Brewfest — A tradition

By From page B1 | June 28, 2013

Night Photo for Brewfest

ARTIST JIM POWERS captures the energy of the night scene around the Bell Tower decorated for the Bell Tower Brewfest set for Saturday, June 29 from 6 to 9 p.m. in Placerville. Photo by Jim Powers Gallery

Beer was enjoyed by Mesopotamians and Egyptians thousands of years ago. Beer was consumed socially and it was even used as wages and rations, according to Tom Standage in the book “A History of the World in 6 Glasses.”

In early times beer was also shared from a communal vat using straws. When individual glasses became common in social settings the act of clinking glasses became a tradition to signify the reuniting of a shared beverage

El Dorado Countians will be able to enjoy the rituals of beer drinking at the Bell Tower Brewfest on Saturday, June 29 from 6 to 9 p.m.

The popular Placerville event is hosted by the Placerville Downtown Association and will include a street closure for the enjoyment and safety for all patrons. More than 35 craft breweries will be pouring samples including five El Dorado County breweries.


Recent history

In the early ’90s, the Wine Smith, a small beer and wine boutique on Main Street in Placerville, started having home brewing classes, selling brewing supplies and selling an extensive variety of craft beers.

The enthusiastic group of new brewers formed a homebrew club called the Hangtown Association of Zymurgy Enthusiasts, better known as HAZE, which is still active today.

The members of HAZE continue to pass on their love of good beer through lectures and tastings of beer styles, classes preparing members to qualify for the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), group brews and monthly meetings.

The club currently has 30 members and 12 BJCP judges ranging from apprentice to grand master status.

The club meets at 7 p.m. on the second Wednesday of every month at the Brick Oven Pub, 2875 Ray Lawyer Drive in Placerville. Anyone interested in home brewing is welcome.

In 1994, one of HAZE’s founding members and now a grand master judge, Beth Zangari came up with the idea of a women-only homebrew contest. Since traditionally women had brewed the beer in the home as part of their cooking chores, it seemed logical to put a focus on women in the brewing field.

The Queen of Beer Women’s Homebrew Competition was first held April 14, 1994. This competition continues and attracts around 100 entries annually from all over the United States.

This was the first women-only competition sanctioned by the Beer Judge Certification Program. There are now a few other women-only brewing and beer events which have sprung up across the country. This year’s Queen of Beer will be held in early October and will be sanctioned by the BJCP.


From hobby to pro

Many HAZE members have moved on to the professional stage, with three of the members having their own breweries.

Dave Cody now owns and brews at Jack Russell Farm Brewery and Winery, Michael Frenn owns and brews the beer at Old Hangtown Beer Works, and Andrew Van Zant is brewing at Cielo Estate Brewery.

The love of the fermentation process grew in other directions for some of the HAZE members, with four now owning El Dorado County wineries.

The five county breweries taking part in the Placerville Bell Tower Brewfest are: Old Hangtown Beer Works, Placerville Brewing Co., Gold Hill Brewing, Jack Russell Farm Brewery & Winery, Cielo Estate Brewery and El Dorado Brewing Co.


Old Hangtown Beer Works

Old Hangtown Beer Works was established in June 2010 and is Placerville’s only nano-Brewery. It is also the smallest licensed brewery in California. Working on a half barrel (15.5 gallon) brewing system, Old Hangtown put out nearly 50 barrels in 2012.

Old Hangtown Beer Works has produced more than 30 different styles of award-winning ales and lagers.

Mineshaft Stout is the flagship beer. This bold American stout is the breweries most award-winning beer, with multiple first and second place showings and a Best of Show at the Amador County Fair 2010.

Chili Bar Pepper Beer, a golden ale with jalapeño and habarñero, has its own cult following and leads the list of spiced beers which include Lotus Jasmine Pale Ale, Mountain Meadow Honey Basil Pale, Razzilicious Rasperberry Beer, China Camp Gingered Lager and Strumpkin, the strong pumpkin spice Winter Seasonal.

Marilyn, a strong blond, is a new crowd pleaser with a subtle 8 percent alcohol level.

Brewfest attendees can anticipate many of these beers and a surprise or two, at the Bell Tower Brewfest.

For more information contact 530-919-5166 or find them on Facebook.


Jack Russell Farm Brewery & Winery

Jack Russell Farm Brewery & Winery is modeled after an English farm brewery. The brewery has changed ownership several times but is now under the stewardship of David Cody. It maintains the same pub atmosphere and great English-style ales.

The Camino brewery is situated amidst fruit orchards and wineries, so it is logical that in September 2011, Cody added a winery to the business, making English-style ciders and meads.

The brewery sells pints, bottles and samples in the tasting room, and has a beautiful picnic area.

It is located at 2380 Larson Drive in Camino and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Give the brewery a call at 530-647-9420.


Placerville Brewing Company

Placerville Brewing Company is an award-winning brewery that appeals to judges and customers alike. Besides the great brews, the location at 155 Placerville Drive in Placerville, also includes a restaurant that features authentic Texas barbecue and other menu items.

The brewmaster and co-owner, Steve Meylor, focuses on “crafting the brews” and develops some tasty varieties that showcase his talents and experience.

For the food side of the business, co-owner Allen Vickers brings 40 years of experience with his Hill Country Barbecue and award-winning sauces.

The restaurant also features some great patio seating, live music on weekends, a take-away menu and big screen TV inside the restaurant.

Placerville Brewing Company PBC is open every day but Tuesday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

For more information contact 530-295-9166 or


Gold Hill Vineyard & Brewery

In 2001, Gold Hill Vineyard began making award-winning beer. Six beers are produced at the brewery. Each seven-barrel batch requires two days to produce and another two weeks to age.

The process employs old brewery practices including a single, high sparge temperature, ensuring a rich finish; especially important in porter and stout.

The brewers invite the public to them on the patio for a refreshing pint of a favorite ale or enjoy taking a bottle home.

Gold Hill Vineyard & Brewery is located at 5660 Vineyard Lane in Placerville and is open Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information contact 530-626-6522 or


Van Zant Brewing Co

Van Zant Brewing Co opened in the spring of 2013 and features the traditional lineup of ales, lagers and Belgian styles. They also have a very good barrel-aged program of microbrews, aged in various types of barrels, to include winery barrels from Cielo Estate Winery. The brewing company is located at Cielo Estate Winery in Shingle Springs. The barrels are from white wine and ports, as well as, various bourbon, whiskey and scotch barrels.

Van Zant Brewing offers a different barrel club membership for patrons. The release of the ‘333’ Imperial IPA is set annually for springtime and it sells out very quickly. It also creates a great root beer in the brewery.

Van Zant’s flagship microbrew is the Raging Squirrel Nut Brown ale. This is a very refreshing brown ale with lots of great nuttiness and grain flavors. Hops are at the lower end, so that the grain flavor stands out.

The beers are currently only available at the tasting room at the Cielo Estate Winery & Brewery, 3040 Ponderosa Road in Shingle Springs. Hours of operation are Sunday though Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

During the summer, there are Friday night concerts on the beautiful landscaped premises.

The brewery is a stand-alone operation from the winery and the brewing is performed by Van Zant Brewing Company under Cielo Estate Winery and Brewery, with Andrew Van Zant as the brewmaster. he has 15 years of brewing experience.

For more information call Cielo Estate at 530-672-8575.



Tickets need to be purchased for patrons over 21 years of age. They are available in Placerville at River City Bank, Kelsey’s Needle Krafts, Placerville Brewing Co. or online at

No tickets are required for designated drivers or those wishing to hear some great music. No dogs are allowed.

For more information contact or 530-672-3436.

Mimi Escabar

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