Written by The Business Journal Staff
Already on tap for some time, Sanger brewery House of Pendragon, which has a popular tasting room in Clovis, is teaming up with Visalia restaurant and gastropub Pita Kabob to bring HoP/PK to an old two-story sports bar located at 820 Van Ness Ave. After more than a year of renovation, the long-awaited 32-tap bar and Mediterranean restaurant is finally set to open by June.
While excitement mounts for HoP/PK, three brand new breweries have also announced plans to establish roots in Downtown Fresno this year.
In January, Border Hop Brewing signed a lease on a 9,600 square-foot building at 721 Broadway St. in the South Stadium District. And just down the street, at 411 Broadway St., another business has signed on to bring a brewery and the city’s first craft distillery under the company name 411 Broadway Ales and Spirits. A third operation, Zack’s Brewing, is currently assessing a property a mile and a half away in the Mural District.
Meanwhile, Downtown Fresno’s two existing breweries are gearing up for expansion. Tioga-Sequoia recently acquired the 14,000 square-foot Amvets building on Inyo and Broadway streets next to its current beer garden and taproom on 745 Fulton St. And under new ownership, Full Circle Brewing is planning to expand its beer selection and production with hopes to bring bottles to local stores.
These stirring plans are just the beginning according to Downtown Fresno Partnership President and CEO Aaron Blair.
“The craft beer industry is starting to boom in Downtown Fresno, and this is a very important part of our success,” Blair said. “They contribute to place making, are growth-oriented exporters and attract tourists. Craft beer is the perfect fit for the ever-changing downtown culture and creative spirit.”
Tioga-Sequoia — the trailblazer
Home of the General Sherman IPA, 99 Golden Ale, and other beers featuring a local moniker, Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Co.’s beer garden has been a popular downtown hangout since 2010. A great place to grab a cold one after a Grizzlies game, the brewery’s outdoor patio has been known to draw hundreds, and even thousands, of craft beer enthusiasts downtown to events like FresYes Fest.
With an additional 14,000 square-foot building at its disposal, Tioga-Sequoia Marketing Manager Michael Cruz said the brewery plans to enhance its current beer garden and ramp up its production.
Currently, Cruz said, Tioga-Sequoia produces close to 9,000 barrels annually, but theoretically, Tioga-Sequoia now has the capacity to produce upwards of 40,000 barrels.
“The top 50 breweries in the country are producing around 80,000 barrels, so this is significant,” Cruz said. “Of course, capacity is one thing and being able to sell that much is another.”
Phase one of expansion plans, Cruz said, is to move all production and storage into the new facility, creating more space for guests at the beer garden. New tanks and upgraded equipment will also be added to steadily increase production, while the beer garden will get a facelift with upgraded aesthetics, such as façade improvements.
Moving into phase two, Cruz said Tioga-Sequoia plans to continue adding tanks and upgrading equipment, and there is a possibility an indoor tasting room could be added for special events. In the beer garden, he said, phase two will come after purchasing the property or renegotiating the lease. The hope, he said, is to add permanent restroom facilities, a pergola, heaters/coolers, misters and other more permanent changes.
In stretching its downtown roots, Cruz said Tioga-Sequoia wants to continue bringing attention to Fresno.
“It was a conscious decision to plant our flag here. Now we want to grow our roots even deeper and help aid the cause of downtown by being a beacon for change,” Cruz said.
Cruz said Tioga-Sequoia is happy to see other breweries choosing to set up shop downtown as well.
“Breweries get along well together,” Cruz said. “The best part is we all know each other. These are local brewers, not big out-of-town brewers who don’t understand the culture, so I think our businesses will all be successful downtown as we support one another.”
An old favorite comes Full Circle
Arthur Moye, one of the new co-owners of Downtown Fresno’s oldest modern brewpub, Full Circle Brewing Co., which first opened its doors in an 8,700 square-foot warehouse on F Street in 2000, said he too is excited to see new breweries headed downtown.
“Revitalization is all about the density of stuff to do, and if there is cool stuff going on in close proximity to Full Circle and more people coming downtown, that is good for us,” Moye said, adding that he envisions an original craft beer community in Fresno that can sustain around 30 breweries.
As others breweries get established downtown, Moye said Full Circle Brewing is focusing on broadening its influence in the craft beer community by bottling its beers to sell in Central Valley liquor stores. To make this possible, three tanks are being added to the Full Circle Brewing system.
Most likely, bottled selections will include Full Circle’s keynote, the Juicy Northeastern IPA, and its flagship Cluster Fuggle Cream Ale, and one rotating seasonal beer.
Also on the horizon is a new Full Circle Brewing logo to be revealed this month, Moye said.
The interior of the Full Circle brewpub will also continue to see gradual renovations as the owners incorporate more bark beetle-stained wood in a new bar top and tables, finish floors and add a wall mural.
HoP/PK hotly anticipated
House of Pendragon and Pita Kabob won the Downtown Fresno Create Here Business Plan Competition in October 2015, but the tap house and restaurant venture has not yet opened due to snags during the remodel of the owner’s chosen location on Van Ness Avenue.
The end, however, is now in sight, according to House of Pendragon owner and brewmaster Tom Caprelian.
“We’re excited,” Caprelian said. “This has been a long road for us, full of hoops and delays, but we’re going toward the finish line and it will be a huge sigh of relief when it finally opens. I believe we’re coming in at the perfect time in the revitalization of downtown.”
Caprelian was conservative with his timeline, estimating that HoP/PK will open sometime between April and June of this year.
Currently, façade improvements are wrapping up at the front of the building and interior construction should be complete within a couple of months. The sidewalk in front of the building will also need to be repaired before the grand opening of the 7,000 square-foot gastropub.
HoP/PK will feature 32 taps, half of which will showcase House of Pendragon beers while the rest will feature guest brews. HoP/PK will also offer Mediterranean staples served at Pita Kabob in Visalia, with a few additions unique to the Downtown Fresno location.
Efforts inside have mainly targeted the first floor, which will house the kitchen and dining area. The second floor, Caprelian said, will most likely feature lounge décor and be suitable to rent out to large groups for parties. The design of HoP/PK will incorporate reclaimed wood and other elements found at House of Pendragon’s current tasting room in Clovis, but will also be reminiscent of downtown revitalization.
As other breweries make the move downtown, Caprelian said it only adds to the momentum and excitement for HoP/PK.
“I don’t think of it as competition, I think it’s adding to the landscape of downtown,” Caprelian said. “Portland has a large brewery district, and so do other cities, and every brewery supports the others. It also creates a good excuse for people to come downtown. People can visit Tioga-Sequoia and then walk to our place and then maybe to a few others. That jumpstarts interest downtown. If other cities can do it why not Fresno?”
From home brewer to Border Hop
Local brewers Oscar Fuentes and Benjamin Litwack will hone their craft this fall when they open Border Hop Brewing, just steps away from Tioga-Sequoia, at 721 Broadway St.
Fuentes, who will serve as head brewer, has been a home brewer for seven years and teamed up with Litwack to create the Border Hop label six months ago. Their first beer will be ready in a month and the duo is moving forward quickly with construction on the 9,600 square-foot taproom and an additional 1,300 square-foot patio outside, which will feature a beer garden.
Border Hop, Fuentes said, will offer a little bit of everything but the focus will be on the ever-popular IPA.
“There are a lot of people who stick to home brewing, but the game has changed so much and old brewers are retiring so now is the time to come in,” Fuentes said. “The industry is forever evolving and the IPA market has boomed. It used to be all about lagers and now it’s all about these aromatic beers.”
During construction, the Border Hop duo plans to work diligently on perfecting test batches. None of their beers will be distributed, however, until doors open, hopefully sometime in October.
As for the catchy name and logo, Fuentes said it has little to do with his Mexican heritage and a lot to do with his goal to “hop over borders” in the craft beer industry.
“It’s about hopping over borders to different beers and hopping over borders to making better beer,” Fuentes said. “We thought it was a good metaphor.”
What’s the 411 on Broadway?
411 Broadway Ales and Spirits gets its name from the location the company is leasing on Broadway Street, as well as the craft products it will serve.
While the company’s co-owner wishes to remain anonymous for now, he was happy to discuss plans for the space, which will feature a 1,500 square-foot production area and 3,000 square-foot tasting room.
Moving away from the IPA hype, the owner said 411 Broadway will have its own niche in introducing more sour beers to the region. More than a brewery, the spot will also be home to the area’s first craft distillery.
“We’re initially going to focus on sour beers, which we feel are lacking in this general area but are very popular in cities like San Diego and Portland,” he said. “We’ll be brewing with an open fermentation process as opposed to closed tanks…most brewers use a closed-tank system to avoid that sour taste in their beers, but that is want we want. We will have at least three open fermenters and a well-rounded oak barrel system. We’ll also be producing spirits like whiskey and rum, since California recently passed a law to allow for craft distillers and an open tasting room with the same license as a beer brewer.”
411 Broadway Ales and Spirits is projected to open mid-August. At that time, early beers and neutral spirits like vodka will be served. Complex sours, the owner said, will take more time to brew, while spirits like whiskey and rum can take a couple years.
Partners in the 411 Broadway business include Juan Martinez and Joshua Soleno, according to published reports.
A logo, social media accounts, and Kickstarter page for 411 Broadway will be unveiled within a month.
Zack’s Brewing eyes Mural District
Central Valley craft beer enthusiasts may know Steven Zack as the home brewer behind Garage Door Brewing.
Now the former pest control inspector is going full-time brewer and is seeking a brewery location in Downtown Fresno with the business name Zack’s Brewing.
“I’ve been looking for a place since November and I may have found a spot in the Mural District,” Zack said. “I like the lofts in the area and how people who live there could walk to the brewery. And I like that it’s close, but not too close, to Tioga-Sequoia.”
The building Zack and his wife, Gail, are currently assessing is 3,000 square-feet but the taproom would be limited to 1,400 square-feet or a 100-person occupancy limit due to the space’s current fire sprinkler system. The place also has a front and back patio to expand, Zack said.
Whether or not Zack settles on the Mural District property, he said he wants to be downtown and ideally wants a brewery area that is open, where customers can see the brewing operation from the bar.
If he signs a lease, Zack said Zack’s Brewing could be up and running within a couple months.
The brewery, he said, would feature a variety of beers.
“The IPAs are the most popular, but there will be pilsners, lagers, German-style beers, porters and stouts,” Zack said. “I want to have a variety on tap all the time. We’re starting with a three-barrel system and I have all the equipment I need, we just need the place. Three barrels is enough to play around with different styles and to have new beers always on tap rotating.”
Zack added that he loves the idea of being part of a larger “brewery district” community.
“The beer scene is on the up and up and I like what other breweries are doing and the idea of being downtown,” he said.