We met a really cool 9-year-old at the bustling Berryessa Brewing in Winters last week. He stopped by our table, chatted, said hello to a dog and then moved on. Jason is the personable and poised son of co-owners Chris Miller and Lori Nicolini Miller and pretty much the unofficial ambassador for the brewery.
If you’ve been making the rounds of the local breweries lately, this kind of thing won’t surprise you. You’ll encounter lots of laid-back people, lots of great craft beer and, yes, plenty of kids.
That may be jarring to some of you. A kid-free zone is an old way of thinking (and drinking). We’re talking about breweries and taprooms, not bars and clubs. Taprooms these days are designed to be family-friendly. Well-behaved kids are not only welcome but encouraged at Berryessa, Track 7, New Helvetia and others.
“I think the whole bar atmosphere in this country took away from what breweries were once and still are – a family-friendly community gathering place,” Lori Nicolini Miller told me.
Not everyone is on board, however. Haley Gonzalez recently visited Track 7 in Sacramento’s Hollywood Park neighborhood with her friends. To her, it may have seemed more like Chuck E. Cheese’s. She loves the beer there, though she wishes it was an adults-only place.
“Three or four kids with their mom and dad came in. We left because the kids were noisy and the baby was crying,” said Gonzalez, 29, a veterinary technician without kids. “Overall, it’s just a weird thing to bring your kids to a brewery.”
Many parents beg to differ. They like to drop by their favorite brewery, have a beer and socialize with friends while their kids find other kids to play with. These are not rowdy places, and they’re anything but pick-up joints.
Me? I’m somewhere in between on this one. I actually like seeing kids like Jason at breweries. It somehow feels more European, more laid-back and stress-free. But parents need to teach their kids how to behave at such places – no running, no screaming, no knocking over my beer – and if that’s not happening, then the parents need to take action or head home.
Guided by his parents, Jason has figured out the right way to conduct himself. These kinds of experiences and interactions at his age will serve him well in the years ahead. I told my friends the kid was going to be governor some day.
Dave Gull, co-owner of pro-kid, pro-dog New Helvetia Brewing and a parent (with wife Amy), said, “We founded this brewery already as parents. ... We want to socialize with other grown-ups at a place that is OK for kids to be at.”
Ryan Graham of Track 7 knows he can’t please everyone. “There are people who review us on Yelp and take a critical approach to us because we allow kids. It’s the same with dogs. We’ll take our lumps on that,” he said.• Sacramento-area folks represented us with distinction at the Denver’s Great American Beer Festival, the largest beer competition in the world. Knee Deep Brewing in Lincoln (relocating to Auburn) won a silver medal in the American-Belgian ale category for its Belgo Hoptologist, a Belgian-style version (a yeast strain is added that alters the flavor and aroma) of its coveted IPA Hoptologist. Auburn Alehouse won a bronze in the American or International style pilsner category for its Gold Country Pilsner. Mussetter Distribution was honored with the Craft Beer Distributor Recognition Award for its efforts in promoting craft beer.
• Gov. Jerry Brown, his wife, Anne Gust Brown, and their very chill corgi, Sutter Brown, showed up last week at Track 7 (he’s signed AB 647 to clarify labeling requirements for refilling growlers) and had a beer as everyone pulled out phones to take pictures. He left after about 20 minutes. Owner Graham was in Denver for GABF and didn’t get to meet the governor, but he told me, “The security detachment showed up at the brewery a day prior to check it out and tell us the governor may show up. ... It’s a great honor.”
Kids. Dogs. Governors. Entourages. It’s all good.