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Posted: Friday, August 15, 2008 10:00 pm

When Lodi businesswoman Sam Rehmke went on vacation in San Diego this summer, she didn't restrict herself to posh seafood restaurants and ritzy nightclubs.

She wanted beer.

She wanted everything that goes along with the beer experience in 2008: Ambiance, good food, camaraderie and to taste beer she'd heard about.

Rehmke is in the business of brew. She's the owner of Downtown's Lodi Beer Company. Like her customers, she appreciates the hard work and dedication other brew masters put into a pint.

With wine tasting being a trend that will undoubtedly last as long as purple grapes grow on vines, beer enthusiasts have realized the opportunity to showcase their own variety of beer.

Small family owned microbreweries and brewpubs are popping up in nearly every town between Sacramento and Modesto. Restaurateurs and brew masters spend hours every day preparing perfect recipes for amber colored ales and hearty stouts in an attempt to satisfy customers that are becoming more knowledgeable about beer with every sampler.

Most brewpubs started at microbreweries, factories that made and packaged beer, said Eric Watson, manager of brewing operations at St. Stan's Brewery in Modesto. While most microbreweries are now also brewpubs - breweries where people can enjoy a meal and see the beer-making in action, St. Stan's in Modesto remains a microbrewery. It offers tours by appointment, but most of St. Stan's beer is served at the neighboring Hero's Pizza Company.

Brewpubs have a special kind of quality that is special to beer enthusiasts like Rehmke. Most brewpubs have an atmosphere that is friendly and welcoming, and beer that is meant to be enjoyed by the customer.

"Brewpubs are meant to be family oriented and customer friendly," Rehmke said.

At her own restaurant, as well as when she's on vacation, Rehmke meets people who go from brewpub to brewpub. Some are experts on brew. Others simply like to enjoy a cold one.

For those who don't know a lot about beer, Watson recommends trying beer until you find something you enjoy drinking.

"Drink what you like," Watson said.

(Marc Lutz/News-Sentinel)

1. Elk Grove Brewery Restaurant - Elk Grove

9085 Elk Grove Blvd.

(916) 685-2537 http://www.elkgrovebrewery.com">http://www.elkgrovebrewery.com

Originally a general store built in 1885, Elk Grove Brewery is now home to Chris Correa's very comfortable restaurant and bar. It's also where brew master Bill Woods has been in charge of the beer since 1995. Woods first started brewing at home, but now he even comes up with his own award-winning recipes.

"It's a lot like cooking," he said. "You get the idea of what ingredients give you different flavors."

At Elk Grove Brewery, there are usually eight home-brewed beers available. Some of the handcrafted ales include: Big, But Blond; Diamondback Wheat; Otis Alt, Sloghouse Pale Ale; Grainbarrel Stout and Tropic Ale. Some of the seasonal brews are Bock Lager, Amazon Blond Ale, Wrangler Red Ale, Pony Express Summer Ale, Marzen Lager, Woody's Hophead Red Ale, Bad Dog Brown Ale and Winter Warmer Porter.

What to know before you go

Food: This brewery is a full-fledged restaurant that prides itself on fully loaded burgers,

Nibble on this (appetizers): Chili cheese garlic fries, stuffed mushroom caps, hot wings, cheesy artichoke dip, beer-battered appetizer combo, poppers, mozzarella sticks, dilly dippers, buffalo bleu cheese fries, bee-battered onion rings.

Deals: Sign up for weekly coupon at http://www.elkgrovebrewery.com">http://www.elkgrovebrewery.com; specials vary daily.

Hours: Open daily. Dining from 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m., bar closes at 10 p.m. On Friday and Saturday, the dining room is open until 10 p.m., the bar open until midnight.

2. Lodi Beer Co. - Lodi

105 S. School St.

368-9931 http://www.lodibeercompany.com">http://www.lodibeercompany.com

The Lodi Beer Company is a great start, middle or end to a day of beer tasting in San Joaquin and Sacramento counties. Each beer served at this Lodi brewery is hand crafted on the copper Bohemian brew system that is both functional and art. Sitting in middle of the large dining room, the system is used to make at least 13 beers served at the restaurant.

The No. 1 choice of Lodi Beer customers is the Lodi Lite Lager - a dry, light and crisp version of the American classic.

"It's good all around - everybody's favorite," said owner Sam Rehmke.

Other Lodi Beer brews include Umna Hefeweizen, Gilt Edge Marzen, Western Pacific IPA, Plowshear Porter, Mokelko Red Ale, Amber Ale, Southern English Brown, Harvest Ale, Barleywine, Dopplebock, Eisbock and Christmas Ale (some of which are seasonal).

What to know before you go

Food: Lodi brewery is also a full-service restaurant.

Nibble on this: Giant onion rings, artichoke dip and chips, buffalo wings, chicken strips, deep-fried mac and cheese, bleu fries, garlic fries, rib tips, deep-fried oysters, calamari, chips and salsa, Montana de Nachos, bruschetta, cheese quesadilla, sampler platter. Also ask about the after hours food menu.

Deals: Ask for details about Pine Club, a Lodi beer club.

Hours: Sunday through Thursday, from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m.-Midnight.

3. Valley Brewing Co. - Stockton

157 W. Adams St.

464-2739 http://www.valleybrew.com">http://www.valleybrew.com

Valley Brewing Company

Stockton's Valley Brewing Company was founded in 1853 by California German immigrants, Peter and Daniel Rothenbush. The brewery prospered during the Gold Rush and was one of the few breweries to survive prohibition by producing fruit juices and "near beer," the Valley Brewing Company Web site says.

Now, Valley Brew is thriving as a brewery and restaurant located off Miracle Mile in Stockton.

The house beers include Black Cat Stout, Hitman Gold Ale, London Tavern Ale, Indian Red Ale, Cobra Hood India Pale Ale, Valley Brew Pale Wheat, Apricot Ale, Valley Berry Wheat and Fat City Ale.

What to know before you go

Food: Valley Brewing Company is a full-service restaurant.

Nibble on this: Beer-battered fries, chicken strips, appetizer combo, mini-burger basket, shrimp cocktail, potato skins, beer-battered mushrooms, beer-battered calamari, hot soft pretzel and more.

Deals: Specials vary.

Hours: Sunday through Thursday, from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m.-Midnight.

4. Kelly Brothers Brewing Co. - Manteca

112 E. Yosemite Ave.

825-1727 http://www.kelleybrewing.com">http://www.kelleybrewing.com

Kelley Brothers Brewing Co.

Kelley Brothers Brewing Company and the Brickyard Oven Restaurant rose from ashes of the El Rey Theater, which burned on Aug. 5, 1977, the same night Steve McQueen's "The Towering Inferno" was shown. Kelley Brothers Brewing Co. has been brewing award-winning, hand-crafted beer for more than 11 years. Kelley Bros. brewers pride themselves on having the best-equipped microbreweries around.

Annually, Kelley Bros. makes 25 beers. Hand-crafted brews include El Rey Blond Lager, Vounteer Pils, Traditional Oktoberfest, Inferno Red, Crossroads German Wheat, Tidewater ESB, Roasted Tail Pail Ale, Four Towers IPA, O'Kelley Irish Stout and Coffee Stout.

What to know before you go

Food: Kelly Brothers Brewing Company is partnered with Brickyard Oven Restaurant.

Nibble on this: Visit the Web site for details.

Deals: Happy hour is 4 p.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, at the bar: $1 off all beer and appetizers are half-priced

Hours: Happy hour is 4 p.m.-6 p.m., Monday through Friday

5. St. Stan's, available regionally and at Hero's Sports Lounge and Pizza Company - Modesto

821 L St

524-2337, ext. 4 ststans.com, http://www.herospizza.com">http://www.herospizza.com

St. Stan's

Opened in 1984, St. Stan's Brewing Company is one of the first microbreweries in the country. Eric Watson, manager of brewing operations, says there were only about eight microbreweries in existence at the time. St. Stan's prides itself on making award-winnnig beers from four pure ingredients: barley malt, hops, yeast and water.

St. Stan's general produces eight varieties of beer. The brewery is also progressive and will be putting beer in cans to be sold regionally.

St. Stan's brews include Red Sky Ale, Whistle Stop Pale Ale, American Amber, Amber waves and even root beer made with generous amounts of vanilla.

Because St. Stan's is a microbrewerey, not a brewpub that acts as a restaurant or bar, tours must be scheduled in advance. To view the brewery, call 606-2337.

What to know before you go

Food: St. Stan's brews are available at Hero's Sports Lounge and Pizza Company next door to St. Stan's.

Nibble on this (only at Hero's): Tailgater's platter, cheese head fries, garlic fries, toasted ravioli, fried macaroni and cheese, fried calamari, fried wonton shrimp, jumbo Buffalo wings, super nachos, mazzarella spikes, crispy beer-battered onion rings, quesadilla and cheesy garlic breadsticks.

Deals: Happy hour is 4 p.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, at the bar: $1 off all beer and appetizers are half-priced.

Hours: Call 606-2337 to schedule a St. Stan's tour.



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