Sierra Foothills’ craft breweries draw locals and taproom tourists

DESPITE THE “ZOMBIE economy” in 2011, three craft breweries launched within months of each other: Berryessa Brewing Co. in Winters, Loomis Basin Brewing Co. and ol’ Republic Brewery in Nevada City. Now they are experiencing major growth spurts, epitomizing the boom in craft beer.

is nearly doubling its space for the second time in only a year; it is now selling its bottled beer at grocery giant Whole Foods Market; and it is the principal sponsor of the 55th annual Nevada City Bicycle Classic on June 21.

Ol’ Republic’s expansion will clear the way for more brewing capacity. Brewing capacity has grown from about 1,000 barrels annually last year to an expected 2,000 barrels this year to more than 4,000 barrels once the nine month expansion is complete, says co-owner and brewer Jim Harte.

Ol’ Republic is helping to create new jobs, diversify the local economy and boost Nevada City’s tax base. It also is helping to make the Seven Hills Business District of Nevada City a destination for beer enthusiasts, along with Jernigan’s Tap House & Grill.

also is expanding its brewhouse, bolstering distribution and creating imaginative beers. It is in the midst of an expansion that will allow it to double its output, now nearly 2,000 barrels annually, says co-owner Kenny Gowan.

Loomis Basin Brewing is selling its beer at big supermarkets, including Raley’s and Bel Air, as well as Costco. It is in the midst of adding Safeway stores to the mix. Like ‘ol Republic, Loomis Basin’s taproom is bustling on weeknights, as locals line up to sample the latest brews, paired with street tacos from El Matador and burgers from the Squeeze Inn, served from tricked-out food trucks. The beers are imaginative. One example: “Golden Eagle Mandarin Wheat” beer, flavored with fresh Mandarins from Sunset Ridge in Newcastle.

in Winters is popular with locals and visitors from the Bay Area. It also is expanding its brewery to double its capacity from about 1,800 barrels annually.

Like ‘ol Republic, Berryessa is on tap in Sacramento and the Bay Area. It is planning to can its Common Sense beer too. Common Sense is the brewery’s version of a California Common.

(Photo: Jim Beckett)

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