Truly, these are the glory days. Ventura County has seen an explosion of new breweries, brewery expansions and, well, just more attention overall, and unlike Alien vs. Predator, there are no losers, only winners left at the very end of 2016.
Last year’s baby Topa Topa Brewing Company on Thompson Boulevard in Downtown Ventura saw so much success that the owners opened a tasting room in Santa Barbara’s funk zone. From a five-brew catalogue, the brewery has doubled its offerings and, on Christmas Eve, we partook in my personal favorite 2016 Topa Topa release, the Tux milk stout.
Just around the corner on Oak Street, the much-awaited Ventura Coast Brewing popped open its doors to a packed house in October with a slew of tasty pours. The so-called No Oats porter struck a chord with me. Before Christmas, the brewery debuted its Trapple — an apple-infused Belgian tripel.
Ventura’s eastside brewery MadeWest, which opened in January, has recently made a beautiful partnership for distribution through San Diego craft behemoth Stone Brewing Co., which means MadeWest kegs will be in restaurants around the southland. Look for a canning operation to take off in the new year.
Camarillo’s Institution Ale Co. moved from tiny quarters into a craft beer Mecca, featuring a massive brewing room and a museum-like path toward the bar. In spite of the large new space, the brewery continues to pack in the regulars on a weekly basis, and the brewers have kept up with their tradition of being the most eclectic brewery in the county (jalapeño, habanero and Thai chilies have all found their way into various beers this year that, in small doses, does wonders for the sinuses).
Surf Brewery in Ventura expanded its barrel-aged program and released a few bottles dubbed the Scientific Series, while in Moorpark, Enegren Brewing Company’s expansion was completed.
But let’s not forget all of the new brew options in the form of bars and pubs. Moorpark’s McGregor’s Craft Beer & Wine opened to much fanfare; and coming soon to Ventura, Fluid State Beer Garden will give Main Street another burger-and-beer option.
Here’s to a happy, bubbly 2017. Keep ’em coming, people!
Chris O’Neal is eagerly awaiting a taproom to open in his backyard. Literally. Follow him on Instagram @atchrisoneal.