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Seasonal brews, scotch dinners, jazz & more

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Kellie Jacobs of Valley Brewing in Stockton serves up a brew.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED March 9, 2012 11:28 p.m.

STOCKTON – All that Kellie Craig-Jacobs needs to do to gauge how well she’s doing as a business owner is look towards her bar.

While the tap has run dry on a handful of Central Valley brewpubs – Kelley Brothers closed its doors in Manteca earlier this year after more than a decade of serving the local community – the owner of Stockton’s Valley Brewing Co. still enjoys crowds most nights of the week at the Miracle Mile establishment.

And with a brewer that steadily churns out high-quality beer and a chef that has overhauled the menu help keep things fresh holding down the libations and the eats, Craig-Jacobs – who took over the establishment in 1997 after the original owners started to go under – has been able to focus on other projects that will keep the hotspot as popular as ever.

A recent partnership with the Brubeck Institute at the University of the Pacific has turned the bar’s banquet room into a jazz club two nights a week to allow one of Stockton’s cultural gems to share some of its pizzazz with the community.

The bar’s extensive memorabilia collection – which includes tributes to products like UOP Coach and baseball legend Ed Sprague and Delta College pitcher turned Major League Baseball closer Eddie Guardado – has kept it a popular destination for sports fan looking to get their fill on the numerous flatscreen televisions.

“Stockton residents are proud of their local people, and that’s something that we wanted to reflect,” Craig-Jacobs said. “Sports have always been one of the main draws here, and people enjoy looking around at all of the things that we have on display.

“We knew that if we were going to go with that theme we were going to jump in full-bore, and that’s what we did.”

But everything starts with the brew.

A handful of regular staples are always on-hand including a wheat, an IPA (India Pale Ale), Luna Blanca (Belgian wheat), Uber Hoppy (Double IPA) and London Tavern (English dark session.) Seasonal beers rotate throughout the year with lighter options coming in the summer months, and heavier, higher-gravity choices typically reserved for cold weather.

Chef Eric Davis hosts a handful of dinners throughout the year where the seasonal brews are properly paired with culinary selections. He just recently added new twists including a wine dinner and a scotch dinner.

And sometimes getting back to the simple things is exactly what people want.

After creating a “club” concept for regular patrons who wanted something a little extra, General Manager Chad Dorado went back to the drawing board and reinstituted traditional cocktails like the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned – putting a sophisticated twist on standard bar staples.

Expanding what Valley Brew was known for, Craig-Jacobs said, helped to cater to the wants of the customers that have not only kept the doors open for the last 15 years, but also put the wheels in motion to possibly open another location in Stockton in the coming years.

“We try to promote a family-like atmosphere here where people can come and enjoy an affordable experience in a unique atmosphere, and I think that’s what we’ve done,” she said. “We’re grateful for the repeat customers that we get and it’s a good way to show us that we’re doing something right.

“There was a steep learning curve when he first started out, but over time I think we’ve managed to put together a good team that has really brought out the best of what this restaurant can be.”

As far as why Northern California residents love their craft beers, Craig-Jacobs thinks that it’s just something that’s naturally brewed into the people that grow up in the region – a fertile agricultural area where the main ingredients for what Valley Brew is famous for have prime conditions.

“Looking back East, I think a lot of people grew up on the beer that was brewed there like Pabst Blue Ribbon and Milwaukee’s Best. This has always been an area where conditions for hop growing have been perfect – when you drive over to Pleasanton you pass Hopyard Road,” she said. “I think it’s a natural transition. People here appreciate good, quality, fresh hops and that translates into the marketplace. People are always going to drink Bud and Coors.

“But craft brews are gaining market share, and I think that’s something that’s going to continue.”

209 staff reporter

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