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September is here again. That means summer will soon be mercifully drawing to an end. And with that end brings sweet relief from the brutal triple-digit temperatures that have been pummeling weary Valley residents. But, of course, it also means summer sports playoffs, fall sports kickoffs, and getting in all the backyard BBQs possible while the weather is still perfect. But, most important of all, it’s time for the Fresno Flyer’s annual drink issue!
As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, the backyard gatherings of summer naturally head indoors. There’s no better time, then, to find the perfect neighborhood pub to become your regular hangout spot for unwinding with friends at the end of a long week. The craft brew scene in the Central Valley has exploded over the past few years, with a new brewery, pub, or taphouse opening up around every corner. This has given brew lovers a wealth of options for places to go.
The Fresno Flyer recently spoke with some of the many exceptional brew, wine, and spirit houses in the Valley to help make that choice a little easier.
Second Son Brews
37167 Avenue 12. Suite 4C Madera
Second Son Brews is a family-owned brewhouse in Madera Ranchos. The brewery has been quietly making a name for itself with local craft beer lovers since it opened in 2017.
Second Son Brews’ name comes from Troy, the Brew Master and the second oldest of three sons. Like most independent brewers, Troy started brewing as a hobby. Then, he decided to turn it into a business, much to the delight of friends and neighbors who had become big fans of his quality creations.
Troy recently took some time to tell us more about Second Son Brews.
What is it about Second Son Brews that separates you from the rest?
We like to treat all of our customers like they are our friends. Which a lot of them are in our small community. Many of our customers are people we’ve known for years. We like to think of our brewery as a community gathering place. We want everyone who comes through our doors – from first-timers to regulars – to feel like this is a place they can relax, feel welcome, and enjoy some delicious brews.
For a first-time customer, what are the “specialties of the house” you’d recommend?
New customers usually notice that we have a large selection of beers for a brewery our size. Most of our 9 main brews were family and friends back when I was homebrewing, and everyone seemed to like something different. So, I made something for each of them.
Some of the brews currently on tap in the Strawberry Blonde, an English-style blonde ale infused with fresh strawberries for a tart finish. The Midnight in Doublin, a dark Irish stout flavored with grains. There’s also the Good Morning Blondie, which infuses their Just Beer with a unique coffee blend. There’s even an “adult” root beer and a spiked water seltzer. And this is only about half of the selections currently available.
Do you offer any food options?
In keeping with our commitment to provide a true community gathering place, we are a place to meet friends, hang out, eat, and even play games. Second Son Brews has an in-house food menu that features a variety of traditional “pub grub.” The star is our 9” and 12” pizzas with all the fresh toppings you’d expect from a pizzeria, but we also serve wings, nachos, cheese fries, pretzel bites, and even fried green beans. Additionally, our customers can also order food from one of the great local restaurants nearby and have it delivered here if they want to do that.
Do you provide any live music or entertainment?
We usually have live music on either Friday or Saturday night. You can check our Facebook page to stay up-to-date on what events we have planned each week.
Second Son Brews also makes their selections available for customers to take home as well. Get brews in both draft kegs and cans by ordering through the website.
Sierra Peaks Winery
50806 Bramble Lane
Sierra Peaks Winery is a boutique winery nestled at 3200’ in the beautiful southern Sierra foothills, within the Squaw Valley-Miramonte American Viticultural Area. They specialize in unique varietals, including Aglianico, Mourvèdre, and one of the first plantings of Carménere in California.
Christine Flannigan is one of the owners, along with her husband, Chuck. She happily explains what sets Sierra Peaks Winery apart from the rest.
Tell us about yourselves. What are your backgrounds?
My name is Christine, and I’m the winemaker and vineyard manager. I have a science degree from UC Davis in Ag Systems and the Environment. Chuck is the Director of Special Projects and has extensive knowledge in the building trades. Chuck built the subterranean winery in 2014, and we’ve been in business ever since.
What inspired you to open a winery?
We got started in the winery business after moving to Squaw Valley in 2004. Our first Carménere vines were planted in 2006. We are also members of a local viticulture association – Viticulture and Enology Association of Squaw Valley-Miramonte. The other association members helped motivate our decision to open a commercial winery.
What is one of the specialty wines that you would recommend to a new customer?
The specialty of the house is our Carménere. It is an Estate wine (we grow the grapes and do all of the processing onsite). Carménere is an original Bordeaux varietal; however, it is now primarily grown in Chile.
It has notes of ripe plum, sweet fruit, and peppery spice. I definitely recommend it to anyone who wants a great example of what we have to offer.
What is it about Sierra Peaks Winery that separates you from other local wineries?
Our Estate wines are unique varietals so that visitors can experience wines not available elsewhere. Our Estate varietals are Aglianico, Carménere, Mourvèdre and Vermentino.
We are located in the Squaw Valley-Miramonte American Viticultural Area, formally recognized by TTB as a unique wine-growing region in 2015. The quality and selection of wines we offer are both exceptional and incredibly uncommon to this region, which truly sets us apart from other wineries.
Do you offer anything besides wines, such as food or other libations?
Well, besides wine, we offer an excellent view at 3200’ elevation. Unfortunately, we are not open to the public for wine tasting. However, guests can reserve a table on the wine deck for a picnic overlooking the vineyard, foothills, and the Valley with a wine purchase. Glasses, tables, and a corkscrew are provided, along with a visit with the winemaker.
Do you host any music or other entertainment events?
We periodically have live events that focus primarily on jazz. However, the venue is small, so attendance is limited, and guests are required to be on an invitation list to make reservations. Our next event is the Dale Engstrom Jazz Trio on September 18. Guests can check the Sierra Peaks Winery Facebook page for more information on events, including how to get on the reservation list.
Sierra Peaks Winery offers online ordering for all of its exceptional varietals through its website. They also have gift cards available to make the perfect gift for your favorite wine aficionado. For more information, including events and hosting your own tasting party, visit the Sierra Peaks Winery website and follow their social media.
Bird Street Brewing, Inc.
242 Heinlen St Lemoore
When the Fresno Flyer profiled Bird Street Brewing, Inc. for the August 2019 issue, they had only been open for a few months. Yet, they were already making a buzz with South Valley craft beer lovers. Owner Philip Wren was blowing customers away with his delicious and inventive creations. Beers like the Churroveza, which actually tastes like a churro, has been a big-time local favorite. The quality and attention to detail in each of Phil’s creations showed he was a serious player in the craft beer scene. Bird Street Brewing quickly became a not-so-hidden gem in downtown Lemoore.
Less than a year later, the Covid-19 pandemic devastated the bar and restaurant industry. Businesses that had been open for generations were closing their doors for good. For new businesses like Bird Street, still trying to build a customer base, the lockdown was practically a death sentence. Yet, despite the odds, Bird Street Brewing, Inc. survived the shutdown. Phil took some time out from cooking up the next outrageous brew to reflect on the past two years and look down the road ahead as they approach their 3rd anniversary.
When we profiled Bird Street Brewing back in 2019, you hadn’t been open very long at all. And then, a year later, Covid hit and absolutely devastated the bar and restaurant industry. What was that like for you?
Before COVID, we were just hitting our stride with building a steady clientele. However, we noticed a dedicated following during COVID from people buying our to-go selections, and we focused heavily on pivoting our business to accommodate carry-out business.
How were you able to adapt to the shutdown when so many other businesses like yours couldn’t?
Instead of brewing a large variety of beers, we ended up brewing our most popular selections. In addition, we kept up with social media to ensure people knew we were open for to-go sales and let people know how to buy our products.
We focused entirely on to-go can sales. We purchased as many cans as we could get our hands on as there ended up being an aluminum can shortage. We’re still ensuring our empty can inventory is at a good level, so we’re not caught in a situation where we run out of cans. During the to-go exclusive sales, we also had an online site where people could order their cans to make it quicker for customers to get in and out.
After a few months, we also started doing “grab and go” and invested in better canning equipment to make sure our product stayed fresh so we could can a bunch of cans to accommodate people coming in without an advanced order.
Have you kept any of the changes you made during the pandemic since re-opening?
The biggest change to our business has been utilizing some of our new equipment for packaging and sanitizing. We always focused on cleanliness but have adopted a few new processes to enhance cleanliness.
How has business been since re-opening?
Since we re-opened, business has been almost as good as it was pre-pandemic. We noticed a rise in new customers when re-opening as people were enthusiastic to get back to supporting local businesses. We’ve seen a steady week-to-week growth of people that are making their way back out.
We still make to-go sales, but we are fully open for onsite sales again.
For one of those new, first-time customers, what do you recommend to them to really give them a taste of what sets Bird Street apart from the rest?
First-time customers always get asked, “what do you like to drink?” and if they enjoy hoppy beers, I’m always eager to have them try our hazy IPA.
We make our hazies a bit “west coast” with a subtle bitterness typically attributed to the classic clear IPAs that were popular before hazies took over. And we always like to show off our English Browns. Our current “In the Furze” is full-flavored but drinks very light and is a refreshing change of pace from a typical light lager, but still very appropriate for the hot weather.
One thing about your business that stood out was your incredibly creative and delicious beer flavors. What flavors do you have available currently?
We have a rule of “we won’t brew the same beer twice in a row.” So the fan-favorite Churroveza kicked out a few weeks ago, and it will be a few more weeks before it comes back. We have well over 100 recipes we rotate in and out now and want to keep making fun, unique beers as long as people continue to drink them.
We invested a lot in cold-side lagering, so we have quite a few lighter lagers that we brew with the weather. We’re winding down some fruit-forward beers, such as our “Peach Puns Are SO Last Year” wheat beer with white and yellow peaches and “Three Hours” strawberry blonde. We hope to incorporate seasonal flavors in ambers, browns, porters, and stouts when the weather (hopefully) cools down.
Are you exploring any new ventures or continuing to stick with what works?
We’re always looking at expansion. We always have our eyes open for opportunities. We thought our current building would be big enough to hold us for a while, but we’ve quickly grown too large for it. Our next plan will involve something with food, so follow us on social media for more updates on that.
What are your plans for Bird Street heading into 2022?
Heading into 2022, we want to get back to where we were in 2019 before the Pandemic happened. We’re already pretty close to being there. The support from the community has just been amazing. Also, we’d like to add maybe a few more taps because we can never have enough beer!
Lastly, we’d like to say a huge “thank you” to everyone that has supported Bird Street and all of the local breweries in the Valley during the Pandemic. We are beer fans first and foremost, and we want to see our breweries succeed. So whether you come down to Lemoore for one of our beers or have your own local favorite, keep supporting local brewers, pubs, and taphouses.
Bird Street Brewing, Inc. is open Thursday/Friday 5:30-9:30pm, and Saturday 3-9:30pm. They offer in-person and online ordering for pick up for cans, growlers, and refills
Plan B Taphouse has been making waves in the South Valley ever since it opened its doors in 2017. Featuring a large selection of craft beers, sours, and ciders from local breweries all over the tri-county and Central Valley, Plan B Taphouse quickly established itself as the go-to spot for great beers, live music, and good times. Owner Chris Graham took a few minutes away from pulling handles to give us the 4-1-1 on his “retirement plan.”
Tell us a little bit about Plan B Taphouse.
We are a mom ‘n pop, husband and wife run business. Sometimes I’ll drag my son and some friends in here when it gets too crazy, but usually, it’s just my wife and I handling everything.
Where does the name “Plan B” come from?
We came up with the name “Plan B” because this was literally our plan b. My wife and I used to always talk about opening up a taphouse when we retired. We would visit different brew houses in our travels and just loved trying different craft beers. Owning a place like that was something we dreamed about doing for ourselves one day. So, sometime in 2015, the opportunity presented itself to buy an old dive bar, and I couldn’t say no. I told my wife, “Our Plan B just became our Plan A,” and that’s when the name was born.
How many people get to say that they’re living their dream retirement plan?
Owning this business doesn’t feel like work at all. It’s just fun.
About the location…
Old-timer locals might remember when our building used to be Shorty’s bar. It was sort of a veteran/biker dive bar that had been closed for a while when I came into the picture. A lot of work needed to be done to get where we are now, but the results are definitely worth it. We have a 2000 square foot beer garden out back and a 900 square foot front house. We have about 20 taps running at all times with a huge variety of craft beers, IPAs, barrel-aged stouts, sours, and at least 6 ciders at all times. We have a few different wines as well, but our forte is beer.
Most people relax or take vacations when they retire, but you decided to start a business?
Well, we aren’t officially retired yet! We’re both still about a year away from retiring from our day jobs. So, the transition to retirement is still in full effect. But, honestly, this isn’t a job for us. It’s way too much fun to call it a job. This is what we’ve always wanted to do. Sure, it’s a challenge, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. And Sundays are for sleeping, so it all works out!
How long has Plan B been in business?
We opened our doors in September of 2017, so we’re coming up on our 4th anniversary. Of course, with everything just starting to recover from the pandemic shutdown, we aren’t planning anything special other than our usual shenanigans. But, we are planning to do something next year to celebrate our 5th anniversary.
A lot of craft breweries started with a beer lover brewing his own beer in his garage. Is the Plan B story similar?
Absolutely. My wife and I fell in love with craft beers during our travels, and I started brewing General Sherman IPA in my garage for my friends and me. After a while, I started getting good at it, and more and more friends were hitting me up for some, and I thought, “Why am I just giving this away when I could be charging for it?” [laughs] But honestly, that’s where the whole idea started, as a fun hobby that turned into an awesome business. And here we are.
What do you recommend for a first-time customer?
The first thing I ask any new customer is, “what kind of beer do you like?” I want them to have something they will enjoy. So, if a customer says they like IPAs, I’ll show them what we have on tap and find the one I think they’ll like the most. Of course, if a customer asks me to surprise them or show them something new, I’m ready to knock their socks off, too.
I’m astonished at what a big hit our ciders have been with our customers. We have at least 6 different ciders on tap at all times, and honestly, if I could open a second location just for ciders, I would. The demand for them is crazy, and we’re happy to provide the biggest and best selection around. We’ve also added hard seltzers as well due to popular demand.
What is it about Plan B Taphouse that makes it unique?
We just really want our customers to feel those “backyard party” vibes when they come here. Like when you walk into a backyard party at your friend’s house, and you see a bunch of people you know and maybe a bunch more that you don’t. But, the music’s playing, the beer is cold, and by the end of the night, you’re gonna end up knowing everybody. That’s the energy we want to put out here. So, come on in, grab a beer, and make yourself at home.
What kind of entertainment do you offer?
Live music has really been our thing. We have live music in the beer garden every Friday and Saturday until mid-October. After that, it gets too cold and wet to really host live entertainment out there. But from April until October, we keep the beer garden rocking on the weekends. Our calendar is on our Facebook page so people can check it out and see who’s going to be here next.
How has the public support been since the state re-opened?
We have always felt a lot of love and support from the local community, and that certainly hasn’t changed since the shutdown has ended. People are definitely fired up to enjoy the nightlife and have drinks with friends again. It’s been our pleasure to provide that much-needed environment to unwind and blow off steam after a long week. We get a lot of love and support from the naval base, and we really appreciate them and their service. It means a lot to us that so many people come and hang out with us every weekend. We couldn’t ask for a better, more supportive community than this one.
Plan B Taphouse is open Wednesday/Thursday 5-10pm and Friday/Saturday 5pm-12am. In addition, they have live music every Friday and Saturday.