Tuolumne County in the Sierra Nevada is known for its world-class outdoor adventure that includes Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest. There is one trail, however, where no hiking is needed — the Tuolumne County Craft Beverage Trail.
Locals and visitors alike can sip their way from Sonora to Yosemite on the Tuolumne County Craft Beverage Trail presented by Visit Tuolumne County. No need to keep track of a trail map, the Craft Beverage Trail has gone digital and not only features a list of places to visit, but also allows participants to earn points for prizes.
The trail is a great way to support local businesses and craft beverage makers, all while discovering new beverage creations. The Craft Beverage Trail is free to download, and many businesses offer special discounts for Beverage Trail users. Participants earn 250 points for every check-in on the trail. When participants reach 1,250 points they receive a Tuolumne County Craft Beverage Trail t-shirt. Visit all locations and they receive an entry into the grand prize drawing taking place in December 2023.
SONORA BREWING COMPANY
Thomas Silva’s friends keep it real. And when Silva started home-brewing his own beer about a decade ago, their opinions mattered.
“My buddies are realists,” said Silva, a Sonora native who owns and operates Sonora Brewing Co., 28 S. Washington St. “They would tell me, ‘Dude, that tastes like s***.’ But then they started to compliment my beers, and then it got to the point where I thought, ‘Maybe I should open a brewery.’ If they’re telling me to rock ’n’ roll, then let’s do it.”
So, he did.
Sonora Brewing Co. opened its doors on Independence Day 2019 — the city’s first brewery since 1901, according to Silva.
The microbrewery has a five-barrel system and produces in the neighborhood of 40 barrels per month.
“Somewhere around there,” Silva said.
Sonora Brewing Co. has about a dozen featured beers, with new ones frequently popping up on the menu.
“We have eight real staples,” said Silva, who then proceeded to name nine featured beers.
There’s the Ditler Ale (4 percent alcohol), LeiLani IPA (7.0), Blonde Ale (4.2), Citra IPA (7.7), Fall Fresh IPA (7.4), No Name Pale Ale (6.6), Trailblazer (7.0), Tribute IPA (6.0) and the Bradford Imperial Stout (9.0).
Silva recently had a contest to name the No Name Pale Ale, but the consensus was that No Name was, in fact, the name.
“Those are the ones we always have on tap,” said Silva. “Those are the crowd favorites. And a lot of them are liking our Daybreak Session IPA. It’s 4 percent and super hoppy. It feels like you’re taking care of business, but you can still take care of business.”
Silva gained entry into the world of brewing by watching his father brew in the family garage.
“He’d do non-traditional beers and he’d use extracts,” said Silva. “I don’t do a bunch of crazy beers. If you want to get all weird, that’s cool. But if you want to make some good beer, just stick to the basics. And adjust the awesomeness as you go.”
In addition to the beer, Sonora Brewing Co. offers a full menu, with appetizers, salads, sandwiches and burgers.
“I would pretty much say we have the best burgers in town,” boasted Silva. “We have a lot of fun options, like our caprese salad and our chipotle chicken sandwich; we have a lot of neat appetizers; our fish and chips are off the chain; and every second-Saturday, we do something different.”
On the second Saturday of each month, nearby Bradford Street is closed off for a mini Sonora Brewing Co. festival, with live music and specialty entrees such as oysters, crab or shrimp tacos.
“How can you not have fun if beer is a part of your life?” said Silva. “I have so many friends and acquaintances who are envious of what I get to do for a living. I’m enjoying what I’m doing.”
While Sonora Brewing Co. is small, expansion has always been a goal for Silva. And that goal is becoming a reality.
“We’ve had quite the setback with everything that’s transpired the last couple of years,” said Silva. “But by third quarter this year we will be on store shelves in Tuolumne County and, perhaps, surrounding counties. So, I’m pretty stoked about that. I’m very optimistic about what the future holds.”
In the end, it’s not just about making beer. For Silva, it’s about making Sonora a better place.
“Did I want this to be a Sonora thing?” Silva asks. “Hell yes! I knew the city of Sonora didn’t have a brewery, and it would be a sweet brewery town. My goal was to better the city that I grew up in.”
IF YOU GO
28 S. Washington St., Sonora
HOURS: Noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday
noon to 9 p.m. Friday; 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday
11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
INFO: 209-532-1631 / Instagram: @sonora_brew_co /
Facebook: Sonora Brewing Company
AROUND THE HORN BREWING COMPANY
Rachel and Andrew Sabatine met at a casino in Palm Springs.
“We were in line for beer,” Rachel noted.
Fitting, then, that less than a decade later, the couple owns and operates Around the Horn Brewing Company in Groveland.
Both were living and working in Southern California when they met, she in the tech industry and he in real estate.
But beer was their passion. Even so … “You can’t just wake up one day and say, ‘I’m going to open a brewery,’” said Rachel.
So they did what any ambitious couple would do. They moved to Nashville and got jobs in breweries to learn more about the industry.
“We wanted a change,” said Rachel. “Nashville has an incredible beer scene and it’s more affordable than Los Angeles. We both were working in breweries while I went back and got my MBA at Vanderbilt (University). And we were working on a business plan the whole time we were there.”
Rachel, whose family owned a home in Groveland before the couple met, and Andrew decided that the Sierra Nevada would be a good place to open their brewery. But not before another sojourn to Tennessee — Knoxville, this time — where Andrew did a three-month crash course in brewing, while commuting to Nashville for an apprenticeship at a brewery there.
Finally, in the summer of 2020, Around the Horn Brewing Company opened for business — smack dab in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.
“I think we had a bit of an advantage because we were new and we expected it to be a bit rocky,” said Rachel. “We were probably more OK with the unknown.”
Coming out of the pandemic, Around the Horn is making quite a name for itself. Their Hetch Hetchy Haze — a 6 percent hazy IPA — has become a fan favorite.
“We don’t have it all the time,” noted Rachel. “Frequently, but not all the time.”
Around the Horn is also gaining a reputation for its rotating fruited sour series — Tip Top Lollipop.
“We’re always rotating different fruit,” said Rachel, pointing out that the series is named for Groveland’s Tip Top Mine. “Right now, we have two different versions of that. We have a chocolate-covered raspberry (6.5 percent), and the other is a marionberry-boysenberry vanilla (6 percent).”
And then there’s the beer slushies.
“Three bikers came in the other day,” said Rachel. “I think they rode in from Turlock. It was really hot outside and they wanted something yummy, but they wanted something with lower alcohol because they had to continue their ride. So, they all got beer slushies. They were so excited.”
Around the Horn has a small kitchen, serving sandwiches and tacos and pretzels with beer cheese.
“I drink the beer cheese like soup sometimes,” said Rachel. “I know that’s not healthy, but I do.”
Located at 17820 Highway 120, the brewery has been hampered by the road closure into Yosemite National Park.
“With a closure like this, we have to rely more on local patrons rather than tourists,” said Rachel. “And they have supported us like crazy. They spend their dollars with us and that’s very important to us.”
Around the Horn Brewing Company is open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., except on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when it opens at 4 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, it stays open until 10 p.m.
The kitchen always closes one hour before the tap room, and the menu is limited on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Call 209-436-9919 to place a to-go order. Visit online at aroundthehornbeer.com.
IF YOU GO
17820 Highway 120, Groveland
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, Monday and Thursday
4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
INFO: 209-436-9919 / aroundthehornbeer.com.
Indigeny Reserve sits on 160 acres of foothill countryside, offering visitors breathtaking views courtesy of hiking trails along Phoenix Lake and leading to a Gold Rush-era mine, all in between sips of hard cider on the grounds’ shaded picnic area.
Jay and Judy Watson purchased Indigeny’s apple orchards in 2005 with the intent of producing organic apple crops, and soon, the pair decided to make hard cider with the apples that didn’t make the cut for all-natural apples.
Since then, Indigeny has grown to offer three different varieties of hard cider – a drier, yet sweet, organic cider, the refreshingly-sweet Extra Crisp cider and a blackberry cider, the sweetest of the three. Ciders at Indigeny are crafted with a unique blend of 52 apple varieties, like Granny Smith, Honey Crisp and Red Rome.
Indigeny Reserve also makes vodkas, created with flavors like sun-dried fig and lemoncello, and apple brandy, with some barrels that have been aged for nearly seven years. All of the cidery’s products can be sampled at their tasting bar, and tours of the operation – including its impressive group of 3,000-gallon fermentation tanks – are also available.
IF YOU GO
14679 Summers Lane, Sonora
HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day
INFO: (209) 533-9463 / indigenyreserve.com
The Armory is a large entertainment venue in downtown Sonora that offers guests a Beer Garden, banquet room, a wine room, and the swanky Bourbon Barrel.
After being dormant for several years, two families – Jenn and Doug Edwards and Rebecca and Jordan Barrows – joined forces to bring this entertainment mecca to life in the 209, including the relaunch of the Bourbon Barrel in 2022.
The Bourbon Barrel has an impressive whiskey wall with a rustic sliding library ladder and features unique creations such as the Barrel-Aged Black Manhattan and the Smoked Old Fashion made with Four Roses Bourbon that is quite the sight to see with the flame burning bright and the smoke swirling around. Those looking for something a little more delicate can try the Strawberry Bourbon Smash with muddled strawberries.
They offer a number of bourbons, rye, scotch, or mezcal flights or you can choose your own custom flight with a selection of three spirits.
IF YOU GO
208 S. Green St., Sonora
HOURS: Bourbon Barrel —
4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight
Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to
9 p.m. Sunday. Beer Garden —
4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
INFO: (209) 694-3158 / armorysonora.com