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The new top beer destination in Santa Cruz: burger. on Mission Street

For awhile now (not sure exactly how many they’ve done so far) burger. on the West Side of Santa Cruz has been hosting tap takeover nights featuring a different brewery every month. I attended my first tap takeover last month, which featured Sierra Nevada, and another one this week featuring Stone Brewing Co.

Last month was a blast, with Sierra’s local sales rep, Quinn Gardner giving out brewery schwag and answering questions about the myriad of Sierra Nevada beers on tap. I tried a few beers, including the World Beer Cup-winnning Pilsner, which was as perfect a German pilsner as I’ve ever had, and the Pro-Am Audition old ale, which was very nice as well. There were something like 15 beers in total form Sierra Nevada, many of them rare, draught-only offerrings. Notable members of the Central Coast beer geekery were in attendance, including Chris and Merideth, the couple behind thebeergeek.com. To make a great lineup of beers even better, burger. paired several of the beers with specially-created dishes for the night. We had the chocolate truffle sampler paired with the Empire Strikes Black imperial stout for a perfect dessert. The chipotle truffle was my favorite of the bunch.

This wednesday was Stone Brewing Co.’s turn to take over the taps. All the Stone regular offerings were on tap, as well as special releases including Lukcy Basartd Ale, 10.10.10 Vertical Epic Ale, 2009 Old Guardian, 2010 Double Bastard Ale, Cali-Belgique IPA, and Sublimely Self Righteous Ale. A quality spread of beers by any account, though being the Stone fan that I am, the 10.10.10 was the only beer on the list that I hadn’t had. A strong belgian-style pale ale with chamomile and a blend of white grape juices added, it had a very complex fruity and vinous profile that gave an intensely sweet impression, despite a very dry finish. I had previously heard mixed reviews on this one, but I think it’s a fine addition to the Vertical Epic series. The crowd wasn’t as intense as last month, and there was no one from Stone on hand (I hear they are currently looking for a new Central Coast sales rep) but it was still a great opportunity to try a bunch of Stone beers that you’ll never see on tap for one night locally otherwise.

Next month New Belgium will be taking over the taps on May 18th. If you think New Belgium is little more than Fat Tire and Ranger, you’ll be in for a shock. They make some of the best sour ales in the world, and if they bring anything from the Love series, I’ll be lining up at opening. June welcomes our quirky neighbors form the north, Lagunitas Brewing Co. Lagunitas brews a surprising number of special beers that hardly ever make it out of Petaluma, and I know that their next limited release it slated to be a Bavarian Doppelweizen brewed in collaboration with Rolec, the Bavarian company constructing their new 175-barrel brewhouse that is set to be on-line by the end of the year. Hopefully we’ll see some of these more out-there offerings.