Paige Latham Didora
brewing on the monterey peninsula: Peter B’s
Mentioning a visit to California to fellow beeries will garner responses like, ” you have to visit Firestone Walker!” and “Check out The Bruery.” And sure, Lagunitas and Russian River are on the wish list, but that wasn’t quite the neighborhood I was destined for. California is a really big state. I was headed to The Middle.
California is most certainly a beer destination. Despite its very high population, the state still ranks in the top 20 states for breweries per capita, with about 381 total according to the Brewers Association Website. And California is number one for production, at about 3 million barrels annually, with beer having an impact on the local economy more than any other state (2012). While many breweries are concentrated in southern cities, beer is actually well-distributed throughout the state.
The Monterey Peninsula, which is a few hours south of San Francisco, contains tourism destinations like Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Pebble Beach, Point Lobos State Preserve, 17-Mile Drive, and Big Sur is immediately to the south.
I absconded with the rental car one evening after the real adults turned in early. The destination was Peter B’s Brewpub.
Located in the historic district, between the Portola plaza and the wharf, the place is not particularly easy to find. I had no expectations whatsoever. Approaching the host station I briefly wondered if this was a sports-bar-turned-pseudo-brewery. But the selection of beer books near the entrance was wildly reassuring (Randy Mosher, Garret Oliver) that this was not for the faint of heart.
The bartender put any remaining qualms to rest when he explained that they only serve their own beer and would be happy to pour me a flight. It is a steal of a flight, too, at only $6.50 for 5 beers, and even specialty brews are included!
Nothing was bad. And among the five, I enjoyed each one individually for what it was. The large menu made me apprehensive, conjuring images of the mammoth Cheesecake Factory sort of attitude: quantity over quality. But thankfully this was not the case at all. Considering the breadth of their selection, many of the styles were spot-on with only the most nit-picky of criticism that, by the end of each glass, had totally vanished as each beer’s enjoyable surprises emerged.
One favorite of the bunch was the beautifully unfiltered, free-spirited Wit with its natural pairing of passion fruit. The taste was so natural and lovely that it forced me to consider why this tropical fruit is not used more often in conjunction with wheat or Belgian yeast. Very well done.
The Grapefruit IPA is a collaboration with the new Alvarado Street Brewery (coming up next post) and possessed a mesmerizing aroma. I could have gone for a bit more hop complexity personally, but it was a solid IPA.
I enjoyed the service (they tolerated me sitting at the bar, moving outside, ordering food last minute, and generally asking a lot of annoying questions) and adored the little patio. It was charming enough to overcome foul-mouthed sports fans and is within walking distance of all sorts of entertaining historical and cultural gems.
It sounds like the locals do not take this established brewpub for granted, either, nominating it for a host of local accolades, along with the beer itself. Visit for dinner or a quick patio stop. But trust me, you’ll want to sip slowly at dusk, next to a fire pit, the occasional sea lion barking in the background.