distinctly hoppy aroma and smooth finish.
▪ Fig Garden Stout – dark, smooth and made with mission figs from Fresno. Rhett Williams created the beer to honor the fact that his father, Randy, grew up in Fresno’s Fig Garden neighborhood.
The beers are priced at $6 or $7 a glass. A tasting wheel, which features a four-ounce glass of each beer, is $14. (Save Mart, Vons, Food 4 Less and FoodMaxx also stock the 559 label.)
559 Beer’s microbrewery is on Tollhouse Road, about a half mile from the tasting room. Rhett Williams is inspired by the beers of Europe, which he has sampled on numerous trips to the continent.
His customers, in turn, are impressed with Williams’ work.
“Rhett takes the time and energy to really craft the beers,” said Jennifer Olson, who visits the tasting room once a week with her husband.
She said she likes the cozy and friendly atmosphere, finds the prices reasonable, enjoys the food and appreciates the variety of beers.
Another regular, Terry Horak of Fresno, said he enjoys the “absolutely fine” beers. The Bourbon Barrel Ale is his favorite because of its flavor and smooth finish. Horak calls the tasting room “quaint.”
Its homey touches include the metal mailbox from the farm where Gomes Williams grew up plus wagon wheels and original wooden grape trays from the farm.
The 559 Local Tasting Room is at 608 4th St. It is open 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday; 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday and 5 to 10 p.m. on Saturday. Thursday nights will feature College Night Specials — $2 off each beer with a valid college ID and driver’s license — from 8 to 9 p.m. The telephone number is (559) 473-1875.
Musical groups perform on Friday and Saturday, and an open mic night will start on Saturdays. Interested persons should call Gomes Williams. The tasting room is on Facebook and Instagram. It’s available for private parties.