To see Casey Hawkin's face last Friday afternoon, you'd think he was looking at a pile of toys Santa left for him on Christmas morning. What Casey was looking at was better than toys -- It was 10 large stainless steel tanks delivered from Premiere Stainless in San Diego - Four fermentation tanks, five serving tanks to ensure freshness and one boiler tank -- Tanks that will serve as the anchor for Casey and his wife Lindsay's new business -- South Gate Brewing Company.
It's a dream the couple from San Diego have had for many years.
"Its been our dream to own a micro brewery and share our love of hand crafted beer and exceptional food," Casey said.
Both Casey and and Lindsay have backgrounds in food and beverage as well as business and marketing. Casey worked for a catering company while practicing his beer-brewing skills at home, and Lindsay worked for a fine dining restaurant.
The couple moved to Oakhurst 15 months ago with their daughter Kaia, now two years old.
By Casey's side March 8 when the tanks arrived was Brewmaster Rick Boucke. Boucke is the man who will be overseeing the production of upwards of 450 gallons of beer a week at the business that is expected to open in late April. Boucke perfected his beer-brewing skills while working eight years, three as brewmaster, at Sequoia Brewing Company in Fresno.
He can't wait to get 'a brewin' in Oakhurst's first micro-brewery, combining water, malt, hops, barley and yeast to create his version of the world's most widely consumed alcoholic beverage. Internationally, beer sales are four times those of wine, which is the second most popular alcoholic beverage.
The brewing process takes about six hours and uses a state-of-the-art filtration system and conditioned water.
"We plan to brew one batch (150 gallons) three times a week," Boucke said.
"Rick was responsible for crafting many of Sequoia's successful and award-winning beers," Casey said.
"We understand Oakhurst and the surrounding area has a love for good beer and we are looking forward to giving everyone the freshest and best tasting beer around," Boucke said. "We will be using only the freshest hops and barley to produce our beers."
The plan is to eventually have eight beers on tap including five brewed on site at South Gate -- Four staple beers and one seasonal beer that will change throughout the year.
The staple beers will be Porter (dark), Pale Ale (light/citrus), a German-style Pilsner and India Pale Ale (higher alcohol 'hoppy' beer).
Along with the freshly brewed beer, South Gate will also sell a variety of bottled beers from around the world and will offer "Growler" service, so people will be able to enjoy their favorite beer at home.
And for wine enthusiasts, South Gate will offer a carefully selected variety of Madera County wines, including Oakhurst's Idle Hour Winery, along with wines from Napa Valley.
"And for the children, we will be making root beer and also bring in additional craft sodas," Lindsay said.
Lindsay's father, Jim Sorenson, is helping with the building remodel.
South Gate Brewing Company, located in the old Chevy dealership building on the corner of Highway 49 and Enterprise Drive, will provide the community with more than just ice cold hand crafted beer. Lindsay said the they are working with a chef to fine tune the lunch and dinner menu featuring "American Pub fare with some exciting twists."
"When you begin with beautiful produce, meats and cheeses, you are well on your way to creating some amazing food," Lindsey said. "Everything we will be serving will go great with beer and all at reasonable prices."
The brewpub will boast a comfortable dining area with a bar plus a special, limited seating space in the brew house where guests can watch the brewing process.
Lindsay explained the decor of South Gate as "industrial chic," with walls covered with reclaimed historic wood, cleverly mixed with steel and copper.
"We will have flat screen TVs so out guests can watch their favorite sporting events," Lindsay said.
About 12 employees will be hired for the business and Casey and Lindsey will hold a job fair the first part of April.
"Our goal is to satisfy everyone's taste for good beer and good food and it will be an honor for us to serve the community," Casey said. "We want to create a craft beer destination that Oakhurst and the surrounding Mountain Area can be proud of for many years to come." Details: southgatebrewco.com.