Monterey Bay beer

Master Craft

Post No Bills

Post No Bills in Sand City has fueled the rise of Monterey Bay’s now thriving craft beer scene.
Photo by Sherman Chu

Two multinational conglomerates control around 90 percent of the U.S. beer supply, pumping out a river of forgettable liquid. The good news: The remaining 10 percent brings an infinite flow of compelling craft brews, some of which have transformed the Monterey Bay beer experience.

In Monterey County, one of the key contributors to the craft beer boom was — and is — Post No Bills (PNB) Craft Beer House in Sand City. The name borrows from the message seen across urban hardscapes discouraging signs and posters and graffiti, which in turn evokes the street artists who go against the mainstream, in the same way craft brewers do their best work.

The interior of the industrial PNB space is splashed with striking graffiti reflected both in the long stainless steel bar and the refrigerator doors that hold some 300 small-batch bottles — or roughly one label for each resident of tiny Sand City.

Longtime PNB consultant Jeff Moses has worked on developing beers for English Ales and BevMo! since 2001 and created Monterey Beer Festival, now going on its 17th year, so he's as qualified as anyone to provide perspective on how the industry has brought us to this point. "It was a craving for unique flavors," he says. "It was built on very American fundamentals: personal drive, creativity, big flavors, high alcohol — more, bigger, better."

He observed American homebrewers and microbrewers as they traveled through Belgium and Germany, realizing they could do it themselves. Soon, a movement found momentum. "They started to do European-style lagers with their own flair," Moses says. "It was a swell of the right things at the right time."

Kye Ricks, who co-owns PNB and curates much of its massive inventory, thinks beer is catching up with the ingenuity expressed in other spirits. "People enjoyed so many different cocktails and wines, and it was this beverage that was left stuck on one thing, a super light lager, a singular flavor, a singular style," he says. "As more styles started becoming available, beer drinkers tried them, and they loved them. Once you're exposed, it's hard to go back to Bud Light."

Along the way, the Monterey Bay area has become a destination for good microbrews. Santa Cruz, just 40 miles north, brings more quality brews than ever with the ongoing expansion of Alvarado Street Brewery's beer offerings and last year's debut of cult favorite Fieldwork.

Monterey Bay Beer

Photography courtesy Sherman Chu, Fieldwork, Alvarado Street Brewery

Many of the following establishments continuously rotate their beers. Fear not: The styles may shift, but the quality is a constant. Here are a half-dozen craft beers to savor.

Legend of Laguna IPA, Peter B's Brewpub
Monterey's original craft brewery has evolved dramatically in the last five years. The best bets are those fresh rotating and small-batch new brews from Justin Rivard, but the Legend is most legit among the standbys.

Anderson Valley Summer Solstice Ale (Nitro), Beer Thirty Bottle Shop & Pour House
Sip on this sweet, malty beer while enjoying Beer Thirty's garden-style setting with picnic tables, dog-friendly areas, cornhole, and other lawn games.

Jolly Pumpkin La Roja, Post No Bills
This worthy wild ale, with amber glow and a dry, sweet-and-sour flow, comes on draft when they can source it and is available in bottles when they can't.

Pulp, Fieldwork Brewing Co.
Brewer Alex Tweet works with a wide range of styles, but his greatest gift is for creamy, hazy, citrus-laced IPAs, including Pulp, a special release they have to put a purchase limit on so everyone in line gets at least one tall boy.

1066 Pale Ale, English Ales
English Ales Brewery has taps throughout town and a blue-collar, old-school pub in Marina with hundreds of mugs hanging from the ceiling. For the hoppy people out there, 1066 is the number to call.

Mai Tai PA, Alvarado Street Brewery
Brewer J.C. Hill and company carry more than 20 house beers at their Salinas tasting room-production facility and Monterey restaurant. This IPA is the one with the most Great American Beer Festival medals.

Mix It Up

Set down the brew for a night and sip on one (or all) of these inventive cocktails.

Monterey Bay Beer

Restaurant 1833
Photo by Michelle Magdalena

1) BUBBLY 2.0
What happens when local champagne is stirred with strawberry flavor and topped with a potent dollop of St. Germain foam? You relax.
Restaurant 1833

2) French Ginger
Grey Goose vodka and Huana liqueur are graced with fresh grated ginger, lemon juice, and sugar for a memorable handcrafted concoction along vibrant Cannery Row.
Angel's Share Craft Cocktail Bar

3) Lemon Drop
Any cocktail goes down well at the area's hippest spot for drinks and socializing, but this classic drink tops them all. Have two.
Lallapalooza Restaurant

4) Passionfruit Rita
She's a keeper, dressed nicely with Reposado tequila, Cointreau, and a potent passionfruit purée.
Tarpy's Roadhouse

5) Whiskey Flights
Order The Bourbon Batch and feel your palate awaken, going from Basil Hayden to Booker's to Baker's to a 10-year Bulleit.
Bull and Bear Whiskey Bar & Taphouse

6) PèpeCello
Mixologists Christian Pèpe and Jason Wallace transformed Carmel's bar scene with their wildly inventive drinks, many of which are infused with Pèpe's own limoncello brand, PèpeCello.
Starlight Rooftop Lounge at Vesuvio

7) Red Sky Supreme Bloody Mary
This beast (above right) holds a passionate amount of Hangar 1 Vodka along with assorted cheeses, specialty meats, wafers, and fresh asparagus wrapped in lean prosciutto. Hail Mary!
Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar