Beer and Santa Cruz

“Hey, gimme a beer.” In some towns, that gets you a Bud Lite on tap. But in Santa Cruz, it could get you a Fruit Train Double Imperial Pale Ale. With guava. Or a Saison Bernice. Or a Shimmer Pils.

In Santa Cruz, craft breweries date back to the ‘80s. We’re a pioneer in the movement. But in the last ten years things really exploded: new breweries and tap rooms and events popped up everywhere. And every one of these entities has a t-shirt. Sometimes several. Here’s one I like:

I find New Bohemia Brewing’s handsome fraulein with the swirling head of barley to be a very bold design. NuBo (as they call themselves) brews German lagers, and I’m a lager man; I haven’t tried one yet, but I won’t put it off forever. NuBo lives in a green-certified post-modern fortress over on 41st. There are board games.

East Cliff Brewery’s light-house-reflected-as-a-glass-of-IPA (India Pale Ale) is fun, too. Their specialty was British-style ales. I’m a brown ale man, so this appeals. East Cliff’s owners recently sold out to new owners: the Greater Purpose Church (and Brewing Company). I’m told that British-style ale is still to be found there, but probably not this t-shirt anymore.

I like this tee from Steel Bonnet Brewing up in Scotts Valley. Steel Bonnet does a little of everything: traditional British ales plus stouts and porters and of course “hop-forward” West Coast India Pale Ales.

Brief editorial: Whatever else they specialize in, most locl breweries put at least one very hoppy, very strong West Coast IPA on the menu. That’s what a lot of people want to drink in these parts: lots of hops, high IBUs (a bitterness measure), and sometimes seven or eight or nine or even twelve percent alcohol (Double or “Imperial” IPAs). Twelve percent alcohol. For beer! But without an ultra-hoppy IPA in your lineup: well, you might as well run a pizzeria without pepperoni. As for me, keep those IBUs below 35.

My favorite brewery shirts are the ones that craft brewers roll out for specific beers. Above is one from Boulder Creek Brewing, a very early craft brewery in these parts.

Up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the old hippie/mystic/magic style hung on for a long time. Boulder Creek Brewery gave some of its beers mystic names like Shangri-La, the House of the Rising Sun, and yes, Dragon’s Breath — a nice dark stout. They later repurposed the “Dragon’s Breath” name for a dark IPA

Their brewery/cafe building burned several years ago. Boulder Creek Brewing is no more. But its heritage lives on: brewers who worked at Boulder Creek Brewing have moved on to other breweries in Santa Cruz and beyond.

Even the old brewing equipment lives on. It survived the fire, and now makes the beer for Wingwalker Brewery and Taproom in Monrovia, California. Wingwalker makes a dark IPA called “Revenge of the Night Witches.” There’s a continuity there, perhaps.

This shirt comes from St. Adairius Rustic Ales, a major player in this county for their Belgian farmhouse ales. These ales are made in part with fruit, sour instead of bitter. I like that quite a lot. But they make IPAs, too; give the people what they wnt. St. Adairius rolled out this spacey 19th-century-style mystical montage of a t-shirt for an Imperial (double) IPA called “The Professor’s Patent.”

I like this shirt so much that I’m tempted to wear it. But when you put on the shirt, people assume that you like what’s on it. And I’m no IPA fan.. Still, the Professor’s Patent got fine reviews from those who do like the stuff.

Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing — down in Santa Cruz’ extremely flat West Side industrial district — turns out good shirts for its new brews, too. For the record, SCMB is woman-owned and produces only organic beer. Very Santa Cruz. I’m sure that the inspiration for “Devout Stout” comes from On High.

SCMB produced Rail Trail IPA — with t-shirt — in support of the Santa Cruz Rail Trail. The rail trail doesn’t exactly exist yet — pieces have been completed — and political forces still fight over what it should be.

One side wants the rail line in question to be used mainly for rail transit, with an added bike lane. The other fact wants a world-class bike/pedestrian path with the existing rail line removed because bikes are the future of transit, it says here in their manifesto.

The screaming goes on, but SCMB created this beer to raise money for the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, the rail-and-bike people. SCMB was going to call it Rail Trail Pale Ale, but somebody talked them out of it.

Besides craft brewers, the Santa Cruz area boasts high-end taprooms serving the best craft beer from California and elsewhere. Beer 30, a local taproom and retail beer seller, put out this very special t-shirt somewhere in 2017. (I date t-shirts by their collar tags).

I would never think to compare Donald Trump’s head to a hop flower, but I don’t sell beer for a living. The other side of the tee reads, “Make America Dank Again.” Sitting here in 2021, all I can say is that nobody in 2017 could have dreamed where we’d all end up.

Beer and politics: they go together. Back in 2009 group of home brewers down Marina way lifted an Obama slogan and an image, photoshopped a mighty glass of lager into Obama’s hand, and slapped it on the tee for a home brewers conclave. If there was hope for America, there was hope for good beer! Those times seem almost innocent from eleven years on.

“Keg lube,” by the way, is a food-grade lubricant used on plastic and rubber beer keg parts. It helps them seal well and hold keg pressure.

The Hops ’n Barley Festival is a festival of all things beer-related up in Scotts Valley. Dozens of different brewers attend. A good time has been had by all. Thanks to COVID-19, I’m not sure when the next one will be. But the shirt’s awesome.

And then there’s Sloshball. Sloshball is a drinking game disguised as a game of kickball (sometimes softball). You don’t hear about it much in the media, but it’s been around: leagues, clubs, and of course one-time games at picnics and parties.

This t-shirt’s for a game between Beckmann’s Bakery workers and the crew at Happy Boy Farms (growers of organic produce). Beckmann’s obvious thought they were going to kick Happy Boy’s little red dry-farmed tomato, but who knows what really happened?

Sloshball is played with two mixed-sex teams of up to 20 people. Sloshball can be softball- or kickball-based, but more often kickball. The 15 or 20 fielders must play with a cup of beer in one hand at all time. If anyone’s beer cup is found to be empty after a play, they have to chug another cup. Runners must also carry a cup — empty at first.

There’s a keg at first or second base, and if the runner gets that far there they have to flll their cup and drink it. There are many, many variations: sometimes, everyone downs a gulp every time anything happens. If there’s a keg at second, you usually can’t be forced to third, which means that second base can fill up with beer-drinking runners.

The whole point is for bunch of people to stand around together socializing and drinking beer in the sunshine. That’s a successful sloshball game. And civilization, come to think of it.

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