Ladies and gentlemen, pull out your pint glasses. St. Stan’s is back, baby.
Modesto’s iconic microbrew beer is being revived with new owners and a new downtown spot. St. Stan’s Brewery was originally founded in 1984 and sat at its flagship location at Ninth and L streets for decades. During its heyday, the brewery distributed its beer across 17 states and seven countries. But after various changes in ownership, the brewery stopped operating around 2013. The attached restaurant, which changed names over the years and most recently was known as Hero’s Sports Lounge, carried on until 2015 when it closed as well.
Last fall business partners and Turlock natives Rich Hodder and Chad Rice, who have been friends since nursery school, bought St. Stan’s Brewery, giving them rights to the name, licensing and recipes.
“We had always been lovers of craft and quality beer. St. Stan’s is Stanislaus County and Modesto’s beer. It was my and Chad’s first craft brew experience.” Hodder said. “We saw this as a fantastic opportunity to revive Modesto’s beer brand. We just felt compelled to bring it back.”
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In late May they took over the Sandude Taproom spot on 11th Street, two doors down from Commonwealth restaurant, and began renovating the space. St. Stan’s started brewing in a facility in Sacramento, but also leased space at the Turlock site of Sandude Brewing Co., which has since shut down. Hodder and Rice have been working with the the owners of Skewers, who bought the former St. Stan’s building, and purchased some of its old brewing equipment as well as the original St. Stan’s outdoor neon sign and two large stained-glass windows from inside.
The partners also brought on board Bill Coffey, who worked for St. Stan’s for 25 years and was its former brewmaster, to bring back the brand’s traditional beers. They plan to brew 8 to10 of the original beers like the popular Red Sky Ale, Whistlestop Pale Ale, Amber and even the highly potent Barley Wine. Hodder said they want to also add more than half a dozen new recipes to the roster. The site has 17 draft beer taps, with the possibility to add more.
But the new St. Stan’s won’t just be a beer joint, it also will serve a full menu and specialize in brick-oven pizzas. A custom-made pizza oven was installed recently which will run at close to 800 degrees and have the ability to crank out up to 200 pies an hour. They also plan to offer salads, soups, tapas and, down the road, more pub favorites. The site will have the capacity to seat around 70 inside and out.
Hodder said they hope to begin pouring the old St. Stan’s favorites in about two to three weeks, when they finish brewing. The first of the traditional beers to return will be the Graffiti Wheat. They currently have some other newer recipes available in kegs, which they tapped for an small open house last Friday. Within a month they plan to have a soft open where people can come in and buy a pint, order pizzas and more. Then, once all the traditional brews are ready, they will have a grand opening around mid-August. Hodder said they plan to hire 6 to 10 people, from servers to bartenders.
The decor will include some familiar St. Stan’s touches, including the original neon sign which hangs over the taps. The walls are covered in metal seed separator grates, a nod to the Central Valley’s ag roots. Vintage photos of St. Stan’s brewery are also framed and hanging. Hodder was coy about whether the famed monk figures, which stood watch above the bar at the original site, will make a reappearance.
One of the business’s new touches is a custom-built white 1940 Dodge truck with a refrigerated trailer that can serve beer. They hope to use it for local events with an emphasis on supporting nonprofits and charities in the region. It debuted at the North Modesto Kiwanis Classic Car Parade during Graffiti Summer.
But simple nostalgia isn’t all that’s on the minds of Hodder and Rice, who both have backgrounds in area farming as well as public safety and the military, respectively. They have big dreams for St. Stan’s down the road. They are in the process of buying the old Grange Feeds silo complex that towers next to the Modesto Junior College east campus. The site has been largely dormant since around 2009. They want to renovate the 6,000-square-foot building and turn it into their brewing facility and add a large beer garden. Then, further down the road, they want to start distributing the beer.
“We want to be Modesto’s beer again. We want to be beloved in town and grown organically from there,” Hodder said.
As someone with more than a couple old St. Stan’s glasses in her kitchen cabinets, holdovers from long-ago pint nights, it’s exciting to have the brand come back. St. Stan’s reportedly was the seventh oldest microbrewery in the United States and had been a Modesto mainstay for some 30 years. So it only seems fitting that a beer with the slogan “Conceived in heaven, brewed in California” should be reborn.
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And finally, you’ll have to wait just a little bit longer for those cookies.
Cobblestone Bakery owner Gerit Sand is pushing back the opening for his new downtown Modesto eatery for a week. The bakery and restaurant on 11th Street was going to open this coming week, but Sand said some final touches and inspections will move the opening to the week of July 17.