Sometimes the experience is the journey.
With an estimated two and a half hour drive to Capitola, I head out during the late aftermoon into the rain yet again. Not having had rain for quite some time, I was repeatedly told other drivers in San Francisco had issues with driving in the rain. I would meet this statement head on.
Somewhere on I-280 south of San Francisco I ran into traffic. After what seemed like an hour, it let up. My next move was to get on CA-17 south towards Santa Cruz.
Immediate gridlock. CA-17 was a two lane, snake-like road which I have to be on for about 20 miles. After seeing the backup on my GPS (and its distance), I decided on a detour. I was immediately on more serpentine roads, except they were backroads on elevated terrain with limited to no visibility due to the dark and rain. There was a very real possibility of an accident or my car going off the road and getting stuck. As soon as I could, I got back on CA-17. This happened to be after what I found out was the accident backing everything up, so it was then a deluged drive to Capitola.
Racing to get there, I arrived at about 7:15 PM (they close at 8). There was one seat at the bar, so I sat down and immediately ordered a Vanilla Joe, Sante Adairius’ very tasty porter with coffee and vanilla beans. I had heard they allow other bottles to be brought in and shared (which I confirmed), so I headed out to my car to grab Central Waters 16, Three Floyds’ Barrel Aged Behemoth, and Une Annee’s Life Beyond Death.
I brought them in (along with another guy from Boston who brought in Vanilla and Coffee Framinghammer and Phenomenology of Spirit), and we began to share. Finally able to relax, I was pleasantly surprised by the coziness and intimacy of the brewery. I was sitting in the bar area, no bigger than a decent sized kitchen and the only part of the brewery for the first two plus years. I was told by Jay, the man working the bar, they just expanded to a second, slightly bigger room, more than doubling the size of the brewery.
Jay offered me the remainder of an already opened Puckered Chavez and West Ashley batch 3. As I was drinking those, I began talking to the three people next to me and quickly found out that two worked there. Between Jay and Doug behind the bar, the two next to me, and Jason, one of the brewers talking at the other end of the bar, I was amongst a good percentage of the Sante Adairius staff.
The conversation was friendly and jovial, as I was talking to the bartenders, the group of workers next to me, and the couple from Boston about everything from beer to music to food. My worries about not having enough time there soon evaporated like much of the pooled rainwater outside.
Between the bottles being opened and the taps (of which I had Capitola Sunset and an 831 IPA at the very least), beer was flowing and friends were being made. One by one, people began leaving the brewery until, before I knew it, I was the lone remainder. Jay and Doug kindly allowed me into the brewing area and the barrel room, seeing first hand how small the operation actually is. That they are able to bottle anything while having taps and (sometimes) growler fills is nothing short of amazing.
I continued by helping Jay and Doug getting the brewery ready to close, and then proceeded out to a Mexican restaurant for a very satisfying dinner (I hadn’t eaten since about 10 AM that morning).
The drive back was comparatively uneventful to the drive there allowing me to think about the drive there and the many times I thought I was crazy to drive where I did, through that just for beer. But then I thought of the end result – one of the most satisfying and amazing brewery experiences I have ever had (if not the best) – and decided that not only was it worth it, but that I would have done it again in a heartbeat. It’s a telling sign when people that work at a given place patronize it while off the clock and are enjoying themselves that the establishment is doing something right. The quality of the beer and, most importantly, the people there are reason enough to make this journey each and every time you are in Northern California.