I remember exactly what I thought when I visited the brewery and tap room for Dust Bowl Brewing when it was under construction before it opened last summer:
“Gosh, this place is huge. They are never going to fill it, not to mention keep the downtown restaurant open at the same time.”
But there’s a reason that I write stories for a living and don’t run a business. The place – 3000 Fulkerth Road in Turlock – is booming most nights and weekends, and already expanding. Dust Bowl spokeswoman Michelle Peterson said it’s served more than 260,000 people since opening.
On a visit last week, photo director Joan Barnett Lee and I looked at the new bocce courts, event facilities and brewing equipment. Oh, and beer. Lots and lots of beer.
The brewing equipment is actually the original setup from Dust Bowl’s more humble beginnings in the Turlock Regional Industrial Park, co-owner Brett Tate said. “This is where we started,” he said.
It was installed in the back of the brewery, near the cold room, just last week. The 300-gallon system brewed up the first batches of Hops of Wrath. It was replaced by its larger neighbor in the front of the brewery, which handles 2,000 gallons at a time.
Now, with the original in place, brewers can use it for the “pilot batch,” meaning new recipes they want to try. The best of those recipes — they can tell by what they sell off the taps at the brewery and downtown tap room — is then bottled and distributed more widely. That includes the newest offering, California Line Vanilla Blonde Ale. (I thought that didn’t sound very good — I’m not wild about flavored beers and vanilla is just too sweet. Yup, wrong again. It’s a nice, lightish beer with a mellow taste that isn’t sweet at all. I imagine it’s just the thing after a hot day doing yard work.)
As they get the systems going more consistently — Peterson said the goal is to be brewing seven days a week — that’s a lot of beer.
Seasonal brews — Change Order has been the most recent — come and go. Last year’s popular Canal Surfer will be returning this summer, Tate said. Other brews (hello, Taco Truck amber) have joined the regular lineup and won’t be going anywhere.
Tate said after a year of starting up the new place and expanding the brewing operation, “This is the fun part. We can kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now it’s just up to us to execute.”
The patio area has been a big success, so much that new amenities are in the works there, too. The lawn games have been expanded and soon will include the bocce courts. Those will be part of an area available to rent for private events, with its own beer taps and food cart. But when it’s not rented, diners and sippers will be able to rent the courts for a round or two of the Italian lawn-bowling game.
Liz Jaureguy is Dust Bowl’s new social media and events manager. She said she envisions everything from wedding receptions to corporate functions at the venue.
Finally, if you want to get a look at the inner workings like Joan and I did, tours will be available this summer.