Session Meeting: Dust Bowl Brewing Co. Tap Room – Turlock, CA – Small Town Craft Beer Lovin’!

Dust Bowl Coaster

Was beer ever this good during the Depression?

Hello congregants! Our latest infrequently scheduled, pseudo-regular Session meeting was held at the Dust Bowl Brewing Co.‘s Tap Room, a tap room with eats.  Hit the jump to see a little history on what led to the founding of the brewery.

Don Oliver has been brewing beer for years and years. It’s a family pastime. I’ve known his dad for over 5 years now, and have been privileged to try both his and Don’s homebrew on numerous occasions.  It’s good….it’s ALL really fantastic.  Every homebrew of his that I’ve had showcases the unique style he’s taking on, and is seriously good to the last drop.

In 2006, Jim Koch of Sam Adams‘ fame held the first Longshot Competition.  This was a nationwide event that invited homebrewers to send in their best offerings to be judged by a panel. The homebrewers were put through their paces to find the top 3 homebrewed beers in the nation.  The top three would be produced, bottled and distributed in a special Longshot Winners pack alongside the top three beers submitted by Sam Adams employees.  Don Oliver sent in his version of an Old Ale (think Old Stock Ale by North Coast Brewing Co.), made it to the finals, and won! (I was privileged to try the homebrewed version of Don’s Old Ale, and it was really quite tasty!)

Long Shot Old Ale

Beer this good is never a long shot...

Don’s Old Ale from the Longshot pack really put him on the map, and he soon teamed up with Brett Tate to start up Dust Bowl Brewing Co. Before really cranking up the business, Don went through the Brewmaster Course at U.C. Davis, filling in whatever small gaps may still have remained in his knowledge of the craft of brewing. Their first beer released to the beer-swilling masses was an excellent IPA called the Hops of Wrath. (My review on Beer Advocate can be found here.)

Cut to August of 2011, when Dust Bowl Brewing Co. made the excellent decision to start up a tap room.  I’ll be honest…I’d been wondering lately whether Dust Bowl Brewing Co. had spent themselves on the Hops of Wrath.  I’d heard rumors around town that they’d released something else, but I’d never seen it on tap at any local establishment, or on the shelves of a grocery store, but hoped they were true nonetheless. Recently, however, I heard the excellent news that Dust Bowl was branching out.  They were finally showcasing several styles of Brewmaster Oliver’s beer and opening a Tap Room, complete with food.  Now to the Session Meeting…


Dust Bowl Interior

The interior of Dust Bowl Brewing Co.

To begin, the decor of the Tap Room fits perfectly with the theme of the brewery. The pictures on the wall evoke scenes from Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. The rough-cut tables and sturdy seating seems like something someone might cobble together from spare parts, and very reminiscent of the Depression. The outside tables are made up of stainless steel piping, as well. At the same time, the look of the place manages to be very contemporary.  Really a nice ambiance.

The beer is fantastic, as I have come to expect from Brewmaster Don Oliver. I had the Doppelbock, Stout, Galaxy Pale Ale, Fruit Tramp (Fruit Wheat), Double IPA, Blended Barleywine/Rusty Pale Ale, and the Barrel Aged Rye Belgian Blonde. (Samplers are wonderful.) Every single one was unique, flavorful, and well worth the price of admission.

A Great Beer List

With a beer list like this, we almost didn't get to the food.

The food was also quite good. It’s typical pub fare, but done very well. For an appetizer, we had the “Squeakers”, which were Hilmar Cheese Curds.  They were pretty molten, so didn’t squeak against the teeth as much, but they were extremely tasty. For lunch, I had the 50/50 Burger with Bleu Cheese. The 50/50 burger is half ground beef and half ground bacon. It really was as spectacular as one might expect. Smoky, flavorful…really good.  Of course, the bleu cheese added a nice richness to the burger. The garlic fries were very good as well.  Not too salty, not too garlicky, if there can be such a thing. But the real star, everyone agreed, were the sweet potato fries. Man, I’m still stuffed.  I’ve read less-than-stellar reviews of the food here, but I can’t imagine what they were complaining about.  Seriously top notch pub grub! I was able to also sample the fried pickle appetizer, which was very, very good.

A pretty lineup of beers...

A pretty lineup of beers...

Good beer, good food, small town charm.  The owners of the Tap Room really have done a great job in getting this place together.  I can’t wait to get back here.

Of course, I did detailed reviews of all the beers I had. So keep your eyes peeled here for some more detailed reviews of these fantastic brews.  And if you find yourself in Turlock, CA, stop by.  I think you will be glad you did.

~ A.E.

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