About an hour south of San Francisco, in suburban Morgan Hill is a gem of a brewpub (spawned from a production brewery close by) called “El Toro”.
Last week on a drive back north from mid cost CA, I decided to stop there for lunch and found myself meeting one of the real progenitors of brewing in northern California – Geno Acevedo, president, co-owner (with his wife Cindy) and brewmaster of El Toro.
Housed in an old bank building in the center of town, the brewpub’s central focal point is a gorgeous 45” bar inlaid with local “Poppy Jasper” granite – with more than a few El Toro bottle caps floating in the satiny clear epoxy. Behind that bar I found Geno, pouring pints, talking with customers and doing business with real the pride of an owner wearing many hats.
Geno told me that he started brewing in 1986, making him part of the club of original California brewers like Fal Allen of Anderson Valley, Brian Hunt of Moonlight, Jeffers Richardson of Firestone Walker and the a few others that helped spawn generations of craft brewers and are still at it. He and Cindy finally established their 17bbl brewery in 1992 in Morgan Hill, then opened the 3 bbl brewpub in 2006.
As we talked I noticed the amazing array of diverse styles, ingredients and versions of beer available. I happily sampled a few, noted you could have the “Poppy Jasper” amber ale finished in your choice of three different hops – now that’s different and enjoyable! Amarillo for me, thanks. I passed on the “Hottest Chili Beer in the World” and instead sampled the “Deuce Imperial IPA” which won the coveted Alpha King award for hoppiest beer 10 years ago. Still works in 2013.
Geno has seen the craft beer industry grow and contract and grow again, and still brews and delivers his beer the old fashioned way. I asked him if he was joining the booming expansion he said “well we have a bad distribution contract that we are digging out of, we’d like to expand, hopefully soon. They [the distributor] just lost focus on us and craft beer, and it’s time to move on”.
A real mom and pop operation for many years, Geno and Cindy met as homebrewers and the place is their life avocation and vocation. While there are many local regulars, El Toro gets a lot of visitors coming and going from the bay area. “Most of our customers are travelers”. But he’s a local guy invested in the area, involved in the local government and business community.
Every once in a while Geno sees his peers – the innovative and creative early California craft brewers like him who rolled the dice to follow their passion in the mid 80’s – but he doesn’t really have time to hang around with them much. He’s too busy brewing, tending bar, distributing his own beer to local accounts.
If you go to El Toro you will find not only some really good, carefully made craft beer – but a very friendly brewmaster/owner who really knows what’s going on with beer. He also knows what matters when you make a commitment to a life of a being a craft brewer. Drop by and you are lucky to be part of the Acevedo family (extended!).