I love where I grew up – I really do. I can see why my parents raised us kids there – a quiet mountain town just a hop skip and a jump away from Yosemite National Park. But like most people, I didn’t always have the same love for my home town. As teenagers we couldn’t wait to get out; I even remember blasting a Less Than Jake song the day I left for college, singing along to the lyrics: “A boring life in a boring town / With the same old crowd / … / That’s always been around / And I always thought I’d be / The first to go.”
I wasn’t the first to go but I do go back quite often to visit the family and sleep a couple of nights without the sounds of helicopters, dogs barking, and street cleaners. Over the past 30 years we have witnessed that little town get bigger and even take on some of the trends I see here in the big city of Los Angeles: Starbucks, skinny jeans, and maybe a few things I thought were maybe too big for our small town (when they put in the first stop light, I was just a few years old but remember worrying the town was getting too big). But one trend I am extremely excited about and proud of? Definitely not the Starbucks (there are TWO of them!), but the burgeoning craft beer scene taking place.
Home brewing isn’t new to the area (neither is moonshine!), but craft beer choices used to be pretty limited in the liquor and grocery stores. But now that California produces more craft beer than any other state, it’s finding its way to even my little town.
Enter: Prospectors Brewing Company. Just a 30 minute drive further into the mountains, and you’ll find yourself in the just over 2,000 population town of Mariposa, California. Mariposa Brewing Company once existed here (amazingly, I found their beer down here in Los Angeles sort of randomly), but has since closed up shop. Prospectors Brewing Company opened up just late last year with the help of Brew Master Justin Burnsed. The taproom is intimate but not tiny, with a few bar stools, tables, and six taps. The day we visited they were releasing their barley wine called Dirt Nap, which, according to the bartender there, was being well received.
I ordered the six beer taster for just six bucks – totally and completely worth it! Along with the barley wine came the Blasting Cap Specialty Rye, Bootjack Blonde, Mariposa Midnight (Stout), Long Tom IPA, and Pistol Whipped American Wheat. Though I’m not a fan of rye beers in general, my favorites were the IPA and stout. The term Long Tom for the IPA derives from a gold mining technique that would sift through larger amounts of dirt and rock to produce more gold. According to the brewery’s website, “The same innovative spirit was used to create this one of a kind hopped up brew.” The result is a not super hoppy IPA with some floral tones, but still has that nice 7% kick.
The stout is heavy with a dark brown head, is oaked and smoked and evokes memories of sitting by the camp fire. Delicious! Be sure to take advantage of the pretzel offerings to help clear your palette, and while they don’t serve food on location we noticed the Subway across the street was favored amongst some of the fellow patrons.
It’s a pleasant experience visiting places like Prospectors Brewing Company, not just because the beer is delicious but also because in towns like those the most fancy beer you could get was Heineken or Newcastle. It appears the brewery is thriving – on the early Saturday evening we were there, we got the last two seats. Down the road Oakhurst is also getting a new craft brewery called South Gate Brewery, being built now with plans to brew and serve on site. Hopefully, as the tourists make their way up the windy mountain roads to Yosemite, they’ll see the craft beer scene in Mariposa and Oakhurst as another marvelous destination.