When I attended the first Old Town Clovis Craft Beer Crawl in April 2015, my big takeaway at the time was that the local breweries that participated—Tioga-Sequoia, Tactical Ops Brewing, Riley’s Brewing and Three Monkey’s Brewing—really brought their A-game. And from the size of the crowd, the popularity of craft beer was skyrocketing in the Valley.
Fast forward to last Sunday’s most recent beer crawl. In just three short years, the event has transformed into an all-local craft beer festival with 11 microbreweries participating, all hailing from the Central Valley.
With the least distance to travel, Zone 9 Brewing Co., which just opened its taproom on Tollhouse and Sunnyside in Clovis eight short weeks ago, brought ice-cold kegs of their increasingly favored stone beer—an American hefeweizen brewed with local stone fruit—and a rich chocolate chip stout.
Sean Wolfe, one of four enthusiastic co-owners of Zone 9, said the brewery makes it a priority to use local hops when possible, as well as locally grown fruits and other ingredients. In fact, Zone 9 is named after the growing zone in the Fresno area.
“We’re your hyper-local nanobrewery,” Wolfe said. Zone 9’s other niche is perfecting recipes to ensure their brews are hazy in coloration. While they all achieve this, each beer has its own flavor profile. For Wolfe, a man who likes his hops, it’s all about the 5 Diamond IPA, one of the beers Zone 9 brewers have been making the longest. But lately, he said, it’s all about the stone fruit-inspired brews.
Indeed, fruitier beers were on full display Sunday and I was thankful for the refreshment they provided during the 100 plus-degree heat.
A couple of my favorites traveled the longest distance—all the way from Bakersfield. These fruit-forward beers were a blood orange Belgian-style witbier and a blueberry hefeweizen from Temblor Brewing Company. This was the first time I had heard of Temblor and was immediately impressed with the two out of four offerings I tried. Odds are the brewery was new to a lot of other crawlers, since this was Temblor’s first time at the Clovis event.
“Carole Lester [of B.O.O.T.] contacted us and we decided to come out,” Temblor sales representative Andrew Edquist said. And it’s no wonder the brewery was invited. In just two short years, Temblor has already established its brewery/restaurant/concert and event venue inside a sprawling 14,000 square-foot facility, which was once home to a Costco.
Temblor was equipped with four of its brews on tap to sample—Under a Blood Orange Sky, a Belgian witbier; Naïve Melody Blueberry Hefeweizen; Streets of Bakersfield IPA; and Pierce Road Oatmeal Stout. I sipped the first two and was amazed at the blood orange and blueberry flavors. A Secret Garden, where Temblor set up shop, smelled of that blueberry the second you walked through the door, and it tasted as great as it smelled.
“The blueberry hefeweizen is pretty unique,” Edquist said. “It is a seasonal beer that we made as an experiment with our hefeweizen and the blueberries made it darker in color and the tannins of the blueberries made it a little more bitter.”
Under a Blood Orange Sky is one of Temblor’s headliners and a customer favorite. It tastes somewhat similar to Blue Moon or Shock Top, but more fresh and crisp.
Also debuting at the craft beer crawl were the hotly anticipated 411 Ales and Spirits Brewery, which will be opening up a taproom along downtown Fresno’s new ale trail soon, and Bird Street Brewing out of Lemoore. Both breweries set up kegs just outside Centennial Plaza.
Joseph Soleno, the founder and owner of 411 brought the Prelude, a regular berlinerweisse, and a Prelude Raspberry berlinerweisse. The two selections are on the lighter side of the sour spectrum of beers that will be offered at the brewery when it opens in October.
“I chose these beers because I know a lot of people might be turned off by sours,” Soleno said.
Sticking with fruit, Bird Street offered three selections and I opted for the strawberry blonde. Like 411, Bird Street will also open its first taproom soon. But those wanting to try Bird Street now don’t have to wait for the Lemoore taproom’s grand opening because bottles are already being sold at Fresno’s Total Wine & More.
“We’ve been in business about three years,” Bird Street Brewing’s Phillip Wren said. “We were homebrewers and then we went commercial and our space was so small we couldn’t really open up to the public, so that is when we started bottling. We did it backwards. Most people open up a taproom first.”
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