How a little brewery in Lemoore is making a big splash with the locals.
By: Dave Fountinelle | firstname.lastname@example.org
My first impression when I pulled up in front of Bird Street Brewing, Inc. was, “This looks like a pretty chill little spot.” There aren’t any neon window signs or other outside trappings one would associate with a drinking establishment. It’s just a modest storefront in the middle of the block, next door to a Mexican restaurant, which I almost mistook for Bird Street at first because they did have the neon beer signs in their windows. That initial opinion was further confirmed when I opened the door and was greeted with the sounds of a bluesy rock record being played at a volume that actually allowed people to hold a conversation at a reasonable level. Standing behind the bar, Owner, Phillip Wren, welcomed me with a smile and invited me to pull up a seat at the bar.
“What can I get you started with?” He asked. “Would you like a glass or a sample of something?”
On a screen above the 10 rotating taps is the ever-changing menu of beers available. With names like “Chubockcabra,” “The Unburnt,” “Sucker Punch,” and “Churroveza,” it’s immediately apparent that this is going to be an interesting experience, to say the least. So, being completely unfamiliar with what Bird Street had to offer at this point, I told Phillip, “show me something that will knock my socks off.”
“Ok,” he replied with a grin.
A minute later, Phillip presented me with a 2oz tasting glass of what appeared to my untrained eye to be a typical blonde ale. “I call this The Unburnt,” he said. I take a sip, expecting the standard bitter, yeasty, hoppy flavors of microbrew beer, but what I got instead was the taste of a freshly brewed cup of coffee! I was stunned! It was at that moment I realized there is something extraordinary going on in this place.
Bird Street Brewing, Inc. has only been open for a year. But, Phillip Wren had been brewing high-quality ales, lagers, and IPAs for 4 years before that. Local residents may have seen the Bird Street products in Lemoore at the Best Buy and Save Mart grocery stores, among other locations. After 4 years of fighting for shelf space with large distributors, Phillip made the decision to open his own pub and sell his creations directly to the public. He no longer sells his products in stores, but it’s because he needs every drop to keep up with the demands of his patrons. “Sometimes we completely tap out,” he tells me. “That’s not a bad problem to have, though, really.”
The next beer I try a sample of is “Sucker Punch,” a blueberry sour ale that is so mild and refreshing, with a much lighter tartness than I’ve experienced with other sour ales. It’s a perfect palate cleanser after The Unburnt. The next thing I notice about Bird Street is the note on the chalkboard that they give a 15% discount to all first-responders. Bird Street Brewing, like most small businesses in Lemoore, is very active in the community. They frequently host fundraisers and events at their location and are regular fixtures at food fairs, beer fests, and the like all over Kings County. All this from a guy who started brewing beer pretty much out of boredom while working from home at his old job, doing IT work.
“Before I met my fiance, I was sharing a place with some friends, and we had the idea of brewing our own beer one day, just for something to do. I read some books, and we bought the brewing kits and just took it from there.”
After moving in with his fiance, Phillip got the itch to start brewing again for himself and his friends, who were all impressed with the quality of his brews and encouraged him to start selling it. Since then, the hobby has become a passion, and that passion is reflected in both the quality and originality of every beer on the menu.
Which brings me to the third and final beer I sampled, “Churroveza.” I had read a little about this beer while doing my research before visiting Bird Street, and I was immediately curious to try “a churro-flavored Mexican lager.” And that’s precisely what I got. I’m not sure words alone are enough to describe this beer. It really does taste just like a churro! The flavors of cinnamon and vanilla were so intense that I thought I was drinking the milk at the bottom of a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, rather than having a glass of Mexican lager.
“The most important thing is to always have fun doing this,” Phillip says with a chuckle as he sees my reaction. “I didn’t want to have a place where I just do half a dozen different IPAs, and they all taste pretty much the same. I want to always be creative and experiment with new flavors and techniques. Sometimes they work great, like with the Churroveza here, and sometimes they don’t. But that’s what makes it exciting.”
Having fun is the impression of Bird Street Brewing that stuck with me the most, long after I had thanked Phillip for being such a gracious and generous host and opening my eyes to the incredible things that microbrewers like him are doing. Bird Street isn›t a typical bar, it›s not a place for people to come in, tie one on, and get rowdy. It’s not a place to go for a burger and a brew, either. Other than some snacks behind the bar, Bird Street doesn’t sell food.
“I just want this place to be all about the beer,” he says. “I tell people, there’s the Mexican place next door, Ocean City is around the corner for Chinese food, and there›s a great Thai place on the next corner. You›re welcome to go grab some food and bring it back here, I’m happy to promote these other local businesses … I want this to be a place for people to come and just enjoy some good beer. Come in, hang out, have a glass. If you like it, buy a can, buy a growler, bring in your own growler and we’ll fill it for you. Just please make sure it’s clean first!”
Bird Street Breweing is located at 242 Heinlen St, in Lemoore, CA 93245
Open Thursday 5 PM – 9 PM through Saturday 3 PM – 10 PM
Visit www.BirdStreetBrewing.com to check out the Beer List