When I received the news in November last year that Alpine Beer Co. had been acquired by Green Flash Brewing I had a simple knee-jerk reaction which was: oh no!!! There is no logic in my reaction. Green Flash is an excellent, committed brewery dedicated to spreading the gospel of craft both at their main facility but more recently by stepping up their bottling and production. If Alpine was to be sold, there could hardly be a more qualified company to take them on. I was reacting to an intuition that the treasured charm and cult status of this beloved brewery would vanish under a larger, assertively-growing craft industry leader. And what would happen to the tiny brewpub facility on Alpine Blvd?
The answer has arrived: in a couple months, the brewpub will move to a larger location about a mile down the road. The excellent systematics that founder Pat Mcilhenney and his staff have put into place will carry over very well, I imagine. Still, I could not resist visiting one more time before the move and I hope the reader of this site will find time to do so in the upcoming weeks.
After the 30 minute drive out of the city, you park and open up the simple front door. A board with the small, but choice tap list greets you so that you can order up a beer before you are even seated. Said beer is pretty much in your hand when you sit down at the short bar or one of the tables in this cottage. The menu offers bar classics like sausages, nachos, sandwiches, and a dandy Southwestern themed salad with black bean salsa, avocado, and chipotle. One of the star features, however, is house smoked BBQ. I order a brisket sandwich with sweet potato fries on the side. Within minutes, everything arrives, freshly fried and plated. The kitchen timing works wonders at Alpine. There is no fancy to be found here, only servers who call to you across the room, asking if you have everything you need.
I finish my food and my Keene Idea, an astounding Double Nelson IPA created for Toronado San Fran’s 25th anniversary. I check the board again. The two guest taps, Orval and Stiegel Radler, speak volumes about the Alpine itinerary: beer that speaks to enlightened beerheads alongside fluffy selections to appeal to those who like their beer, um, fruity. I decide to dial the hops (which waft across the room) down with Captain Stout, an underreported and classic dry stout. The dark malts move in on my palate as I move to the small back patio where much needed rain is beginning to wash the decks. The whole experience hits a sweet spot of “life is good”-ness. Ahhh-this is one of the best things that drinking beer offers, a connection with tradition and life’s abundance.
Every trip to the brewpub has ended by me moving a couple doors down to the brewery to take home souvenirs of this momentary, yet transcendent experience. A two bottle limit on each beer, and with the cult demand, don’t expect much inventory. I do proudly carry out, under each arm like baguettes, a tidy two of Pure Hoppiness. Purely happy and hoppy is the way I feel when leaving. I will be back in a couple months to visit it in all its glory at the brand new location. We’ll check in with each other, then.