Devil’s Canyon Brewery: Beer For All
It’s a warm day at Devil’s Canyon Brewery in San Carlos, just an hour before their popular Beer Friday event begins. The staff hurries around, preparing for a crowd that routinely exceeds 1,000 people. Seven colorful food trucks begin assembling in the lot in back. Behind a large window sit rows of gleaming stainless steel brewing vessels producing beer sold throughout the Bay Area, in Los Angeles and as far away as Europe, Australia and Japan.
Things weren’t always this prosperous at Devil’s Canyon. Husband-and-wife owners Chris and Kristiann Garret founded the brewery during uncertain times in 2001. Unmotivated with his career in technology, Chris leveraged his years as a homebrewer to start the brewery with Kristiann in an industrial park in Belmont. They first called it “Brew 4 U” and brewed private-label beers for restaurants along the Peninsula, barely earning enough income to keep afloat. But then a highly popular blonde ale served at Alice’s Restaurant on Skyline Boulevard got them noticed. As the awards piled up, the Garrets changed the name to “Devil’s Canyon” based on the translation of the Spanish name of the canyon running through Belmont, “La Cañada del Diablo.” Shortly thereafter, they decided to invite the public into the brewery the last Friday of each month. Beer Fridays were born.
The novel event became a hit with beer drinkers eager to connect with a local brewery. Devil’s Canyon also made root beer, which they poured during Beer Fridays, making these evenings an all-ages affair. Folk bands played while groups of friends and families mingled about the old copper brewing kettles to share a few pints. As the years went by, the ever-growing event threatened to overwhelm Devil’s Canyon’s capacity and in 2013 they moved to their current location at 935 Washington St. in San Carlos.
As with the original brewery, second-hand stuff dominates the space. “We used reclaimed wood, from a Victorian house being torn down, for the bar,” explains Devil’s Canyon’s Rebekah Atwell. Rebekah’s official title at Devil’s Canyon is simply “Herself.” “I made the sound baffle from an old bourbon barrel,” she adds, pointing to a wood panel on the gray wall behind the music stage. Giant wooden spools turned on their sides serve as tables. A brewery heat exchanger built from a couple of damaged tanks saves thousands of gallons of water from being poured down the drain each day. It’s this gritty, pragmatic environmentalism that’s earned Devil’s Canyon a first-place award from Sustainable San Mateo County.
Breweries all over the country are setting up taprooms, creating neighborhood meeting places in industrial parks few would otherwise venture into. It’s the new thing in craft beer and helps breweries “build their brands,” say the marketing experts. Devil’s Canyon figured that out a long time ago. And unlike most breweries where non-alcoholic options usually mean water or a can of Coke, their house-brewed root beer makes it an experience families can enjoy. As Rebekah sums it up, “It’s like a giant neighborhood block party.”
Devil’s Canyon pours six core beers available all year ’round; their root beer and various special releases are only available at the brewery each Friday. On the first three or four Fridays of each month, Beer Garden Fridays happen from 4 to 10pm; a small acoustic or low-key music group plays and up to six food trucks add to the fun. On the last Friday of each month, Beer Friday runs from 4 to 11pm, with two full bands playing two sets and up to seven food trucks. This event is busy.
Full Boar Scotch Ale: Devil’s Canyon biggest seller. Don’t let the jet-black color fool you. It’s a surprisingly light, drinkable beer with chocolate, caramel and smoky flavors with a bit of molasses sweetness.
Root Beer: Do not miss out on Devil’s Canyon root beer! Locally sourced honey, agave syrup and cane sugar create a wonderfully rich, complex depth to the best root beer you’ll ever have. Seriously.
Belle Biere Brut: Those who prefer their beer on the lighter side should check out this nifty offering. Pilsner malt and champagne yeast create a tingly toasty brew that’s light and refreshing with a unique character. Devil’s Canyon often uses Belle Bière Brut as a base beer for its barrel-aged special releases.