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It’s been a couple weeks since I returned from Germany with World Brewing Academy Diploma in hand, and I have used the time to catch up with the local beer scene and talk to some of the players making things happen right now in the Santa Cruz area. The job market is still practically non-existent (unless you start you own brewery, but more about that…) but there are some exciting things happening right now that deserve some press.

First up, Uncommon brewers, who have been brewing next door to Pacific Cookie Company in the Old Sash Mill industrial/business park off of River Street, are undergoing a sizable expansion project right now. They have taken over the unit to their rear and are currently installing a 30-barrel brewhouse, new tanks, cold box, grain silos, and everything else that they need to more than quadruple their capacity (their previous system was only 7 barrels). This will firmly place them as the largest brewery in he area. I was able to talk to Uncommon Brewer Reed recently and it sounds like they are targeting to begin production on the new system by the beginning of the new year. Also of note, they are sourcing cans from a new supplier that allows them to more easily diversify their label portfolio. This means that we will very shortly see cans of their delicious Baltic Porter and Golden State Ale hitting the market! They have been working on a new and improved recipe for Golden State Ale and I can’t wait to see the final product. When they get going with the new system, I will try and get some photos of everything in action for a follow up piece.

Close neighbor Santa Cruz Ale Works is planning on adding a new bottled and draught beer to their lineup in 2011. Dubbed “Cruz Control,” it’s going to be a big, hoppy red ale weighing in at 7.2% alcohol by volume and should see 22oz bottles. If it’s anything like the Resolution Red Ale that Head Brewer Marc Rosenblum brewed while at Seabright Brewery several years back, I think it is going to attract a lot of fans.

Now for what is probably the most exciting news of all, Santa Cruz County currently has not one, not two, but THREE new breweries that are planning on opening in 2011. The furthest toward opening its doors is the Corralitos Brewing Company, located off of Freedom Boulevard down in Corralitos. They are working on a relatively small brewery system (somewhere between a nano and micro at 4bbls/batch) but are planning to release a wide variety of styles including Munich Helles, Blonde, Pale Ale, Red Ale, Double IPA, Smoked Porter, and American Stout. Barbecue restaurant Smoqe in Aptos has a deal to pour their beers and is already using the Smoked Porter in its house sauce. No date has been set for an official launch, but look for sometime in the spring-to-summer. Being a massive fan of smoked beers, I can’t wait for this one.

The other two breweries are still in the earlier planning stages and are both setting up shop on the Westside of town. I can’t say too much at this point other than Tim Clifford of Seven Bridges is involved in one, and they are going to be adopting some of Uncommon Brewers’ old 7-barrel equipment. Look for a lot of delicious IPAs and funky/sour experimental beers once they get going. The other brewery is being started by two fellow World Brewing Academy alumni from the class of ’09 and they are planning on working on a truly nanobrewery scale of 2 barrels, with all of their production initially being sold in-house in the brewery’s tap room. Look for more info on both of these breweries in the coming months.