Whenever we travel, I am always on the lookout for great places to buy and enjoy great Belgian beer (or Belgian style and Belgian inspired beers as well). Two weeks ago found us at the Southern Oregon coast (Brookings) and in Eureka, California for our long overdue, and much needed vacation!
While doing online research, I discovered a great place in Eureka called THE LOCAL BEER BAR. At their website’s homepage, one of the first pictures is an image of a wall with skateboard planks donning creative artwork to illustrate their rotating tap selection. This immediately caught my attention, since I rode my fair share of half-pipes, and frequented skate parks in the late 70’s and up to the mid-80’s. I actually started riding skateboards in January 1975; so in essence, this was a 40-year anniversary of sorts.
And then… I went to the website’s “What’s on Tap” page… what a selection! They boasted a number of Belgians- both on tap and in bottle. It was a done deal.
I quickly emailed The Local Beer Bar to inquire if I could interview the founder, and get to know who he was and what this place was all about. They agreed. I visited THE LOCAL BEER BAR on September 22, 2015… the pictures are from that visit.
A BEER GEM IN HUMBOLDT COUNTY
Eureka, California is one of those unique places that cannot be described with one descriptive adjective. For me, I find the city to be a mix of artful whimsy, eclectic counterculture expression, and steely industrialism.
As I drove up to the front of the bar, the street front fit the latter description:
The size of the bar front from the sidewalk will deceive you. Once you step inside, the place is long- a physical stature that matches their beer list. I actually arrived about 5 minutes before I met with the founder of The Local. This gave me a chance to think about what pictures I wanted to take, and what feel I wanted to convey with our newest PLACES review.
Not long after my wait, up drove Darren Cartledge, the main proprietor of The Local (as it states on their website). Unfortunately, Darren’s wife (Michelle) could not attend the interview due to pressing issues that came with the launch of the opening of their newest location- we’ll talk about that a bit later in this article.
IT WAS LIKE HOW THE WIZARD OF OZ GOES FROM BLACK AND WHITE TO COLOR…
When Darren opened up the door to his treasured beer bar, I was blown away at the stark and colorful contrast the inside of the place had- it was like night and day! I saw first hand the ultra-creative use of skateboard planks to artfully list their beers available on tap:
Each skateboard plank (board art) is done by different, local artists. The bar actually holds a competition to see who can come up with the most creative artwork to display. Go to The Local Beer Bar’s EVENTS page at their website to find out when the next board art competition will be.
Ok, now that I was thoroughly “wowed” by the place (the skateboard planks took me back to my teenage years), it was time to get down to the purpose of my visit- taking pictures and interviewing Darren…
FROM AUSTRALIA, TO MICHIGAN, TO THE WEST COAST OF CALIFORNIA
Darren Cartledge is one of those amiable sort of fellows- very easy to talk to. Immediately, we struck up a rapport when it came to talking about Belgian beer and skateboarding. It is always interesting to meet someone new when it comes to discussing Belgian beer, especially with someone of Darren’s caliber.
Originally from Sydney, Australia, (he has no detectable Aussie accent) Darren lived in a number of places in the United States before his family settled down in Michigan. This is where he discovered beer for the first time. His older brother introduced him to all “the terrible stuff” (his words!) like Olde English, etc. Darren’s beer palate changed for the better when his older brother introduced all the great microbreweries emerging from the Michigan beer scene, breweries such as Grand Traverse Brewing, Bells Brewery, and Founders Brewing Company.
One of the first Californian craft beers Darren tried was when his older brother introduced him to Sierra Nevada’s classic: CELEBRATION ALE. He mentions upon his first sip of Celebration, “It blew my mind…” That was the beer that caused him to venture out into the world of Pale Ales and IPA’s, beyond the Brown ales and Stouts he was regularly drinking.
Years later, Darren moved to California to raise his son. Before moving to California, he was a private and commercial yacht captain before venturing into the world of craft beer. The divine inspiration to for Darren start The Local Beer Bar came from the time he was working at a drinking establishment in Arcata. He quickly noticed that there was a bit of a barren beer situation in the local Humboldt scene, and set out to improve it. In his quest to offer local Arcadians a wider and more diverse beer selection he crossed paths with 21st Amendment Brewery, which opened the doors to connections and contacts who could help Darren with his vision. Some time later, he realized that Eureka needed a good beer place that would allow him to introduce new and exciting beers to the locals there. He scraped the money together, and in March 2012, THE LOCAL BEER BAR opened up to a curious and enthusiastic audience.
It was during my photo shoot that Darren invited me down to the beer cellar. Accessible by a 3′ x 3′ trap door via a steel ladder, I was excited to take a privileged look at what he called his “secret stash…”
The area was a bit cramped, but the treasure trove of rare beer down here made it all worth it. These few pictures are just a small sample of what is actually going on down in the beer cellar!
I knew this was my chance to pick up some beers to BrewView at a later time that are not available in my local Redding, California market (I’ll be BrewViewing those in the near future). I ensured Darren that I would return later that evening with my lovely bride. I thanked him for his gracious time out of his business day to speak with us…
OUR FOLLOW UP VISIT- SEPTEMBER 22, 2015 (EVENING)
After a disappointing dinner at a well known beer place (the experience was much better when we were there 6 years ago) I could not wait to get back to “The Local.”
When we got there, the place was hopping with locals enjoying the bar’s offerings. It was hard for me to decide which beer I wanted to try first. My wife being a cider fan, wanted to try my suggestion on a cider that Darren gave me a sample of from his other business enterprise, HUMBOLDT CIDER COMPANY.
As my wife sat at one of the cozy tables, I was greeted very warmly by THE LOCAL staff member Sarah, (who I briefly met in my interview with Darren earlier that day.) My first beer was Vander Ghinste Cuvée des Jacobins, fresh from the tap. This evening for me was going to be about Sours and Lambics! Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of that beer- I was too busy initially soaking in the funky atmosphere. (Coincedentally, Darren and Michelle have successfully spread the “Sour Beer / Lambic Beer” gospel to a very receiving clientele at The Local Beer Bar.) My wife tried Humboldt Cider Company’s specialty hopped cider- their house blend dry hopped with Citra and Simcoe hops. It has a delicate and fresh hop aroma, with a nice apple tart finish. We both agreed that it was one of the most complex ciders we’ve ever tried.
It was clear that the locals were fully enjoying themselves to the sounds of the music in the background. As I went to order my next beer, I could hear one of the female patrons talk about her artwork on one of the skateboard planks she drew. I believe she was drinking the beer her artwork portrayed, but I can’t say for sure…
I told the second person behind the bar that Darren put a very special bottle away for me in the cooler. That beer was Brasserie Cantillon’s IRIS…
The Cantillon brewery is closely linked to Brussels, a city which has the iris as its symbol. As the name indicates, the “marsh iris” is a plant growing in humid areas. The historical center of Brussels is built on swamps where this flower used to grow abundantly.
In 1998, the Brussels Museum of the Gueuze celebrated its 20th anniversary. The Cantillon brewery decided to make a new spontaneous fermentation beer for this occasion, named after this symbolic flower.
It is a completely original beer which, contrary to the other products of the Brewery, is not brewed with 35% of wheat. The Iris, which is only made with malt of the pale ale type (giving a more amber colour to the beer) conserves the typical flavour of the spontaneous fermentation, the complex aromas and the vinous taste.
The hopping is different too. Lambic is made with 100% dried hops. For the Iris, the brewery uses 50% of dried hops and 50% of fresh hops. The latter cause a superb acidity, the former, due to their tannins, enable to conserve the beer while preserving all its qualities.
After two years in the barrel, the Iris undergoes a second fresh hopping two weeks before the bottling. A linen bag, filled with hops, is soaked in the beer for two weeks. This technique, called “cold hopping”, gives the beer a more intense savor and makes the smell and the taste more bitter. (Source: Cantillon & Shelton Brothers)
As I sat in this beer haven with the love of my life, sipping this wonderful beer, Al Green’s classic song “Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)” began to play in the background. A perfect song for the mood I was in…
My wife and I decided to split another cider from Humboldt Cider Company, this time it was their Cherry cider. It had a nice mouth puckering tartness to it; flavors and mouthfeel akin to a Kriek… very nice.
The evening was winding down, and our cab was right on time to take my wife and I back to our hotel suite. It was a great day and evening. As I mention in my interview (video below) this is a MUST PLACE to visit for all beer geeks, enthusiasts and aficionados visiting Eureka, California. Don’t miss this place! It’s a great time. Our cheers and many thanks to Darren and Michelle Cartledge for their time and cooperation- it is well appreciated!
We almost forgot! at the beginning of this article, we mentioned that Michelle could not make it to the interview, as pressing business matters required her to be at the couple’s new and upcoming business enterprise: THE LOCAL CIDER BAR!
This exciting upcoming bar will be located in Arcata, California and will be a haven for hard cider lovers. Of course the bar will house ciders from the Cartledge’s cidery, HUMBOLDT CIDER COMPANY, along with other artisanal cider producers. Follow them on Facebook for the latest updates, and (most importantly) the opening date for this new venture!
DECEMBER 5, 2016: THE LOCAL BEER BAR ANNOUNCES ITS FINAL FAREWELL
Darren & Michelle Cartledge announced today that they will be closing THE LOCAL BEER BAR in Eureka to concentrate on their other booming businesses, THE LOCAL CIDER BAR, and HUMBOLDT CIDER COMPANY. However, beer fans, don’t despair! They are going to incorporate a 2nd taproom to serve all the world class beers that the patrons of The Local Beer Bar have come to enjoy at the Humboldt Cider Company location!
Click here to read the official announcement, and to attend their FINAL FAREWELL PARTY on December 31, 2016…
VIDEO: MY INTERVIEW WITH THE LOCAL BEER BAR CO-OWNER- DARREN CARTLEDGE
Below is the You Tube link to our interview with The Local Beer Bar co-owner Darren Cartledge. Darren and I talk about how he got started, how his love for beer developed and grew, and briefly discusses their new business venture, The Local Cider Bar. Give it a watch!