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Recap: Berryessa marks first anniversary with big bash

Published: Tuesday, Sep. 10, 2013 - 10:30 am

Some friends and I had a great time Saturday at Berryessa Brewing first anniversary bash. I caught up with Lori Niccolini, the co-owner and wife of brewmaster Chris Miller, to chat about the event and what the future might hold for this highly regarded new brewery.

Given Berryessa’s vaunted stature among regional craft breweries, it may be hard to believe they’ve only been producing beer for 12 months. That’s a credit to the quality and variety of beers Miller has produced and to laid-back family vibe at the brewery’s taproom, situated in the countryside just outside the charming town of Winters.

This was my third visit and it gets better each time. This event, of course, was a special occasion, so there were special arrangements for parking in a yard adjacent the brewery. One thing I didn’t notice right away but that began to sink in over the course of several hours — no security guards. In fact, there was no one telling anyone where to go and what to do. And guess what? Everyone behaved. The eclectic crowd was all about enjoying great beer, socializing and listening to good music.

Niccolini told me the brewery sold over 750 commemorative beer glasses and that well over 1,000 people attended throughout the course of the day.

When I mentioned that lack of security (as a compliment), she replied, “That makes me so happy,” noting that the brewery’s largely daytime hours create a more relaxed and family-oriented atmosphere. To be sure, the scene here does not include a bunch of people getting drunk and acting rowdy.

After such a big first year, it may surprise you that Berryessa Brewing is not in a huge hurry to expand. Doing so would mean hiring more people, ramping up production and, if it’s not done with great care, perhaps losing touch with the common touch that makes craft beer so appealing.

“We’re just kind of going with the flow right now,” Niccolini told me. “We’re pretty much at maximum production (1,500 barrels per year).”

The brewery had already added two new tanks to keep up with demand, she added, but the next steps — bottling, canning, expanding into new markets — are not going to be rushed. Eventually, fans will want to find the beer at retail markets, but for now, they’ll have to be satisfied with visiting the taproom or, as I have on many occasions, come across it at local bars and restaurants.

Congratulations on such a successful first year. This is one of the breweries craft beer fans will be watching closely in the months and years to come.

Call The Bee's Blair Anthony Robertson, (916) 321-1099. Follow him on Twitter @Blarob

Read more articles by Blair Anthony Robertson

About Appetizers

Chris Macias has served as The Sacramento Bee's Food & Wine writer since 2008. His writing adventures have ranged from the kitchen at French Laundry to helping pick 10 tons of zinfandel grapes with migrant farm workers in Lodi. Chris also judges regularly at food, wine and cocktail competitions around Northern California. His profile of a former gangbanger-turned-pastry-chef was included in Da Capo's "Best Food Writing 2012."

Read his Wine Buzz columns here
(916) 321-1253
Twitter: @chris_macias

Allen Pierleoni writes about casual lunchtime restaurants in The Sacramento Bee's weekly "Counter Culture" column. He covers a broad range of topics, including food, travel, books and authors. In addition to writing the weekly column "Between the Lines," he oversees the Sacramento Bee Book Club, in which well-known authors give free presentations to the public.

Read his Counter Culture reviews here
(916) 321-1128
Twitter: @apierleonisacbe

Blair Anthony Robertson is The Sacramento Bee's food critic.

Read his restaurant reviews here
(916) 321-1099
Twitter: @Blarob

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