Three newbies to note in Santa Cruz County’s ever-expanding craft beer scene
By Melissa Spiers
Saying Santa Cruz has a beer scene is sort of like saying we live by the water: it is technically true, but entirely misses the epic scale. The number of local breweries has swelled to 15 in recent years, making Santa Cruz a destination for beer aficionados far and wide. With everything from traditional Scottish and British ales brewed with natural carbonation to organic fruit beers made from local hops and homemade yeast, there is truly something for everyone. Herewith, we check in with the latest crop of breweries to check out.
Humble Sea Brewing Co.
A Q&A with Co-Founder Frank Scott Kreuger.
Where did the brewery’s name come from?
Co-Founder Nick Pavlina came up with it almost eight years ago while homebrewing in a surf bungalow in Pleasure Point. He mashed up two of the most important concepts for him—humility and the ocean. After all, what could humble you more than the sea?
How about your tagline, “A Brewery That Gives a Shit?”
We’re referring to the social aspect of our company: one of the core values is to do good for the community. It just didn’t seem like fun to start a business with the core motive of making a profit. For now, mainly because we have no money, we give our time and community participation. Building out a brewery is damn expensive, so the money isn’t exactly flowing while we’re deep in the throes of construction. Over the past year we’ve donated a portion of our sales [from 5 to 10 percent] from nearly 20 events to ocean-oriented nonprofits that we believe in, namely Save Our Shores and Save the Waves. We’ve also volunteered for beach cleanups and collaborated to spread awareness with local sustainable surf company Ventana [Surfboards & Supplies]. As we grow, we hope that our social impact on the community and our ocean grows with us.
Let’s talk beer …
We are incredibly passionate—almost freakishly passionate—about beer. When we’re not brewing it, we’re talking about it, researching it, or trading for it. When we travel we bring home strange and exotic bottles for the other brewers to taste. However, we are attempting to create an experience that is larger than just the beer itself. We are eager to create a beer-drinking experience that engages all of your senses, not just one or two. Visually, the lighting, color palette, and glassware are imperative to a strong craft-beer encounter. In our taproom we’re aiming to engage our community through friendship, awesome service, and stories that are deeper than just the beer style known as “IPA.” Even though we work to brew the best beer possible, we try not to take it too seriously. That’s why you’ll see our beers named after goofy beach scenes like “Socks & Sandals” or “My Morning Speedo.” We hope our playful nature translates into our beers and the experiences that surround them.
Elkhorn Slough Brewing Co.
Elkhorn Slough’s husband and wife team, Michael Enos and Julie Reinhardt, just celebrated their first year of brewing in a warehouse in Watsonville. Their philosophy is to keep it simple and local: harvesting and propagating some of their own yeast, and using local hops with ambient temperature to ferment with untreated water. “We believe that creates a beer that embodies the flavor of this beautiful environment we live in,” says Reinhardt. “We love the Watsonville community [and] we want to represent all that we love in our beer.”
Shanty Shack Brewing
Shanty Shack brewers Nathan van Zandt and Brandon Padilla started with a community-supported brewing (CSB) delivery service and have now opened a brewery, all with the goal of bringing their musical, artistic, and culinary friends together over beer. The brewery, which has a small stage, a space for food trucks in an outdoor patio, and rotating art on the walls, showcases different artists. “We see beer as art,” says van Zandt. “We brew with style as opposed to sticking to style guidelines. We still love our IPAs and experimenting with new hop varieties, but we have about 40 oak barrels for aging sour beers that take roughly a year to complete their long complex fermentations.”
Steel Bonnet Brewing
Steel Bonnet’s husband/wife team, Donald and Sue Cramb, aim to celebrate the techniques, recipes, and ingredients of both UK-style and West Coast brewing in their small-batch craft brew selection of British ales, porters, stouts, and IPAs. Often you will find two beers on tap of the exact same style, one British and one American, each brewed with their own traditional and local techniques and ingredients. They want to give customers the opportunity to sample both the British and American version of the same beer so they can experience how surprisingly different yet similar they can be.
East Cliff Brewing Co.
East Cliff Brewing Co. brings authentic British ales to Santa Cruz. Their traditional porters, stouts, and ales are all brewed using casks, not kegs, with only natural carbonation and no added CO2, and are hand pumped, old-school style, right into your glass.
A (Mostly) Complete List of Santa Cruz County Breweries
- Boulder Creek Brewery (com/bouldercreekbrewery)
- Corralitos Brewing Co. (corralitosbrewingcom)
- Discretion Brewing (discretionbrewing.com)
- East Cliff Brewing (eastcliffbrewing.com)
- Elkhorn Slough Brewing (elkhornsloughbrew.com)
- Humble Sea Brewing Co. (humblesea.com)
- New Bohemia Brewing (nubobrew.com)
- Santa Cruz Ale Works (santacruzaleworks.com)
- Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing (scmbrew.com)
- Sante Adairius Rustic Ales (rusticales.com)
- Seabright Brewery (seabrightbrewery.com)
- Shanty Shack Brewing (shantyshackbrewing.com)
- Steel Bonnet Brewing (steelnet)
- Uncommon Brewers (uncommonbrewers.com)
- West End Tap & Kitchen (westendtap.com)
- Create your own “beer passport” and follow the Santa Cruz Beer Trail (santacruzbeertrail.com).
- Hire the Brew Cruz bus to drive you (and friends) around to the breweries of your choosing (scbrewcruz.com).