Monday, June 8, 2015

Campbell Brewing Re-booted: Intriguing, yet incomplete

Campbell Brewing Company had long maintained awkward looking co-existence with The Sonoma Chicken Coop at its Downtown Campbell location.  Tucked back in the corner, it seemed somewhat tacked on to the larger casual chicken and pizza restaurant.  That changed this spring when Campbell Brewing took over the entire Campbell location.  After the place shut down for a couple months for remodeling, it re-opened in late May as a brewpub in its own right.

I was curious to see how Campbell Brewing, free of their Sonoma Chicken Coop committments, would emerge as a free standing brewery.  For years, I found their beers to be pretty hit or miss.  Sure, they won a couple Great American Beer Festival awards, and some of their special releases were excellent.  However, I found most of their standard line-up to be pretty ordinary.  Since it's only a fifteen minute walk from where I live, I was eager to check the place out and see how the brewery would emerge uninhibited from the Sonoma Chicken Coop ownership.

Unfortunately, the emergence of Campbell Brewing is on pause since Brewmaster Jim Turturici has left the company.  So for now, Campbell Brewing is actually not a brewery and is currently looking for a Brewmaster and of the beers pouring right now our guest taps.  On a Sunday evening, two weeks after the place opened, my wife and I found plenty of interesting beers to try, although there was a surprisingly Southern California dominance to the tap list.  But give them credit with coming up with a tap list accessible to the craft beer curious while simultaneously satisfying the hard core beer geek with a number of inspired choices on their list.

As for the food, it's a pretty good barbecue place if you ask me.  An excellent appetizer of fried green tomatoes were crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside and jazzed up with a zippy, spicy dipping sauce.  The barbecue chicken I ordered was pretty solid.  It was served with a barbecue sauce a little sweeter than my taste, but the sauce still hit a lot of good sweet and spicey notes.  Collard greens can be a limp, tasteless side item but by adding some mustard greens, Campbell Brewing turned it into a lively side dish.  I wish I could say the same about the baked beans which were bland and pasty.  That said, it was a pretty good plate of barbecue.
Going for the de-constructed look, Campbell Brewing
serves up a good plate of barbecue

Being open just two weeks, there were some service glitches which the friendly staff resolved quickly and effectively.  Everyone around us seemed to be having a good time and the new interior is airy and more inviting.  I'd have to say the place seems less family friendly than the old Sonoma Chicken Coop but I could still see bringing my 12 and 14 year old kids here.  A couple large "Sonoma Chicken Coop" signs still hanging outside suggest, if only metaphorically, the transition isn't quite finished. I still look forward to the day this place hires a brewer, actually becomes a brewery, and I get to sample some local brews straight from the brewing equipment behind the bar.

The place encouraging, yet incomplete.  That didn't seem to bother the folks around us, and in the bustling restaurant scene in downtown Campbell, a brewpub is a nice fit between the high-brow Liquid Bread gastropub and the very casual Spread sandwich shop.  As of yet, it's fair to say they haven't accomplished what they set out to be yet.  No matter, I'll be rooting for them, and will definitely be back.

1 comment:

  1. I heard that a brewer has now been hired (6/12/15) and should be firing up the kettle very soon if not already. Another good beer location downtown is Social Light which has a fairly good tap list.