Biz Beat

Drink up; five new craft beer bars opening across the valley, starting in Modesto

The Brass Tap is opening five locations in the Central Valley, starting in Modesto in late 2019. The national craft beer bar offers some 60 craft brews on tap and another 100-plus in bottles.
The Brass Tap is opening five locations in the Central Valley, starting in Modesto in late 2019. The national craft beer bar offers some 60 craft brews on tap and another 100-plus in bottles. The Brass Tap

If it seems like craft beer is springing up all over the Valley, you’re right.

The two new craft breweries planned (one in Modesto and one in Hughson) in coming month will have to make room for a handful of national craft beer bars opening in the Central Valley. Florida-based chain The Brass Tap plans five new locations in the region in coming years, with the first debuting in Modesto in late 2019. Husband-and-wife Modesto-based franchisees Rick and Kathy Sousa have signed a deal to open all of the restaurant-bars locally.

Rick Sousa, who has worked for Turlock’s craft beer company Dust Bowl Brewing for the past two years, is branching out on his own with The Brass Tap. The chain currently has 47 locations across 16 states, with two in California near Sacramento. The company has been operating since 2008, when it was founded in Tampa. As its name suggests, it offers a large variety of regional and national craft beers on tap.

The Brass Tap locations typically have about 60 brews on draft and another 100 to 150 bottled beers to serve. But they’re more than just bars. They all have full kitchens and offer a menu of pub food like burgers, pretzels, flatbreads, tacos and more. And you can get more than just craft beer, too.

“We are big on the draft beer experience but we also have hand-crafted cocktails, barrel-aged bourbons and unique food pairings. And there’s always something going on with live music, trivia and even arcades,” said Jamie Cecil, vice president for franchising at The Brass Tap.

Sousa said what interested him and his wife in taking on the five new restaurant-bars was their shared interest in craft beers and desire to bring the best brews under one roof.

“It’s amazing to see the diversity of what everyone’s palate is for beer,” Sousa said. “Here we have the opportunity to tap into multiple breweries that have a lot of great products. We want to bring multiple breweries to one place for people.”

Cecil said beers on tap change by region and season. So what will be on tap in Modesto will be totally different from a Brass Tap in Maryland.

No locations have been finalized for any of the Sousas’ five Brass Taps yet. But they plan to begin their real estate search this month. Cecil said the company typically looks for about 3,000 to 3,500-square-foot spaces with room for large patios. They chain prefers to be on end caps, or corners, in high traffic areas. Each restaurant can seat about 100 to 110 people inside.

Sousa said he is looking all over the city, downtown and beyond, for his first location. It should be open by mid-to-late 2019. Then after that the other four sites would roll out on a six- to seven-year plan. The Sousas are looking up and down the Valley and in the Manteca and Tracy areas for other sites.

So raise a pint, or several, because craft beer in the Central Valley is only growing stronger.

Elsewhere on the Business Beat:

Ceres now has its second Mountain Mike’s pizza location.

The California-based pizza chain has opened a new location in the Whitmore Plaza Shopping Center, at the corner of Whitmore Avenue and Mitchell Road. The new 2,840-square-foot site has a kids’ activity area with arcade games and big screen TVs throughout. The other Ceres location is on East Hatch Road.

The new Mountain Mike’s restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m daily at 2912 Whitmore Ave. For more information, call 209-537-7777 or visit

And finally, head out to downtown Modesto for the DoMo First Friday celebration this weekend.

The free monthly event includes a craft fair and live music. This month, in celebration of the film “Chistopher Robin” opening at the Brenden Theatres, the event will feature a Brown Bag Community and Teddy Bear Picnic. People are invited to order takeout from nearby restaurants and enjoy it on an extra-long picnic table that will be installed in Tenth Street Plaza. Kids old and young are encouraged to bring their favorite teddy bears in honor of Pooh and his pals. The event will run from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday.

For more information, visit

Marijke Rowland: 209-578-2284, @marijkerowland

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