A not-so funny-thing happened on the way to what was going to be the summer-of-2018 opening of Rincon Brewery in Ventura:
Deposit in hand, the manufacturer of its 20-barrel brewhouse started to falter, then was taken over by a larger company. Would the second company honor Rincon’s rather sizable financial agreement with the first?
Head brewer Chas Cloud still breathes a sigh of relief when telling the story.
“(Co-founder) Kevin Clark and I flew up there (last week) and touched it, so we know it exists,” Cloud said with a laugh. ”It’s just 183 days delayed.”
The brewhouse is scheduled to arrive and be lowered into place through the roof this weekend.
In the meantime, Cloud has been brewing Bates Blonde ale, Indicator IPA and tart, fruity beers like Jellybowl POG at Rincon’s original Carpinteria location in anticipation of Ventura’s big debut, expected sometime between now and mid December.
When it opens, the nearly 13,000-square-foot former grocery store that was last home to a Salvation Army thrift shop near Ventura College will include a bar section, a dining room and a waiting area that doubles as a place to grab a keg and/or to browse Rincon Brewery hats and T-shirts.
Windows that look into the brewing area — where a dozen 40-barrel fermenters already stand at attention — can be found in a hallway that leads to the restrooms. Its domed, wood-paneled ceiling echoes the shape of a barrel.
Also featured will be a heated sheltered patio, accessible through an exterior gate and four roll-up doors that open off the interior dining and bar areas. Just beyond is a garden equipped with a 10-by-14 foot sandbox for the kids and a decomposed-granite surface tailor-made for corn hole.
From the archives: Carpinteria brewery on tap for Ventura (2016)
Put it all together, and the Ventura site is roughly four times the size of its Carpinteria counterpart, said general manager Jason Steffenauer.
“There’s plenty of room here for people to just stop in for a beer,” Steffenauer said, pointing to the 50-foot bar counter and a nearby row of tall-back chairs with matching tables.
Patrons who want to grab a bite to eat with their brews can do so at tables in an interior dining area overseen by the waitstaff.
Despite its much-larger size, the Ventura site has more of a neighborhood feel, said Clark. In part, that’s thanks to having room for darts and a shuffleboard, and to being on the edge of a residential area.
“We’re also facing what was Two Trees,” Clark said, nodding in the direction of the Ventura landmark, now in a regrowth phase following the 2016 demise of one of its titular trees.
Named for a surf spot at the Ventura-Santa Barbara County line, Rincon Brewery debuted four years ago in a Carpinteria bank building. Its co-founders have experience in the hospitality and outdoor-gear industries: Clark and wife Jessica Clark own Corktree Cellars Wine Bar & Bistro in Carpinteria, along with Peebee & Jay’s sandwich spots in Carpinteria and Port Hueneme. Mark Hyatt and Luisa Hyatt formerly owned Santa Barbara Outfitters, a store specializing in outdoor gear and equipment.
“This puts us back in touch with our good friends from Patagonia,” said Luisa Hyatt. “We are really looking forward to having community events here.”
The space will also be used for rotating exhibits by area artists. Works currently on view include paintings by Hilda Kilpatrick-Freyre, photographs by Steve Cattanach and wood-burning pieces by Amber Verdries. On permanent exhibit on an exterior wall next to the parking lot is “Imagine a World Without Them,” for which muralist Ruben Rojas filled the silhouettes of two whale flukes with the word “love” written out in a rainbow of colors.
Rincon will be one of three Ventura County breweries with an on-site kitchen. (See also Anacapa Brewing Co., which offers a full menu of salads, pastas, burgers and dishes like fried chicken and waffles in downtown Ventura, and Institution Ale Company, which specializes in house-made pretzels and pizzas in Camarillo).
Some brewers are hesitant to share space with a restaurant. Not Cloud, a Ventura resident who was founding head brewer for the former Surf Brewery (now Concrete Jungle Brewing Project) when it debuted in 2011.
“I’m a huge fan. The beer I like to brew is food-friendly in that it tends to be lower in alcohol,” Cloud said. Another plus: Serving food can encourage people to stay longer, inspiring them to try a greater range of styles.
Enter chef Steven Stroh, who honed his skills at The Cave at Ventura Wine Co. under founding chef, Gary Daniel, before embarking on a culinary career that has included creating Chef Stroh’s Pestos and launching the CaliforniCajun food truck.
From the archives: Chef Stroh lets good times roll on new food truck (2017)
At about 4,000 square feet, the kitchen “is by far the largest I’ve ever worked in,” Stroh said.
The Ventura location will open with service of the same menu found at the Carpinteria site. (Think organic red quinoa salads, Bates Blond fish-and-chips, Mary’s Free-Range Chicken sandwiches and La Reina lager-marinated tri-tip tacos.) But once he and the crew have those dishes “dialed in,” Stroh said, house-made pastas and specialties like an inside-out grilled cheese will join the mix.
On a recent day, Stroh experimented with a recipe that called for stuffing a piece of tri-tip with cheese and wrapping it in bacon before sending it on a quick trip to the deep fryer. He also roasted some carrots, in a nod to the kitchen garden that may be in the brewery’s future.
Other signs that the site is nearing completion? On Tuesday, as potential employees wandered in to fill out applications for face-to-face interviews, Clark helped apply an additional coat of epoxy to the already gleaming, maple-and-mahogany bar top.
Also on his to-do list: figuring out what to do with an item unearthed early in the construction process.
“Every place we go, it seems there’s a safe waiting for us,” Clark said.
In Carpinteria, the former bank-vault door separates the dining room from the brewing space. In Ventura, a store safe discovered in a back room proved so heavy it had to be moved with the help of a forklift. Clark hopes to have its door in place at a featured spot in time for the brewery’s big reveal (4100 Telegraph Road, http://rinconbrewery.com).
Reservations are due Dec. 3 for the Ventura Chefs Association‘s annual general dinner meeting, which will take place Dec. 5 at Lalo’s Family Restaurant in Oxnard. The gathering will start with a social hour at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:45.
It will include a raffle fundraiser to help organizations that feed survivors and first responders during disasters like the Camp, Woolsey and Thomas fires. Attendance of upcoming national conferences and conventions will also be discussed.
Reservations, $30 for members and $35 for nonmembers, include a choice of entree, plus, rice, beans, tortillas, dessert and diner’s choice of beverage (beer, wine or non-alcoholic). Contact VCA president Jon “Mike” Lodi at 805-483-7843, or send email to [email protected]
WHAT’S NEW ON THE MENU
Nearly a year after its debut in Port Hueneme, the “Asian fusion hot pot” restaurant Ragin’ Pot has added ramen to its existing menu of customizable soup bases served with veggies and/or meats for dipping. Ramen bowls ($10.95 each) feature chashu pork, bean sprouts, egg, noodles and more in your choice of shoyu, miso or spicy miso broth.
Another recent addition is the restaurant’s take on army base stew, a hybrid of American and Korean ingredients that, according to culinary legend, was created after the Korean War. At Ragin’ Pot, the combination of Spam, grilled hot dog, egg, kimchi, Napa cabbage and an entire square of instant noodles topped with a melting slice of American cheese is known as Military Stew ($13.95).
A daily lunch special available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. includes a free drink (green tea, mango green tea or lychee green tea) with the purchase of a hot pot at the regular price (301 W. Channel Islands Blvd., 805-663-0135).
At the Camarillo location of Burgerim, fans of the chain’s customizable, 3-ounce burgers will find several additional items on the menu following the restaurant’s late-July opening in the Camarillo Premium Outlets food court.
Served all day, the new breakfast menu offers a choice of a bacon or veggie breakfast sandwich ($3.99) and loaded potatoes topped with nacho cheese, bacon bits, jalapenos and an over-easy egg ($5.99). Coffee and orange juice are also available. Happy-hour specials from 5-9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays include $2.50 onion rings, six chicken wings for $5 and discounts on adult beverages — including $1.50 off draft beer and wine (740 Ventura Blvd., Unit 0228, 805-586-4225).
But the newest item also comes with the largest discount at Burgerim sites in Camarillo, Ventura, Newbury Park and beyond. Launched in November, The ⅓ lb Burger is $2.99 (rather than the usual $6.99) now through Dec. 31. Alternately, a combo that includes The ⅓ lb Burger, four wings, a side of fries and a drink is $9.99 now through Dec. 16 )https://www.burgerim.com).
‘Tis the season for tamales. Learn how to make your own during the Tamale Cooking Class led by Florencia Ramirez, author of “Eat Less Water,” and Magda Weydt, owner and executive chef of Fresh & Fabulous Cafe in Oxnard, from 6-8:30 p.m. Dec. 6.
The hands-on class will focus on organic ingredients with vegan/vegetarian results. Required reservations, $55 for adults and $30 for kids age 15 and younger, include a tamale dinner and a dozen or so tamales (made by you) to take home and steam. The class will take place at Fresh & Fabulous Cafe, 221 W. Fifth St. For reservations, click on https://eatlesswater.com/events/elw-cooking-classes.
Holiday Vegetarian Soups, a class and lunch led by Randy Graham, will take place 1-3 p.m. Dec. 9 at Ojai Culinary School, located in the homey kitchen of The Lavender Inn in downtown Ojai. Graham, a longtime Ojai resident, private chef and writer who blogs as the Valley Vegetarian, will share recipes for Tortilla Soup, Ravioli and Rosemary Soup, Hearty Cannellini Bean Soup and Savory Pumpkin Soup. Reservations, $75, include a hot-buttered rum drink and a copy of Graham’s newest title, “Ojai Valley Make-Ahead Cookbook” (805-646-6635, https://lavenderinn.com/ojai-culinary-school).
The California Health & Longevity Institute at Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village will be the setting for several holiday-themed classes over the next few weeks — and beyond.
Interactive Dining events ($95 each) led by registered dietitians will include Make Ahead Dining (11:30 a.m. Dec. 2) and Holiday Hosting Brunch (11:30 a.m. Dec. 9), followed in 2019 by Knife Skills and More (Feb. 23) and Roasting (March 16). Prefer to sit back and sip? Book a seat for a Wine + Dine session devoted to Bubbles + Bites at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 12. Reservations, $65, include wine, paired small plates and recipes (818-575-3000, https://bit.ly/2OFZkhO).
Lisa McKinnon is a staff writer for The Star. To contact her, send email to [email protected]. To have the VCS Eats newsletter delivered directly to your inbox, visit http://bit.ly/VCS_Eats and type in your email address.
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