Wine snobs will note that the wine-rich Napa Valley is a mountain range to the west of Winters. What you'll mostly find growing in the rich farmland surrounding Winters is nuts...almond and walnut trees dominate the scenery.
Winters is a bedroom community of roughly 6,500. The largest employer here is a nut packing firm. Next in line is the school district. Many who live here don't work here. Instead, they drive to the Bay Area or to Sacramento or Davis (home of University of California at Davis and 15 miles to the east). The weather here is hot as hell in the summer, moderate and typically wet in the winter. There's a reason why this stuff is important and I'll get to it.
|Sunny Friday on Berryessa's patio|
The brewery itself is a 15 bbl system located in a building that previously housed Berryessa Gap Winery. The winery got too big for the space and moved, although they still have a tasting room in the building. Miller has previously talked about tapping into the wine barrel connection to produce barrel-aged beers and he's done some of that. On my visit, there were no barrel-aged brews on the menu. Unfortunately.
Common Sense Ale is exactly what the name implies: a common sense beer you can quaff with friends for hours. The beer is light in color with a pleasant floral aroma on a mellow malt backbone. This is an easy-drinking, refreshing beer. It's rated at 4.5% ABV and 20 IBU. My recent quest for tasty session beers was perfectly satisfied by Common Sense.
|Double Tap IPA|
On the flip side of the IPA game, they have House IPA. The ratings wheel says 6.5% ABV and 65 IBU. While Double Tap has much in common with Oregon IPAs, the House IPA is more reminiscent of what you typically find in California. It is deep copper in color and fairly bitter. Hop aroma and flavor are subdued. I did not particularly care for this beer, but perhaps I would have if I hadn't been tasting Double Tap at the same time.
|Sole food option at Berryessa|
The community of Winters won't have to support this brewery on its own. Why? First, Miller has built a name and is distributing beyond Winters. There's no word on when bottling might enter the picture, but it may happen someday. Second, Winters is becoming a destination. Residents of the Bay Area, Sacramento and elsewhere are beginning to visit or stop by to enjoy the weather, the small town charm and the artisan businesses. Winters has been mostly a well-kept secret until recently, but its status as a destination is gaining momentum and will accelerate as more lodging is built...and reliable sources tell me new hotels are coming.
|The patio looks mighty inviting|
If you're in the neighborhood, Berryessa Brewing is worth a visit. The tasting room is only open Friday-Sunday (the hours are posted on their website), so plan your trip accordingly.