Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Great pubs in Santa Cruz (CA), here are three, are there more?

By William Brand
Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008 at 10:30 pm in Uncategorized.

I promised in my column today in the San Jose Mercury News , I’d post my notes on good pubs in Santa Cruz. So, here we go…

Santa Cruz is a wild mix of UC Santa Cruz students, high tech workers from Silicon Valley  and refugees from the more urban parts of the Bay Area, among others. So there are lots and lots of bars and in the last couple of years, I’ve visited a lot of them. Many are very welcoming, cozy interesting, well-run places.

But the problem with many is their beer lists are unimaginative and tend toward corporate. Bud/Miller/Coors and their light derivatives,   InBev’s Stella Artois, Guinness Stout (nothing wrong with Guinness, but it’s very common and far from unusual.

These are bars whose idea of  a craft beer lineup is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and maybe New Belgium Fat Tire. Nothing wrong with either. I love Sierra Nevada. But again, they’re common.

Anyway, I’ve found three really good spots, pubs with owners who are interested in good beer, stock a great selection of craft beer and imports and tend to stock seasonals as they come in and new beers.

One caution. This definitely is a starter list. The greater Santa Cruz area is fairly large. What have I missed? Let me know. Post a comment here; let’s talk.

  • The Red Room,  1003 Cedar St., Santa Cruz 95060, 831-426-2994.  There are two bars, one downstairs is small, has a modest beer list and is loved by regulars. My son, Zach, a UC Santa Cruz graduate, loves the place. Upstairs, on the other hand, is quite posh, lots of red velvet and looks like a modern idea of a Victorian house of ill repute. It’s dimly lit and comfortable and apparently fills up late in the evening.

But ahh, the beer; there are 30 beers on tap, hard-to-find brews like Allagash Curieux Rodenbach Grand Cru, Brother Thelonious from North Coast, La Choffe (Belgium), Drake’s Imperial Stout.

They also have local Santa Cruz beers including Siamese Twin Belgian-Style Double and Golden State Ale, a Belgian-style spiced golden ale with poppy seeds from Uncommon Brewers.  Also a large, bottled beer list.

  • 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall Restaurant & Pub, 110 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz, 95060, 831-459-9999.  They usually have 46 beers on tap, including beer from Santa Cruz Ale Works, little seen beers from Sierra Nevada like the S.N. hefe, Trumer Pils, Bear Republic Racer 5. The owner, Jahan Jaferian opened the pub-restaurant in 1991 and it has many fans. I’m one.

The beer list may not be as impressive as the Red Room, but it’s a pleasant place with a few outside tables, perfect for an hour on a sunny, autumn afternoon.

  • 515 Kitchen & Cocktails, 515 Cedar St., Santa Cruz, 831-425-5051.  The speciality in this place is wine and fancy cocktails.  But the beer list is interesting and changes a lot; there are nearly 20 taps and another 20 or so beers in bottles. Consider the taps: Santa Barbara Golden Wheat, Brooklyn Brewing Summer Ale, Avery Mephistopheles Stout, Moonlight Brewing Bombay by Boat and Death By Taxes.

There’s an upstairs, outside patio and emphasis is on good food. It can be expensive.

OK posters, it’s your turn. Let’s list some pubs.

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  • chris

    Check out Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery. Sadly, your pub travels never got off the trail.

  • William Brand

    I did indeed check out Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing Chris. That was the subject of my Merc Column today: A Santa Cruz craft brewing pub crawl. Started with Santa Cruz Ale Works, on to Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, finished at Seabright.
    Link to column:

  • Brian

    A Brooklyn beer on tap in Santa Cruz? Are you sure? I’ve never seen Brooklyn anywhere on the west coast.

  • Mario (Brewed For Thought)

    Poppy seed in beer? There it is again, this blog is leaning towards a serious opium addiction.

  • Joe

    I with Brian – Brooklyn – on tap – Santa Cruz? Can I leave work now??

  • http://n/a Greg

    Have you tried the Boulder Creek Brewing Company? It’s on Highway 9 in downtown Boulder Creek. Everything is fresh/organic, which seems to mean that sometimes they run out of certain brews. I’ve had some great and some so-so beers here. The atmosphere is good, the drive is beautiful, but you gotta have a DD for the ride home.

  • William Brand

    I didn’t see it when I visited a couple of weeks ago, but I called and talked to one of the owners, who read off the list and mentioned it. I said Brooklyn and he said yes. But you know, I’ll check again. I agree. I’ve never seen Brooklyn beers away from the East Coast.

  • The Duke Of Dunkel

    I miss the old Front Street brewpub. Good to see there are a number of other options now, though.

  • William Brand

    Yeah Front Street/Santa Cruz Brewing Co. It was a dream born in the 1980s, but retail is tough and there’s a lot more to a brewpub that makng beer.

  • easong

    99 Bottles rules, as SCR beer-pubs go, lot’s of stuff rotating through — heavy on the IPAs, usually a couple of Belgian-styles, well-educated and friendly clientele, entertaining (but limited) sidewalk seating, lively darts scene at night. Nothing presumptive or fakey about it (not a real as the old Poet and Patriot, but a way better beer selection).

    As for local breweries:
    Santa Cruz Aleworks ****
    Seabright *** for the beer, but ***** for the brewpub
    Uncommon Brewing **
    Santa Cruz Mtn Brewing **

  • Beer Girl

    The Publick Parish House! They’re new but great selection. On Almar Street.

  • William Brand

    I agree about the Old Poet and Patriot. It had a nice feel, but their beer selection was fairly corporate. It would be a fine place to spend an hour, if great beer wasn’t important. Poet & Patriot, 320 Cedar St., is tucked away in a court fronted by a bagel store. It’s dark and obviously is or once was a blue collar, kind of IRA, left-wing place like Spec’s in North Beach. There’s a dark game and little tables.
    Beer: Anchor Steam, Hemp Ale, Murphy’s. Bud, Newcastle Brown. There were a few bottles on a shelf including Unibroue Maudite. Pleasant enough, just not cutting edge beer. No double IPAs here.

  • William Brand

    Yes. You make the second person who has mentioned it. They apparently have a similar spot in Santa Barbara? Thanks for the note. Will have to visit.
    The Parish Public House, 841 Almar Ave., Santa Cruz, 421-0507. Hours Lunch and dinner: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily. Happy hour specials: 4-6 p.m. and 11 p.m.