02-01-24

32 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY february 1-7, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com There is nothing inside the former laundromat on Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove but bare wood and will-be’s. Mike Durrant stands on the building’s unfinished floor with a broad grin as he gestures to where the bar will be and the fermentation tanks will sit when the community’s first-ever craft brewpub finally opens. First teased in 2019 and promised not long after, the gutted space that will become Hops and Fog Brewing Company is a sign of real progress. And Durrant draws out the words as he describes the challenges overcome to reach this point. “It’s been a huuuge process,” he says. “We started looking for a place in 2019—and then we started learning the rules.” There is always a litany of approvals to test the mettle of a new small business owner. But Durrant couldn’t settle on a name, initially pitching Saucy Otter Brewing Company before reverting to a take on his home brewing name, Hop and Fog. And there was the matter of timing. Durrant, along with business partners Ximena Waissbluth and John Papandreopoulos, purchased the building in 2020, just before the Covid-related lockdown. As anyone fixated on HGTV remodeling programs knows, other problems lurk once you take possession of any old structure. Rot had weakened one wall and crumbled its supporting foundation. Both have been shored up. Durrant can finally anticipate its completion. “Once you see the walls go up it gets more and more exciting,” he explains. “This is happening. It’s kinda fun.” The one thing Durrant has never been anxious about through the entire process is his beer. The former agricultural equipment sales professional—he quit recently to focus full time on the brewpub—has been brewing at home for more than 20 years, frequently earning awards from local, state and national competitions. He is deft when tending to the bitter edges of IPAs, but reveals his true talent when corralling the bold flavors of nut brown ales and Irish reds. A provisional menu includes IPAs, a Mexican-style lager, a gose, a blonde ale and his signature nut brown. He is constantly testing and tasting recipes—“a horrible job,” he says with a laugh—in advance of the opening. “I don’t like shortcuts,” Durrant points out. “I like creating, not just being able to buy a beer.” As a youngster growing up in Utah, he would gather bark, roots and other ingredients to brew homemade root beer. He has experimented with making other soft drinks, as well. In fact, Durrant plans to produce craft soda and root beer at Hops and Fog. He is also having a brick oven installed, making it a family-friendly venue—in more ways than one would expect; the team is refurbishing two apartments above the brewpub, which he plans to rent at below-market rate. They are also waiting for the city’s decision on parklets, because there is available space out front. “If we can do more, we will,” he explains. “But baby steps first. The first goal is to open up.” For now, the plan is to concentrate on the brewpub—beer, soft drinks, food, entertainment in-house. Bottling or canning beers and distributing wholesale is not under consideration. “We wanted to provide something we enjoy,” Durrant says. “We needed a place to go in Pacific Grove.” Pacific Grove was dry until 1969 and did not approve the first establishment selling more alcohol than food— Monarch Pub, also on Lighthouse— until 2018. Durrant observes that everyone from city officials to the Chamber of Commerce have been helpful in launching this first-time project. “It took a lot of people getting involved,” he says. “The city has done a good job recognizing that we need to change.” While the brewpub’s website hints at a spring 2024 opening, Durrant admits that May would be an “aggressive” target for Hops and Fog to pour its first beers. Yet Durrant and his partners are preparing to hire and train staff—one more challenge to be faced. “We know we’ve got a lot to learn,” he says. “We’ve gone this far, but we’ve got a mile to go to the finish.” Hops and Fog Brewing Company will be at 511 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove. hopsandfog.beer. First course Brewmaster Mike Durrant and business partner Ximena Waissbluth inside what will be their downtown Pacific Grove brewpub, perhaps as early as May. Bingo Night…Scratch Wines hosts Drag Bingo on Saturday, Feb. 3 at 7:30pm. Play a few rounds while having a laugh and a glass with the talented and incredibly entertaining hosts of the evening, Franzia Rosé and Cherry Cola— all you could need for a great Saturday night. 1 E. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley. 320-0726, scratchwines.com. Bunco Night…Lucy’s On Lighthouse is adding a new game night to the local game scene: Bunco Night on Thursdays, from 5-7pm. This is a great opportunity to have some fun, meet new people and, of course, enjoy the menu. Sample creatively dressed hot dog, tots, ice cream and more while rolling the dice. 1120 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove. 920-2006, lucyspg.com. Love Is Local…Locals get extra love at Lalla Grill Oceanside, Monday through Thursday, now through March 28. Let your server know you’re an 831 local and you will receive 10-percent off your food and beverages. Take full advantage of the discounts by coming in on Wine Wednesdays, which means 30-percent off select bottles. 654 Cannery Row, Monterey. 324-0891, lallagrill.com/location/oceanside. Love Is Blind…Vin Bar hosts a blind tasting on Tuesday, Feb. 13. Participants will taste five pours and get to submit their guesses—or, hey, maybe you have a good palate and really know—for the chance to win a swoon-worthy wine raffle prize. Participation is $40 and includes five tastings and a chocolate pairing. RSVP by phone or send a direct message on Instagram to Vin Bar. 237 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel. 293-8715, vinbarcarmel. com, instagram.com/vinbarcarmel. Book It…The Monterey Public Library hosts its 19th annual Chocolate & Wine fundraising event on Saturday, Feb. 24. From 4-7pm, guests over 21 can mix and mingle while strolling the stacks, sipping beer or wine, enjoying chocolates and snacks—all while supporting the library. There is also a silent auction. Buy tickets ($60 by Feb. 1) at investinmpl.org/event/19th-annual-chocolate-wine. 625 Pacific St., Monterey. 646-3933, monterey.org/library. follow the money…Caterer Dory Ford of Aqua Terra Culinary faces a federal indictment alleging he defrauded the government out of $4 million by filing for Covid relief funds he was not entitled to. Read more at mcweekly. com/news. By Jacqueline Weixel morsels Send a bite to eatanddrink@mcweekly.com “Once you see the walls go up it gets exciting.” Eat + DrinK Daniel Dreifuss Fog’d In After a long few years, Hops and Fog—Pacific Grove’s first-ever brewpub—is nearing completion. By Dave Faries

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