Situated just east of San Francisco, Pleasant Hill is near several craft breweries and some of the best beer gardens in the region.
The Contra Costa Beer Trail connects more than 40 breweries and restaurants through the Beer Trail Passport that runs through the area. With a mix of well-known beer meccas like Morgan Territory Brewing, the Mike Hess Brewery and smaller local breweries like Epidemic Ales, the region offers something for everyone, from the casual drinker to the beer aficionado.
In May 2014 they wound up purchasing the established and award-winning Schooner’s Grille and Brewery in Antioch, CA. They immediately supported their Brewmaster, Craig Cauwels, in entering craft beer competitions and started off with a bang by winning California Brewery of the Year at the California State Fair in 2014, going up against all the heavy hitters in California. Over the past ten years, Craig has produced some of the very best craft beers in the country.
With such a history, it was very puzzling that a brewery of that quality had never sought to distribute beyond a few local watering holes. The new owners joked that outside Antioch, Schooner’s had the best beer that nobody ever tasted.
They decided to remedy that situation by focusing all their attention on brewing great beer, significantly increasing manufacturing capacity, and to begin distributing as far and wide as practical. To that end, they acquired a large warehouse at 1885 N. MacArthur Drive in Tracy, CA, adapted it for brewing, added a beautiful tasting room, and re-branded as Morgan Territory Brewing.
Morgan Territory Brewing is taking on the Wild West. Named after a historic ranch located on the “morning side” of Mount Diablo, Morgan Territory Brewing is dedicated to the rich, independent character of the early pioneers that made California great. They are committed to producing bold and diverse, high-quality craft beers, and continuing their award-winning legacy.
Mike Hess Brewing
Originally started as a nano-brewery in San Diego back in 2010, the Hess family opened their fourth location in their hometown of Walnut Creek back in 2018. Since then, the brewery’s sprawling 2,200-square-foot beer has hosted visitors of all ages for friendly parties, family gatherings and more. Pets are welcome too.
There’s something for everyone at Mike Hess Brewing. Their expertly trained staff can guide novice beer drinkers through the impressive menu or help a connoisseur find just what she is looking for from the lists of housemade, local and regional options. Beer can be enjoyed inside the brewery or on the deck or patio outside, maybe over a rousing board game or cornhole competition. Sports fans can sit back and relax while watching their favorite teams battle it out on one of the spot’s many flat screen TVs.
Mike Hess Brewing in Walnut Creek is open year-round and available to host private parties and events. Concerts are held on a weekly basis along with other seasonal events. Check out the company’s website or call ahead to guarantee opening hours.
Calicraft Brewing Company
Founder Blaine Landberg opened the Walnut Creek location of Calicraft Brewing Co. in 2012, aiming to create an enterprise that could contribute to a more sustainable and ethical world while also bringing people together. The brewery includes 12 taps of local beer, including a few that are exclusive to the brewery, spread throughout the 2,000-square-foot indoor area.
Outside the taproom, visitors can enjoy seeing the brewery’s large fields of hops growing year-round while sipping on a local brew in the beer garden. Landberg told SFGate that he sees the brewery as a tribute to the “Deep East” Bay community and a way to have “our own regional spin to celebrate some of the flavors and tastes of California through the beers that we make.”
Opening hours vary by season at the Pleasant Hill location of Calicraft Brewery, so visitors should visit the brewery’s website or call before visiting. Make sure to check out their list of events-- the brewery hosts concerts and other events year-round. The brewery also sells many of its custom brews online and in bulk for interested customers.
The three founding couples behind Epidemic Ales decided to transform their beer-making hobby into their livelihoods in January of 2016, when they opened the first taproom in Concord, CA. Started as a one-barrel brewery and an eight-draft taproom, Epidemic Ales now pumps out its special brews through two 20-barrel fermenters and 24 taps.
But locals love Epidemic Ales for more than their great beer. The brewery is a staple of the community, regularly hosting painting nights, beer parties and tons of other events. To make it even easier to join the Epidemic Ales family, regulars can join the Mug Club, giving participants one free pour of beer a day into their collectible mug after purchase of either an annual or lifetime membership.
Epidemic Ales is open year-round with seasonal hours. Make sure to check out their website for more information on opening hours and local events.
Contra Costa County Beer Trail
The Contra Costa County Beer Trail kicked off this summer with more than 40 local breweries and restaurants participating in the fun. Starting last June, beer lovers can sign up for the Concord Beer Trail Passport to keep track of where they visit and what beers they taste while accumulating points that can win them prizes.
After the trail’s launch this summer, the participant with the most points was crowned the Contra Costa County Beer Champion and received a medal; the venue Hop Grenade received the most check-ins and was awarded the Fan Favorite Brew Spot trophy.
The passport can be used all year long at any of the participating locations. Beer-loving social media users can earn more points by sharing their experiences on their accounts too. For up-to-date details about the Contra Costa Beer Trail Passport and participating breweries, check out the beer trail information page and map.
Offering local specialties and regional favorites, the breweries, bars, and restaurants of Pleasant Hill are ready to satisfy both your tummy and your palate. Beer-centric activities like the Beer Trail Passport program can be enjoyed year round, while other events like Pub in the Park are annual and require some advanced planning.
But one thing is for sure; whatever the season, visitors and locals alike can certainly find a great spot to enjoy beer in Pleasant Hill.
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Blues & Brews Festival
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