If you ever visit the tasting room at Surf Brewery in Ventura, Calif., get the sampler. Five-ounce samples of your choice — on a mini surfboard, no less — ride the craft brew wave right into your belly! A “short board” gives you four tasters, while the “long board” comes with six, eight or even 10 pours of Surf beers.
I stopped in at Surf Brewery last week and was impressed with this small California operation that was opened by a pair of homebrewers, Bill Riegler and Doug Mason, in 2011. It’s now the only packaging microbrewery in Ventura County, self distributing in kegs and bottles, and featuring a tasting room, growler sales and a homebrew shop right in the brewery.
My sampler included Mondo’s Cream Ale, County Line Rye Pale Ale, Surf Black IPA and the South Swell Double IPA. The cream ale, named after a local surf spot, was smooth and refreshing. The rye packed a lot more hops than I was expecting (not that I’m complaining!) The Black IPA was solid. And the South Swell is what you’d expect from a hoppy, West Coast beer.
I also tried the Oil Piers Porter, a nitro beer that was more stout than porter. Meanwhile, the Lemon Wahine Wheat, with peels of local lemons added in at the end of the boil, was a lemon bomb of a beer, but I liked it!
The brewery is located in an industrial park off Market Street, with a large tap room with seating for 70. (This photo was taken long after “last call.” It was actually pretty busy all night.) There’s no kitchen, but there was a food truck outside the night I visited that delivered food right to your table.
Not only is Surf Brewery making good beer, it’s doing good, too. The brewery donates 1% of total sales, not just profits, to the Surfrider Foundation.