Lily Belli heads north for a pizza pop-up in Scotts Valley and a local beer empire’s reboot of Felton’s Cremer House, and also checks in with brewers about why the cost of your favorite pints might be going up.
Welcome to the weekend, my friends. I don’t know about you but I could use a beer, probably because there was so much beer-centric news this week — good and bad.
The not-so-great news is that while there could be a barley shortage due to bad weather, it’s definitely not the only rising cost local brewers are struggling to withstand. Thankfully, a highly anticipated addition to the downtown Felton scene is set to open in a few short weeks, so we will have one more place to drown our sorrows with a great glass of beer.
And there’s a new pop-up in Scotts Valley that’s blowing up the pizza scene with its decadent Detroit-style pies. What’s Detroit style, you might ask? Read on to find out.
The Humble Sea Tavern is set to open next month in the historic Cremer House in Felton, says Lee DeGraw, head of marketing for Humble Sea Brewing Co. It will be open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Sunday, and eventually for brunch on the weekend, with a menu of “elevated comfort food,” a full cocktail menu, and of course lots of beer on draft. DeGraw is especially excited about opening the wraparound patio for outdoor dining and cocktail sipping. Follow along at @humblesea.tavern.
Brewers might have to raise their beer prices due to a nationwide barley shortage, the San Francisco Chronicle reported last week. But according to local brewers, it’s not just the cost of barley, the main ingredient in beer, that’s going up — it’s everything.
“All of our costs, from aluminum cans to cardboard to CO2 and the shipping to bring them all to the brewery have increased,” says David Purgason, co-owner of Fruition Brewing in Watsonville. Purgason and his partner and fiancée, Tallula Preston, haven’t had to raise their prices from $5-7 per 12-ounce beer since they opened in 2019, despite rising costs. But the barley shortage, caused by drought and heat rather than supply chain issues, adds a sobering uncertainty to the future availability of quality brewing supplies.
Rob and Kathleen Genco, owners of Discretion Brewing in Soquel, said they are also used to paying a bit more for their organic brewing supplies. Despite steady price increases for several years now, they said they do their best to absorb the costs without passing them on to their customers. Rob cites “many other significant reasons for increased costs in craft beer,” including energy, water, canning supplies, transportation and “the overall costs of living in our area.”
I need your help for a future story. Tell me, what are your favorite local Santa Cruz County products at the grocery store? This time I’m excluding our many talented beverage makers and farmers — I want to know who’s making the best jams, sauces, pastas, tofu, olives, cookies and more in the grocery aisles. Tell me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The hefty, rectangular Detroit-style pizza stands apart from other thinner, rounder, perhaps lesser pies. In this case bigger is better, more is more. Here, the cheese (there’s a lot of it) is encouraged to melt over the sides into the bottom of the pan, creating an irresistible overhang of crunchy, melted, frico-like “cheese crown.” The bottom crust crisps up until it’s almost fried, the better to support ample toppings. “It reminds me of your favorite grilled cheese sandwich,” says Matt Driscoll, owner of the Pizza Series, a pop-up that specializes in Detroit-style pizzas. “It gets that caramelized, almost fried dough on the bottom, with a focaccia-y center.”
Driscoll, together with his fiancée, Maddy Quesada, started the Pizza Series in the fall of 2020. It pops up every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 4:30 to 7 p.m. inside the Enterprise Technology Center in Scotts Valley, with 10 house combinations and a build-your-own option, all available as Detroit- and New York-style pies. Guests should order their pizzas in advance through an online order form, particularly if they want Detroit style, which frequently sells out by Thursday, although the Pizza Series does take a limited number of walk-ins.
I’ve been to my fair share of pop-ups and finding them is part of the fun, but even I have to admit that locating the Pizza Series is a bit of a trek. After pulling off onto Santas Village Road adjacent to Highway 17 into the nearly empty parking lot of the huge, vacant corporate campus, the vibe is kind of apocalyptic.
Thankfully there are plenty of well-placed signs that direct visitors to a parking lot on the far side of the building, past fountains and tennis courts, into the heart of an empty dining hall. But, as the Pizza Series’ many returning customers will tell you, the journey is worth it.
Driscoll has lived and breathed pizza since he was a teenager working at a Domino’s in Aptos in the late 1990s, and has also had stints at Pizza My Heart and Bantam. For eight years, he managed the pizza station at Whole Foods Market, training new cooks to make perfect pies, and eventually became the global pizza trainer for the company.
In 2014, he began documenting his recipes on Instagram and began dreaming of owning his own truck. After leaving Whole Foods in 2016, Driscoll began attending a food truck entrepreneurship program at Google in September 2019. Unfortunately, after a few months the pandemic made it difficult for the program to continue. Driscoll, who is originally from Detroit, decided that it was finally time for the Pizza Series to be born.
The first thing I notice when I open the box is that my pizza is beautiful. The Pep & More ($30) is decorated with rosettes of ricotta cheese, little cup pepperonis glistening in my kitchen light, and it’s finished with a chiffonade of basil.
This pizza could easily feed four, but after several trips back in the kitchen to grab seconds, then thirds, my husband and I devoured almost the whole thing. The hand-tossed New York-style pizzas are also delicious, and boast a super chewy, fragrant crust, but the Detroits really are something else.
Driscoll tells me that the goal is to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Scotts Valley with takeout and by-the-slice service as soon as they find the right spot. Follow his journey on Instagram at @the_pizza_series and order at thepizzaseries.com.
Chef Brad Briske of Home Restaurant has announced that while Feb. 14 falls on a Monday, when his Soquel establishment is normally closed, this year it will be offering a limited number of seats for an exclusive Valentine’s Day tasting menu. Make your reservations now for a 5 p.m. or 8 p.m. seating at homesoquel.com.