Pleasanton, California is a lovely little town nestled in amongst a series of large recreation areas and reservoirs about hour SE of San Francisco. In the unforgiving heat of this past summer, the valley bordering on wine country remained dry and tolerable, if not slightly, well, pleasant. Long-time friend and collaborator, Kyle Fletcher, and I battled the heat with a minor hunt for brewing talent in the area. This is what we found.
In town for a wedding on a vineyard in nearby Livermore, CA, Kyle and I decided to pre-empt some incredible wine that evening by seeking out a nearby brewery after some time on the beach and a little exploring Stand-By-Me style.
This entire valley is pocked by pristine, man-made reservoirs surrounded by sprawling gravel mills. We wandered up and down the train tracks, hopping the rails and scaling fences to get a good look at the operations. Dust floated in the air as trucks trudged by, heat waves reverberated off the rails, and metal and dirt ground against each other in the distance. We were in need of a serious oasis.
Only minutes away in downtown Pleasanton is Main St. Brewery. This place didn't show up in an guides to the area, or come with any glowing recommendations. But a pin dropped on the map and so we went exploring.
Tucked into an historic building across from trendy and modern Handles Gastropub on the main stretch, Main St. Brewery has a modest presence. Their signboard is buried beneath banners and flags, and the bar itself is hidden behind a barred front porch and shrubs. We'd have never seen this place had we not been intent on finding it.
Inside, the modesty continues, but explodes into a beach-side theme, with Corona and Modelo flags swinging in the open-door breeze. Bright wall colors, an outdated flat screen TV, and various dusty pirate and oceanic themed decorations provide a hint of the slow life, but not necessarily an inspiring one. To each their own.
But for all it's oddity and lack of charm, there's one great truth about this place — the beer is good. It was well-conceived, well-executed, and even a little daring at times. After seeing the brewing setup, buried under overturned chairs, my hopes had been nearly dashed. And scanning the beer menu, past macrobrew after macrobrew, I wasn't even certain we'd found the right place. But as soon as we asked about the house beer, everything changed.
"I know it's hot as hell today, but you have to try the porter," she said. "And after that, the pale ale." I was relived to find some pride in the place. Both the bartender and the waitress knew their beer inside and out, and seemed excited to have some motivated company.
The Pyrat porter is made with rum of the same name, resulting in a silky smooth, boozy brew with only a hint of roastiness, and actually on the lighter side. Even in the 90 degree shade, it was refreshing. And the pale ale, brewed with hot peppers, was cool and sharp with only some residual heat in the back of the throat.
It's unclear how serious these guys are about brewing. Their site doesn't list their lineup, rather, it shows the food menu, some info about live music, photos from a Halloween party, and a reminder that "live sports play on the flat screen TVs all day and night." But whoever's got their hands on the mash tun is doing a great job. Just imagine what they might do if they weren't brewing in a storage closet!