A sleepover in Salinas, California was not meant to be anything exciting. We were on our way to Death Valley National Park and simply wanted some quiet time. Turned out that Castroville nearby is the Artichoke Capital of the World, so we had to explore it in more detail later at night before moving on. Our search was for live music, but a local pub was more appealing than a hip-hop performance nearby or a DJ in another bar.
APPEARANCE & NOSE
Monterey Coast Brewery had a very attractive front with vintage signage and large windows allowing us to check out the relatively busy brewpub's atmosphere. The interior elements followed traditional rules for making a hip restaurant - a brick wall, chalkboards, warm lighting, miss-matched objects and rough surfaces everywhere. The crowd was young too – all check marks here. We went for the Artichoke Pizza and a Nine Beer Sampler Row. Beer popped up on our table in just a few moments and we got right to it
SWIRL & PALATE
While the First American Wheat and Pilsner where quite light and clean, we enjoyed the Hefeweizen with a wedge of squeezed lemon even more - a wheat beer with a fruity flavor. Another great specimen was the Scottish red - perfect for any meal - full bodied with a smooth feel and not overly opinionated. Even the medium bodied IPA variety was not over to top - toasted caramel at the nose and, just at the finishing line, some toffee flavors. Mon Cheri loved the Chocolate Porter. It was rich, black with a full head and light chocolate taste. We were not big fans of their Pale Ale. There was sweet caramel on the nose, we both thought it had a whiff of dirty kitchen towel on the palette.
There were two visiting beers as well, both from California - Crispino Hard apple cider and Old Rasputin stout. We had a feeling these were added to the lineup for diversity more than anything else. Nothing overly special to either, in our opinion, but still above average as far as stouts and ciders go. Rasputin not too bitter and Crispino neither sharp nor sweet. To summarize, these two turned out to be polite and welcome guests.
Our meal to go along with the samplers was an Artichoke Hearts Pizza with sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese. It was juicy and matched quite a few of the full bodied beer samplers we had lined up for us. At the same time, the pizza crust could have been fluffier, it was somewhere in between a flat-bread pizza and regular. A few things we could tell for sure - the artichokes were very fresh, the tomatoes not over-dried (retaining some juiciness) and there was plenty of goat cheese topped it all off. We really enjoyed this dish.
Service a bit rushed, but friendly. It did not quite feel like our waitress (Lacy) wanted us to stick around. We did enjoy the environment though, the table with rough grain wood added to the rustic feel as well as the old brick walls with beer label murals painted over with the texture of the brick showing. To top it all off, Shine on Your Crazy Diamond faintly played on the background - a fun, unexpected evening after all.