Concord’s Side Gate Brewery, founded by Kevin Wilson, pictured, and Paul Culbertson, offers a beer garden as well as indoor seating. (Courtesy Jay R. Brooks)
Over the last few years, I’ve taken brewery-centric day trips to nearly every corner of the Bay Area, from Alameda to Silicon Valley and San Ramon. This time, I headed for Concord, where several taprooms lie within walking distance of the Concord BART station.
Side Gate Brewery & Beer Garden
This downtown Concord brewery is the brainchild of Kevin Wilson and Paul Culbertson, who met at their day job and bonded over their shared love of home brewing. Over a home brewing session, Culbertson mentioned he’d written a business plan for a brewery years before — and Wilson confessed he’d once thought about it, too. The result is Side Gate. They signed the lease on the property at a less-than-perfect time — February 2020 — but the ensuing lockdowns proved a blessing in their case. It gave them time to transform a former pizzeria and bar into this fun brewery, which opened in September the following year.
Side Gate offers 13 to 15 beers in a variety of styles and a housemade hard seltzer that can be flavored with syrups. Side Gate’s flagship is On the Fence, a hazy IPA brewed with Citra, Mosaic and Idaho 7. But their Planter Box Pils is a close second. It’s a refreshing summer weather beer, ideal for the beer garden. Other standouts include Sucker for Succulents, a bright, clear IPA brewed with Mosaic, Centennial and Simcoe; Beach Read, a hefeweizen; Structural Integrity, a new Baltic porter collaboration; and Suburban Forager, a saison brewed with flora found in Wilson’s backyard.
The taproom is warm and welcoming, and the beer garden is the place to be in sunny weather, especially when there’s live music. Food trucks roll by almost daily, and there’s trivia on Wednesdays.
Details: The brewery is open from 3 to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday and noon to 10 p.m. Fridays and weekends at 1822 Grant St. in Concord; sidegatebrewing.com.
The Hop Grenade
Technically, this is not a brewery, but the Hop Grenade is so brewery adjacent, I can’t not include it — and it’s just two blocks from Side Gate. Justin Crossley opened the Salvio Street taproom in 2013, but its origins date back to 2005, when Crossley launched a home brewing radio show, the Brewing Network, in his Pacheco garage. When it outgrew the space, Crossley moved the studio to Concord and added a craft beer bar, so patrons can watch and listen to the broadcasts while enjoying a brew.
The Hop Grenade serves a rotation of more than 20 California-focused craft beers, often brewed by guests from the broadcasts. There’s a full kitchen, too, which offers flatbread pizzas, sandwiches, snacks and desserts.
Details: Hop Grenade opens daily at noon at 2151 Salvio St., Suite J, in Concord; thehopgrenade.com.
But wait, there’s more…
Another great Concord option is Epidemic Ales — a name chosen by co-owners Holly Brown, Erin Shally and Brian Wang in 2016 as a playful reference to the explosion of craft brewery openings across the region. Epidemic’s taproom opens at 3 p.m. weekdays and noon weekends at 150 Mason Circle in Concord; epidemicales.com.
And in neighboring Pleasant Hill, Morgan Territory Brewing opened a new taproom last month. Brewmaster Craig Cauwels and his Tracy-based brewery have had a great year, winning eight medals and brewery of the year in the California Craft Brewers Cup, plus a gold medal at this year’s World Beer Cup. You’ll find about 15 of Cauwels’ beers and three house hard seltzers on tap at the Pleasant Hill location — with room to expand. No kitchen, but local favorite Jack’s Restaurant & Bar is next door and the Crescent Café is across the street and delivers. The new tasting room opens at noon daily at 40A Crescent Drive in Pleasant Hill; morganterritorybrewing.com.
Know a local brewery or brewpub that’s knocking it out of the park ? Drop me a line at BrooksOnBeer@gmail.com and tell me why you love them.