Top left, Adam Band, marketing manager with Full Circle Brewing Co.; clockwise: Derrick McElroy; Desiree Washington, owner of Grumpy Burger Lady’s; and Eddie Garcia, creative director of Full Circle Brewing Co. Photo by Edward Smith
Written by Gabriel Dillard
If you are a fan of the local beer scene, there’s one thing you might have gotten used to — standing in line.
Queuing up is a fact of life when it comes to trying new releases from local breweries or tasting your way through events such as Oktoberfest or FresYes Fest.
So when it comes to Fresno’s showing in the 2022 list of Best Cities for Beer Lovers by lawn care provider website lawnlove.com, it leaves a bad aftertaste, according to someone who would know.
“As far as ranking 140, I have a hard time believing that,” said Julian Bencomo, CEO of Riley’s Brewing Co. and owner of Bencomo’s Home Brew Supply in Downtown Fresno.
Bencomo has been in the brewing business for almost 40 years and has traveled on business to hot beer locales including Seattle, San Diego and Portland. His take? Fresno should be ranked much higher than 140 out of 182 U.S. cities.
“Some of the things going on in Fresno’s craft beer scene are as good as in any other part of the country,” he said.
Lawnlove.com scored the cities on five metrics, including access (craft breweries, beer gardens, pubs, etc. per square mile); establishment quality (average consumer rating for craft breweries, beer gardens, pubs, etc.); beer quality (total points for Great American Beer Festival Awards, International Beer Awards, World Beer Awards, etc.); affordability (average market and restaurant price for domestic and imported brews); and community (average annual beer consumption, beer meetup groups and number of beer festivals and events.)
When it comes to establishment quality — based on beer drinker ratings — Fresno had a favorable rank of No. 57. But rankings for access (No. 145), beer quality (No. 101), affordability (No. 141) and community (No. 124) gave Fresno an overall score of 20.95 — just behind Augusta, Georgia (21.02 score) and just ahead of Pembroke Pines, Florida (20.89 score).
Seattle was No. 1 on the list with a score of 60.55, followed by Denver with 53.21 and Portland with 52.14 rounding out the top 3.
Brownsville, Texas, came in dead last with a 9.86 score.
Lawnlove.com also consulted with expert beer sommeliers on what the hot trends are in brewing these days.
Michael Smith, associate professor in the department of chemical engineering at Villanova University near Philadelphia, put his money on a strain of sour yeast first identified at the university.
“The yeast develops lactic acid as well as ethanol, the combination works well in fruit beers,” he said. “Check out Levente brewing in West Chester for some examples.”
Herbert Bruce, assistant professor for food science and technology at Virginia Tech, said the variety of beers available to the American public has exploded as brewers push the boundaries on new flavor combinations and introduce less known styles such as saison and gose.
Dave Ketchen, professor at Auburn University in Alabama, said the word at the moment is “hyperlocal.”
“Customers are not satisfied to buy beers that are made in their state, they want to support local businesses in their town,” he said. “The pandemic showed people the importance of supporting their neighbors’ businesses and I think that will continue.”
“A local brewery can become almost like a sports team in the sense that people root hard for their success.”