OAKHURST – A new business in town always creates a buzz among prospective patrons who are anxious to sample the fare.
In the case of South Gate Brewing Company, it also creates opportunities for other local businesses that are called upon to help make things happen.
“We have lots of local contractors working on this project,” say owners Casey and Lindsay Hawkins. “It has been an amazing experience, and we would definitely recommend any and all of them.”When they moved here a little over a year ago with 2-year-old daughter Kaia, Casey and Lindsay Hawkins say they fell in love with Oakhurst; the community and the people. They wanted to build something for the whole town to be proud of, and felt a really great brewery would be a good fit.
“The locals really helped us make that decision,” says Lindsay. “We wanted to do something unique for Oakhurst.”
Casey and Lindsay are staunch believers in supporting and partnering with local suppliers and businesses, and have designed their business plan with that in mind. The parking lot is filled with the trucks of local contractors.
“Eric Rickman of Northwestern Electric, and the guys from Jim Allen Plumbing are awesome,” says Lindsay. “Mountain Aire is doing our HVAC, and the owner, Steve Bates, is really great to work with.”
Joe Stern is installing the reverse osmosis water system for the brewery. “It’s a process of extracting all the impurities from the water so we have incredibly clean water to brew with,” says Lindsay.
Greg Holt and Doug Waller of Distinct Designs did the framing for the remodel, and Courtney Lynn is creating some of the designs for South Gate’s labeling.
“A lot of the lumber we’re using has an interesting history to it,” says Lindsay. “The lumber for the bar came from the old Sierra Lanes in Fresno, and a lot of this distressed lumber is local barn wood, so we’ll be able to share that history with people while they’re here.”
Their traditional pub-style menu will also feature local products, including produce grown here in the mountain area.
“Our menu will specify who we’re using, so when you look it over, you’ll know a lot about where your food is coming from,” says Lindsay.
South Gate will also be making their own root beer, and hope to pair it with locally produced ice cream.
The couple is excited about promoting and working in partnership with other local businesses in the area such as Sierra Lanes and the Met Cinemas. They like the idea that folks can have dinner and then go out for some fun right here in town.
“It’s so inspiring the way the theater worked out, with those guys swooping in and making that happen; getting that kind of traction,” says Casey. “Now when people want to do dinner and a movie, they can stay here right in our community. We all need to promote each other, and there’s a lot of opportunity for that.”
South Gate will not only serve beer, they will also have a variety of wines.
“We’ll have a thoughtful wine list with local and Napa vintages, and we’ll be featuring vintages from Idle Hour Winery here in Oakhurst,” says Lindsay. “There are some great wines up here, like Westbrook in O’Neals.”
As for the star of the show – the beer – brewmaster Rick Boucke, formerly of Sequoia Brewing Company in Fresno, says they’re planning on having beer for everyone’s taste.
“Whether you like light beer or dark beer, we’ll have something that will appeal to a wide variety tastes,” says Boucke adding that his part of the business is the fun part. He’s looking forward to working his magic with water, barley, hops and yeast, and crafting a world-class product.
“We’ll have four regular beers and one specialty beer that we will change seasonally,” says Boucke.
“The wonderful thing about draft beer is that you know exactly what’s going into your beer and into your body, as opposed to some larger scale operations,” says Lindsay. “It’s just a really beautiful, clean product that we’re producing here, right here in beautiful Oakhurst.”
The latest addition to the kitchen is the new wood fired oven. Patrons will be able to see it from the dining room, and hand-crafted pizza will be another unique offering that Casey says goes great with beer.
The oven will be put to use for many different specialty items and interesting dishes. Casey says they plan to experiment with different kinds of woods, such as almond and fruit woods, and brewmaster Rick is anxious to craft some beer using malts roasted in the oven.
South Gate will have flat screen TVs for sporting events, and the back room will be available for private parties and gatherings.
“We want to create a family-friendly atmosphere where you feel comfortable bringing your family and friends,” says Lindsay. “At the same time, there’ll be a vibe where you’ll feel good about bringing a date, or stopping in for beers with your friends after work. I think we can create an environment that will serve all of those purposes.”
Along with the main dining and bar area in the front, patrons can enjoy Rick’s Brew House in the back, where all the beer is made and fermented.
“That’s what we’re calling the viewing area, and people can congregate there as well,” says Lindsay. ” It’ll be like a secondary tasting room where people can dine, and there’s more seating and big windows for viewing the brewing process. Then the weather is nice, we’ll roll up the bay windows for a bit of an outdoor feel, and a view of Deadwood Mountain.”
While Rick handles the brewmaster duties, the master in the kitchen will be Chef Patrick Edwards, who brings experience from local restaurants such as the Mountain House and the Chukchansi Casino.
Architect Alan Hendry, who recently worked on the EMC SPCA project, has been responsible for the design, and both owners are thrilled with his work.
“Alan is a complete professional, really understands the process, and always goes above and beyond,” says Casey. “If we ever do another project, we will definitely call on Alan.”
One of the big challenges that any new business faces is permits and inspections with the County.
“So far so good,” says Casey. “The County has been great. The inspectors have been wonderful. A real pleasure to work with.”
They also say that District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler has been a big help to them in working their way through the process.
The owners hope to open some time early in May, though “it’s hard to give an exact date, as there are so many moving parts.”
In the meantime, they are looking for “South Gate Superstars” to join their team of servers and staff.
“We are seeking individuals with a great attitude and team spirit who share our enthusiasm for opening Oakhurst’s very first Brewpub. If you have a passion for great beer and food and are able to to deliver exceptional service in a fast paced environment, we want to meet you,” says their Facebook page.
They are hiring for front of house and back of house staff, bartenders (beer/wine only), food-runners (high service), cooks and dishwashers.