Taking a self-guided craft beer tour of California Highway 99

This particular self-guided craft beer tour will be a five (5) part series that covers a visit to 22 production breweries and brewpubs between Los Angeles and Santa Rosa. Let there be no mistake, there are far more than 22 craft breweries in that geographical area but we had a set amount of time. It was another of those “so many beers, so little time” situations. When I set out from LA there were three basic routes to take; I could drive Interstate 5 which is definitely the fastest route but the desert is a barren wasteland when it comes to craft beer. Taking US 101 up the coast takes significantly longer than I-5, but there are barrels and barrels of beer all along the way and if time is of any importance, there are far too many distractions. The third option and the one I opted to take was California Highway 99. When I opted to take 99 I knew the drive would take a little longer, but I also know that I would be able to find some craft beer along the way. This particular route was set going northbound, but you can easily reverse the map provided below and plug in your own starting point.

The locations visited on this leg of the self-guided craft beer tour were Lengthwise Brewing in Bakersfield, Full Circle Brewing Company in Fresno and Dust Bowl Brewing Company in Turlock. You can find the photos of the three locations at http://craftbeerguy.com/lengthwise-full-circle-dust-bowl-brewing/.

Lengthwise Brewing – 6720 Schirra Court Bakersfield, CA 93313-2132
Hours: Monday thru Thursday 11:00-9:00 PM, Friday/Saturday 11:00-10:00 PM, Sunday 11:00-5:00 PM

Lengthwise Brewing is a brewpub located in Bakersfield that originally opened in 2002; they have two locations but we visited the brewery/brewpub on Schirra Court, just a few blocks off Highway 99. Probably the first thing you will notice is all the antique motorcycles hanging from the ceiling. Apparently they are restorals done by the owners of Lengthwise Brewing and some of their friends. The place is very “busy” with their decor. The afternoon of our visit they had about nine different beers on tap so we picked a flight that consisted of their Lengthwise Golden Ale, Harvest Moon Wheat Ale, Double ZZ Razzberry Ale, Triple Hop Red Ale, Centennial Ale and Kern County Crude Porter. The ABVs ranged from primarily from 5.0-5.6, with the Centennial Ale topping out at 6.5%. We also enjoyed a very nice salad that was just right for two people. If you have kids with you, Lengthwise Brewing also brews a very tasty root beer; we really enjoyed it. Lengthwise Brewing offers growlers and bottles to go as well as their own brand of whole coffee beans and spice packs.

Full Circle Brewing Company – 620 F Street Fresno, CA 93706-3413
Hours: Wednesday thru Saturday 4:00-11:00 PM

113 miles north of Bakersfield and within spitting distance of the 99 lies Full Circle Brewing Company, probably one of the best microbreweries you have never heard of. Do not feel alone, according to the management not even the Fresno locals know they are there even though they have been at their location for 15 years. Full Circle Brewing is a lot different than the typical microbrewery tasting rooms we are accustomed to in Southern California. The most noticeable difference being that even with more than 12 taps, they do not even offer an IPA. In fact, all of their beers ferment a minimum of three months before they are served. We were given a flight of the 12 available brews which included their Russian Imperial Stout from 2009 and Good Ass Barleywine (this was the description the brewer gave it and it stuck as the name) which is from 2006. All I can say is that if I ever have a car break down while traveling the 99 I sure hope it is by Fresno because Full Circle Brewing Company is a real treat. Full Circle Brewing Company offers growlers to go and they have a few wines and meads available in bottles.

Dust Bowl Brewing Company – 200 W Main Street Turlock, CA 95380-4813
Hours: Tuesday thru Thursday 11:00-10:00 PM, Friday/Saturday 11:00-11:00 PM, Sunday 11:00-8:00 PM

About an hour north of Fresno is Turlock and the Dust Bowl Brewing Company brewpub. Anyone that is familiar with California history and the migration of farmers to Central California during the Great Dust Bowl of the 1930’s will appreciate the decor at Dust Bowl Brewing Company. Unfortunately, we arrived rather late so we could not sample their food menu, but suffice it to say that they do serve food and have a pretty extensive food menu with everything from artichoke hearts to burgers, steaks and turkey sliders. They also have a kids menu, so this makes a nice road trip stop for those of you traveling with your family.

Dust Bowl Brewing has a just as extensive craft beer menu with about 12 beers available on tap as well as a couple ciders and ales on cask. The beer names such as Super Tramp, Hops of Wrath IPA and Black Blizzard Russian Imperial Stout hint at the historical part of the Dust Bowl theme. We split a flight, but since they were really trying to close up I let them create it for us. The brews we sampled were good enough that we felt the need to pick up a few bottles to try later at home. Growlers are also available to go. We will definitely stop by there again at a later date.

While traveling up and down the state can seem a little tedious at times, there are definitely routes that will be more entertaining than others. These three stops are ones I would not hesitate sending anyone to; there is some really nice beer out there if you look for it. Cheers!

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