My Bay Area Brewery Tour has taken me around the bay from San Jose to Livermore and Richmond. This time, I headed to the historic East Bay town of Martinez, which was settled in the early 17th century and incorporated in 1876. Its downtown area is known for its antique shops—and of course, the county courthouse—but a variety of new businesses have opened in the past few years, including two stellar breweries.
Five Sons Brewing
Martinez’s Five Sons Brewing is the brainchild of five lifelong friends who met in kindergarten—think of the brewery’s name as a play on the idea of five country sons. The folks opened their brewery in 2017, formerly occupied by an old commercial laundry. They’re now in the midst of a big move to the Big Quarters, an old Bank of America building on Main Street just a few blocks away with a soft opening set for this weekend.
The new space features a beer garden and two levels of indoor spaces that offer beer flights, and entertainment including pool tables, air hockey, video games, and pinball machines. Food trucks will park behind the beer garden, and there are nooks and crannies everywhere, so you can mingle with other beer lovers or be as private as you want.
Co-founders Jess Jackson, who was trained at UC Davis, and Michael Tucker handle the brewery, while Dennis Boecher and Sean Macias work the front of the house and run the brewery. (The Fifth Sun’s Nick Ricobono plays a silent partner.)
The day I visited, there were 13 beers on tap, including nine that were also available as a six-pack to go. (You’ll also find many of Five Sons’ beers at nearby Raleigh, Total Wine, and other Martinez markets.) The brewery serves a wide array of styles. They have the requisite IPAs, both clear and fuzzy, but most of the line-up offers a good mix. The popular OG Burst is a refreshing wheat beer made from guava and orange. Valkyrie is a light blond, and Reliez, a solid West Coast pale ale. I was especially moved with Granger, a delicious chocolaty porter. Their Forrester IPA was also a standout. They also make some kettle sour beers and a hard seltzer.
Description: Begin daily January 15th at 626 Main St. in Martinez; www.fivesunsbrewing.com,
Del Cielo Brewing
Husband-and-wife team Luis Castro and Cielomar Cuevas opened their Del Cielo Brewing right next to Five Sons’ previous location in 2018. Luis originally from Colombia, Sielomar was born in Puerto Rico and met in Cleveland, Ohio, where Luis was pursuing his MBA. In 2010, they moved to the Bay Area and began homebrewing in their own kitchens. Castro got bitten by the bug, joined the DOZE homebrew club and began entering competitions. Between winning awards for their homebrew and hosting increasingly large potluck celebrations so friends could drink all the beer they were making, the couple decided to open their own brewery.
Castro owns a brewery and Cuevas puts his graphic design experience to good use on Del Cielo’s beer label, which means “from heaven”—or in his case, “beer from heaven.”
I have to agree. Castro is an amazing brewer. They have made the jump from homebrewer to professional effortlessly. Every beer I tried was well made, interesting and delicious. On the day I visited, Del Cielo’s 19 beers were split into two boards with eight hoppy beers and 11 assorted styles.
One of their most popular beers is rale, a Mexican lager and a great, easy-drinking example of the style. Their pilsner, Do the Fandango, is also solid, but the real star of the lager show is Cerveza Rica, a Mexican lager made with agave and lime. It is quite sweet and fruity but would be perfect on a hot day. Der Maler’s Kölsch – a notoriously hard-to-find beer – is true to the style. I Am Rye Burgundy Rye is a red rye with just the right amount of spice. I tried two dark beers, Smooth Ride, a silky smooth exotic esports stout, and Dark Shadow, a powerful imperial stout. On the IPA side, Hoptinez is a great, classic IPA, and El Rey is a chilled IPA that uses lager yeast and is aged for a long time.
In addition to beers on tap and to-go, El Cielo also serves salads, Puerto Rican-style criollo rice bowls, burritos, tacos, burgers and other sandwiches that you can enjoy outside or inside the spacious taproom, where Brings big windows. Lots of light. You could easily lose an afternoon here – and you probably should.
Description: Del Cielo is open Tuesday-Sunday at 701 Escobar St. in Martinez; www.delcielobrewing.com,
Know a local brewery or brewery that’s knocking it out of the park but can’t seem to get the recognition they deserve? Drop me a line at BrooksOnBeer@gmail.com and tell me why you love them.