Food & Wine

Monterey brewery offers reason to roam

Derek Wolfgram/Special to the Town Crier
Alvarado Street Brewing’s sour ales offer a gentle introduction to a funky style. Their cherry, plum and black currant fruit elements provide acidic tartness without too much complexity.

Alvarado Street Brewery in Monterey opened in May 2014 and quickly caught the attention of craft beer aficionados in the Bay Area and across the country.

My first experience with its brews came at the February 2015 Meet the Brewers event at Hermitage Brewing during SF Beer Week, where Alvarado Street’s Citraveza hoppy Mexican lager was my favorite beer of the day.

Its Mai Tai Pale Ale earned a gold medal at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival, followed by a silver medal at the 2016 festival. In the past year, Alvarado Street has started canning its beers, enabling more people to discover not only its hoppy beers, but also its well-regarded kettle sours.

I recently visited Alvarado Street Brewery & Grill in downtown Monterey and enjoyed several of its offerings. Wharf Rat IPA pours an extremely cloudy orange color with low cream-colored head, with tropical hops and Belgian candi sugar combining to create an inviting aroma of sweet orange and cantaloupe. In contrast, the beer is very piney on the palate, with moderate hop bitterness that persists through the finish and strikes a balance with the hint of underlying sweetness.

Sour ales

Cherry & Bright kettle sour ale is a hazy pinkish-orange color with low white head. While the aroma of tart cherries is subtle, the cherry flavor is huge, highlighting both tart (Montmorency) and sweet (Royal Anne and Bing) varieties, with mild vanilla sweetness contrasting with the tartness. This could be a great introduction for newcomers to sour beers – it is relatively simple, with a focus on acidic tartness rather than the earthy, funky, complex sourness that comes from more traditional aged sours inoculated with multiple strains of wild yeast and bacteria.

Another kettle sour ale in a similar vein is Fruit Cocktail, fermented with Mirabelle plums, black currants and lime juice. The beer is slightly hazy, with a stunning purplish-red color and a low but long-lasting pink head. The ripe plum aroma includes hints of earthy spice, and the flavor combines sweet ripe stone fruit with a touch of zesty lime tartness to produce a boysenberry-like character. The finish, soft and subtle, left me wishing for a touch more acidity and complexity.

Hints of cocoa

The Best Part of Waking Up coffee milk stout pours a deep brown color with ruby highlights and a rich, dense, long-lasting tan head from nitrogen carbonation. The aroma is reminiscent of coffee with Bailey’s, and on the palate the sweet coffee and cream flavor is followed by dark, smooth cocoa. The smooth, creamy texture extends into the soft yet roasty coffee finish, leaving me wanting another one right away.

Brown For Whatever brown ale is a bright, clear reddish brown with a medium beige head of foam. The aroma highlights toast and cocoa, with hints of spicy hops, and the flavor mirrors the aroma. A mild hop bitterness persists from the initial sip all the way through the finish, where it melds nicely with the mild roasted malts. Brown For Whatever hides its 6.8 percent ABV very well – though it’s quite flavorful, I would have pegged it in the low 5 percent range.

If you’re down in the Monterey area, I certainly recommend a visit, or you may find Alvarado’s beers on tap or in cans at establishments closer to home.

For more information, visit

Derek Wolfgram is a Certified Beer Judge through the Beer Judge Certification Program and an officer of the Silicon Valley Sudzers homebrew club. For more information, visit

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