Santa Cruz Brewery Breakdown

Santa Cruz Brewery Breakdown

Microbreweries and taprooms in Santa Cruz have become almost as ubiquitous as Starbucks over the past two or three years. However, unlike this multinational coffee megacrop, they’re all unique, small businesses that foster community and create really tasty artisanal beer.

We here at Santa Cruz Life are very excited about this new microbrewery trend and thought our readers could use some help narrowing down which one (or two or three) to visit each weekend or after a long day at work.

This is a comprehensive breakdown of the tasty microbreweries, alehouses, and tap rooms that Santa Cruz County has to offer.

Aptos Street BBQ

If you like BBQ and live blues with your beer, then cancel your dinner plans and head over to Aptos Street BBQ (or head on over to their sister restaurant, Mission Street BBQ, on the Westside). Wash down some of the best smoked BBQ in Santa Cruz County with one (or more) of 37 beers on tap and close to 50 bottled beers.

Bad day at work? Someone broke your heart? Your housemate drank the last of the milk and didn’t replace the carton … again? Sounds like you’ve got the blues. But don’t worry. Aptos Street BBQ has live blues every night of the week to cure your heartache. And beer, lots of beer. (Not that we’re recommending to drown your sorrows in alcohol. You would be much better off going to the gym or taking up a new hobby, like homebrewing … )

Recommended BeerTry the Alvarado Street Double Cone (Double IPA) from Monterey if they have it
FoodYes, amazing smoked BBQ
Other Drink OptionsSoda, iced tea, juice
Dog FriendlyYes, on outdoor patio
Outdoor SeatingYes
Growlers or Bottled Beer to GoYes
Location8059 Aptos Street,
Aptos 95003
More InfoWebsite
More Info on Mission Street BBQ: http://www.missionstbbq.com/

Beer Thirty Bottle Shop & Pour House

Beer Thirty

Wooden picnic tables are pushed together outside where groups of friends laugh raucously over their beers, their dogs keeping them company beneath the tables or romping together in the fenced-in dog run a few feet away. You can easily while away an entire afternoon here playing endless games of corn hole and table tennis while meeting other awesome Santa Cruzans who have a passion for good beer and just livin’ the good life.

Beer Thirty offers— you guessed it—30 rotating beers on tap mostly hailing from the West coast with a couple outliers from across the country and the world. They also offer over 200 bottled beers from which you can pick and choose to create your own custom six-pack to bring home and enjoy later. Here at this tap room you’ll find “beer love for sure, but no beer snobbery!”

Recommended BeerAsk the bartender as the beers on tap here rotate often!
FoodBring your own or order from one of the neighboring eateries
Other Drink OptionsCider
Dog FriendlyYes
Outdoor SeatingYes
Growlers or Bottled Beer to GoYes
Location2504 South Main Street, Soquel, CA 95073
More InfoWebsite
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Boulder Creek Brewery

Boulder Creek Brewery

Update – The Boulder Creek Brewery was destroyed by a fire on March 29, 2015. You can show your support, and help the rebuilding effort, by donating to their Kickstarter campaign. Click here to visit their Kickstarter page.

This small, rustic mountain brewery opened in 1989 as California’s 13th microbrewery. They have been brewing beer in-house and pairing it with sinfully good food from the fryer ever since—avocado fries, Southern friend pickles, and Monterey Bay calamari to name a few. Bring the family and sit at one of the comfy booths, or bring your date and snag a seat at the long bar.

Recommended BeerDragon’s Breath IPA (I mean, how can you resist?)
FoodFried bar food, lunch, dinner
Other Drink OptionsFull bar, soda, coffee, iced tea
Dog FriendlyNo
Outdoor SeatingNo
Growlers or Bottled Beer to GoYes
Location13040 Highway 9, Boulder Creek 95006
More InfoFacebook

Corralitos Brewing Co.

Corralitos Brewing Co.

This microbrewery started by home brewer Luke Taylor and his friend Mike Smith was the first of its kind to open in South County and as of February 4th, there’s a tap room to go with it. Is this something to get excited about? Yes, very.

The tap room is a ways out on Freedom Boulevard, situated amongst agricultural fields and orchards. You’re very much in the country out here: the hops for their tasty beer are grown on site and you should fully expect to see a local ride by on horseback while you’re sipping your red ale out on the patio.

Peaches the pigOh and get ready to meet the brewery’s farm-y mascot, Peaches the Pig. If there aren’t too many dogs hanging out on the front patio, Peaches will be snuffling around between the bar stools, looking for snacks and stealing your heart.

Corralitos Brewing Patio

Recommended BeerRed Ale
FoodOccasional food trucks or bring a picnic!
Other Drink OptionsWhat, ten beers on tap isn't enough?
Dog FriendlyYes
Outdoor SeatingYes
Growlers or Bottled Beer to GoYes
Location2536 Freedom Boulevard
Watsonville 95076
More Infohttp://corralitosbrewingco.com/ (Website is still under construction. Find more info on their Facebook page.)

Discretion Brewing

Discretion Brewing Building

This brewery offers about a dozen organic beers on tap and some of the best food in town. Former Soif chef Santos Majano works magic in the kitchen making it near impossible to go here and just have a beer. The fried chicken and waffles can make the worst day better and the pork belly sliders come in a near second. (Tasty vegetarian options are also available.)

Discretion Brewing Uncle Dave'sBe forewarned though, the menu options do change regularly so don’t get your heart set on anything! Except for maybe the chicken and waffles which doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. (Please don’t take that off the menu, Santos!)

The beer is also delicious and the beer-making process is solar powered—the first in the county. Discretion is environmentally-minded in other ways too: The beer is entirely organic and their spent grain becomes tasty food for Fogline Farm’s pigs and chickens.

Recommended BeerUncle Dave’s Rye IPA
FoodTapas, both savory & sweet
Other Drink OptionsThe Daily Refresher (non-alcoholic, house-made)
Dog FriendlyYes, outside only
Outdoor SeatingYes
Growlers or Bottled Beer to GoYes
Location2703 41st Avenue, Soquel 95073
More InfoWebsite
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Discretion Brewing photos provided by Discretion Brewing

Highway 1 Brewing Company

Highway 1 Brewing

While this may not technically be in Santa Cruz, it’s close enough and worthy enough that it should definitely be on your Santa Cruz brewery tour. Well off the beaten path, about 25 miles from Santa Cruz up Highway 1, this brewery and restaurant offers ocean views, board games, beer pairing dinners, and tasty brews like the 1PA and peppery rye ale.

Highway 1 Brewing Tasting FlightAfter a long day of hiking along the Pacific coast or checking out the elephant seals at Año Nuevo, this is the perfect place to warm up and refuel. Catch an ocean sunset from a bar seat, or snag a big table and start a game of Pictionary with a group of friends while sharing a tasting flight.

Recommended BeerPepper in the Rye
FoodSeasonal bar bites, brunch, dinner
Other Drink OptionsCoffee, tea, soda, juice, hot chocolate
Dog FriendlyOnly outside in the beer garden (see outdoor seating)
Outdoor SeatingYes, but the beer garden is only open on weekends April through September, weather permitting.
Growlers or Bottled Beer to GoYes
Location5720 Cabrillo Highway, Pescadero California 94060
More InfoWebsite
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Lúpulo Craft Beer House

Lupulo

Loop-oo-what? Lúpulo is Spanish for hops and you can certainly find some tasty hops here! Lúpulo offers 16 beers and ciders on tap and the menu changes daily. From the more familiar IPAs to the more exotic sours, there’s something here for everyone, including the non-beer drinkers.

The food here is also exceptional. Choose from a variety of tapas including: tasty grilled cheese sandwiches like the pico pica (queso oaxaca, mango jalapeño chutney, bacon and chevre), spicy pork tacos, or quinoa salad with pistachios, goat cheese, and seasonal fruit like strawberries or persimmons. Lúpulo’s food is so tasty that they made our list of Santa Cruz County’s Best New Restaurants in 2014.

Everything’s good here and the menu features local, organic ingredients. Beware the tacos though if you can’t handle heat—the pickled onion habañero salsa that comes with them is so hot you’ll find yourself chugging your beer like a frat boy. And ordering another. Makes you wonder if they did it on purpose …

Recommended BeerAsk the bartender as the beers on tap change almost daily!
FoodIn-house tapas & occasional pop-up restaurant offerings
Other Drink OptionsWine, ciders
Dog FriendlyNo
Outdoor SeatingNo
Growlers or Bottled Beer to GoYes
LocationDowntown Santa Cruz at 233 Cathcart Street 95060
More InfoWebsite
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New Bohemia Brewing Co. (NuBo)

new bohemia pleasure point

Santa Cruz is already overflowing with hop-forward IPAs, tangy sours, and rich stouts, but the beer scene is missing the lighter, old world flavors of Central Europe’s pilsners, lagers, and hefeweizens. Nu Bo (the spot’s catchy nickname) is filling in this gap while also brewing a mix of other experimental ales with their shiny new state-of-the-art lager system that’s on display in the middle of the sustainable building’s large community bar.

new bohemia breweryWatch the sunset on the upstairs balcony while sipping German beers with names like dunkelweizenbock. (You must drink at least a pint before saying that one out loud.) Or sit at one of the many window seats downstairs and enjoy a Czech or Bavarian brew with a truly satisfying cheese board with bread from Companion Bakeshop. Get the charcuterie board too while you’re at it because you’ll probably be at this community hub for awhile.

Recommended BeerHighway to Hefe (Bavarian Hefeweizen)
FoodYes, bread, cheese, charcuterie, and chocolate boards
Other Drink OptionsNo
Dog FriendlyNo
Outdoor SeatingYes, upstairs on balcony
Growlers or Bottled Beer to GoYes and the growlers come all the way from Germany!
Location1030 41st Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA 95062
More InfoWebsite
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99 Bottles

99 bottles santa cruzTrivia night every Wednesday, live music every Thursday, tasty bar food, and 99 bottles of beer ranging in origin from our Santa Cruz stompin’ grounds to across the world—what more could you ask for? Perhaps some special recognition for the truly dedicated beer drinkers among us who can drink their way through all 99 beers? Granted!

Earn yourself a 99 bottles-logo tee and an engraved plaque on the alehouse’s wall of fame once you’ve enjoyed a pint of all 99 beers. Don’t worry, there’s a punch card to help you track your progress.

Recommended BeerCheck out the list for “beer connoisseurs” featuring world-class, limited-time only beers
FoodTraditional bar food, full lunch, dinner, Sunday brunch (during football season)
Other Drink OptionsCoffee, soda, tea, juice, non-alcoholic specialty drinks
Dog FriendlyYes (on outdoor patio)
Outdoor SeatingYes
Growlers or Bottled Beer to GoYes
LocationDowntown Santa Cruz at 110 Walnut Avenue 95060
More InfoWebsite
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99 Bottles logo provided by 99 Bottles 

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales

Sante Adairius

If you find yourself driving in circles around a trailer park in Aptos, you’re very, very close. Sante Adairius is in the middle of what looks like an industrial park right next to Highway 1. It’s not the most welcoming location but the beer and the atmosphere inside this brewery by far make up for the lack of curb appeal.

Santa Adairius bottlesThe bar is decked out in textured wood and friends sip beer at wine barrel tables with canine companions lazing at their feet. Most of the Belgian inspired ales are actually aged in these barrels resulting in what is arguably the best beer in Santa Cruz.

Recommended BeerThe Little Quibble (a four-grain Saison)
FoodNo
Other Drink OptionsCider
Dog FriendlyYes
Outdoor SeatingNo
Growlers or Bottled Beer to GoLimited bottles available
Location103 Kennedy Drive, Capitola 95010
More InfoWebsite
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Sante Adairius photos by Mike Donk, Brew Bokeh

Santa Cruz Ale Works

santa cruz ale works

Perhaps one of the best kept secrets in Santa Cruz, this little brewery is tucked behind Harvey West Park by Kirby Prep School. The vibe here is unpretentious and welcoming. No need to know a thing about beer or sport a beard and thick framed glasses to fit in at this killer brewery/delicatessen combo.

santa cruz ale works logoAll ages and all types come here to slake their thirst and to enjoy some of the best sandwiches in town. (The Bahn Mi and the Cuban are delicious.) The small brewery usually offers three year-round beers and one rotating seasonal beer. Try the refreshingly tart and shockingly red pomegranate cider if they have it.

Earn your beer and sandwich and take a long hike at Pogonip beforehand. (One of the park’s entrances is just down the street at Golf Club Drive making this brewery a popular spot for mud-covered mountain bikers.)

Recommended BeerDark Night Oatmeal Stout
FoodDeli with soup, sandwiches, and salads
Other Drink OptionsCider
Dog FriendlyYes
Outdoor SeatingNo
Growlers or Bottled Beer to GoYes
Location150 Dubois Street, Santa Cruz by Harvey West Park 95060
More InfoWebsite
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Santa Cruz Ale Works logo & photo provided by Santa Cruz Ale Works

Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing

Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing

This is a Santa Cruz locals spot frequented by a mix of young folks and a few older regulars that are almost permanent fixtures in the popular beer garden. A gold tree adorned with hanging pint glasses crawls up the wall and onto the ceiling behind the bar. The taps are hand-wrought metal and the wall is decorated with old license plates and taxidermied animal trophies.

This brewery promotes community and supports a local non-profit every week on Thank You Thursday when $1 of every pint is donated to the chosen organization. What’s more, all the beer here is organic, which means you can drink more without feeling guilty, right?

Recommended BeerAmber Ale or the People’s Porter
FoodEntrées and small snacks from adjacent Kelly’s Bakery
Other Drink OptionsCider, Kombucha, root beer
Dog FriendlyYes
Outdoor SeatingYes
Growlers or Bottled Beer to GoYes
Location402 Ingalls Street #27, Westside of Santa Cruz in the Swift Street Courtyard 95060
More InfoWebsite
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Seabright Brewery

Seabright is the city’s oldest brewery with traditional bar food like calamari, burgers, and BBQ wings and a large back patio for relaxing in the sun with a Seabright Amber, Pelican Pale Ale, or one of the other many fresh ales on tap. Every Friday you can rock out to live music and every game day you can be sure this brewery will be filled to the gills with enthusiastic sports fans. This is also a popular spot for climbers as Pacific Edge Climbing Gym is just across the street.

Recommended BeerSacrilicious Ale (a very hoppy, malty red ale)
FoodTraditional bar food
Other Drink OptionsFull bar, non-alcoholic beer, soda, juice, coffee, tea & more
Dog FriendlyYes, outside only
Outdoor SeatingYes
Growlers or Bottled Beer to GoYes
Location519 Seabright Avenue, Santa Cruz 95062
More InfoWebsite
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The Cremer House

Cremer House

The newest tap room in town is located in downtown Felton’s oldest building. Built in 1875 the Cremer House (then known as the Creamer Hotel) once housed gamblers, railroad workers, and for a time, old western movie stars. For years the building stood empty until Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing (SCMB) owner Emily Thomas joined forces with New Leaf Market owner Bob Locatelli to provide delicious locally-sourced food, beer, and wine up in the redwoods.

The restaurant offers 25 rotating taps of SCMB and other local craft beers and ten kegs of local wine. Come for bar food, lunch, or dinner and enjoy seasonal food that feels rustic but with a contemporary twist.

Recommended BeerThe Margaret Cremer (a red “steam” ale exclusive to the Cremer House)
FoodBar food, lunch, dinner
Other Drink OptionsWine, cider, kombucha, coffee, tea, and other tasty housemade non-alcoholic drinks
Dog FriendlyYes, on patio
Outdoor SeatingYes
Growlers or Bottled Beer to GoNo
Location6256 Highway 9, Felton
More InfoWebsite
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Uncommon Brewers

This organic beer is definitely out of the ordinary: The Golden State Ale has toasted California poppy seeds and the Siamese Twin features lemongrass, kaffir lime, and coriander. They even have a bacon-infused brown ale because everything is better with bacon, right? Oh, and this high-end brew comes in aluminum cans decorated with lovely flower sketches.  Although there is no tap room (yet?) you can visit the brewery by appointment: (831)621-6270.

Recommended BeerGolden State Ale
FoodNo
Other Drink OptionsJust lots of good beer
Dog FriendlyNo
Outdoor SeatingNo
Growlers or Bottled Beer to GoYes (canned beer, that is)
Location303 Portrero Street, Ste. 40-H, Santa Cruz 95060
More InfoWebsite
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West End Tap & Kitchen

West End Tap

Right across from the Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery, West End serves its own beer as well as a couple others like Hermitage and Uncommon Brewers that are hard to come by. The large horseshoe shaped tables nested inside giant wine barrels with chalkboard walls are the perfect setting for a special event, and the menu has something to please everyone: burgers, flat breads, duck fat popcorn, and a smoked king salmon board are just a few of their tastiest offerings.

Recommended BeerWest End Gold or Hermitage Ale of the Imp
FoodEntrées & appetizers
Other Drink OptionsWine, cider, soda
Dog FriendlyYes, on outdoor patio
Outdoor SeatingYes
Growlers or Bottled Beer to GoNo
Location334D Ingalls Street, Westside of Santa Cruz in the Swift Street Courtyard 95060
More InfoWebsite
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West End Tap & Kitchen photo provided by Ryan Craig Photography

Breweries and tap rooms coming soon!

Humble Sea Brewery

Like many craft breweries, this one started in a recent college graduate’s backyard. What sets Humble Sea apart is their dedication to awesome design and their goal to hydrate both beer nerds and Budweiser drinkers alike. Head brewer Nick Pavlina began brewing for his friends in 2009 and then joined forces with Taylor West, manager of West End Tap & Kitchen and local media & marketing creative Frank Krueger. The three Santa Cruz surfers and beer lovers are working hard to secure a location so they can share their tasty brews in classic screen printed packaging (check out their funny blog post on screen printing here) with enticing names like Nantucket Sleigh Ride, Playita, and Yacht Club. You can follow Humble Sea’s progress on their blog and Facebook page.

Elkhorn Slough Brewery

Yet another new brewery in Watsonville, Elkhorn Slough Brewery is due to open its taproom in Spring of 2015. Veteran home brewer Michael Enos specializes in barrel aged wild ales. Find them at Frank’s Funky Beer Blog and on Facebook.

Steel Bonnet Brewing Company

Get ready for California brewed beer with a Scottish attitude. Hopefully opening in spring of 2015, Steel Bonnet will feature a wide range of beer from traditional cask conditioned British ales to American Pale Ales and IPA’s. Find these beer-loving Scotts at http://www.steelbon.net/ or on Facebook.

Photo in top picture by Mike Donk, Brew Bokeh
All other photos, unless otherwise noted, by Molly Lautamo

About Molly Lautamo

Molly Lautamo is a freelance writer and content strategist. She came to Santa Cruz almost ten years ago to attend UCSC and never left. To check out more of Molly's writing, visit mollylautamo.com

Comments

  1. Don’t forget Steel Bonnet Brewing opening in Scotts Valley this year!

    • Hi Sharon, thanks for the tip. Steel Bonnet has been added to the post and we’re looking forward to the opening this spring!

  2. This place isn’t too shabby either!

  3. Also try the Hophead Public House in Scotts Valley! https://www.facebook.com/Thehopheadpublichouse

  4. With 37 craft beers on draft and live blues music nightly how did Aptos St BBQ get missed?

  5. How is Aptos BBQ not mentioned?? They have had craft longer then a few on this list.

  6. Hi Mike & Derek, thanks for letting us know that we missed Aptos St. BBQ. We’ll be adding this one to the post very soon.

  7. What about Aptos’s sister restaurant Mission St BBQ? They have 27 different craft beers on draft with live music as well! Definitely a good spot to check out if you are looking for more hard to find brews!

  8. Sadly the Boulder Creek Brewery burnt down March 29, 2015. Such a devastating loss to the community. 🙁

  9. Hi guys you should check out the Red (upstairs) next time you do a beer update. 30 rotating taps. Great beer and a really cool lounge

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