Cycling for suds
A craft beer pilgrimage to the north side of Chico
The blazing sun was setting as Abby and I pulled our bikes up to The Lost Dutchman Taproom. Thirsty after the ride across town, I ordered a pint of Sierra Nevada’s Otra Vez ($6) brewed with lime and agave, a super-refreshing summertime beer. The bartender made a friendly suggestion to try Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co.’s Blood Orange Saison ($6.50), which is in the same ballpark. Abby ordered one of those.
The beers came quickly. Mine was only about half full—they had just tapped out the keg of Otra Vez, so the bartender offered it on the house. Score. Parched as we were, the crisp, tart beers hit the spot, especially Abby’s saison; it was fruity and vinegary at the start, bitter in the middle and light at the finish.
The Lost Dutchman is basically just two small rooms separated by a curtain. The bar and table tops are highly polished, dark-stained wood that contrast a row of 19 gleaming, stainless steel taps. Old-timey light fixtures hang all around, as does contemporary art by Butte College instructor Simone Senat. It adds up to a warm atmosphere and a good place to have an intimate conversation.
Tucked away in a compound that includes Hotel James and Wine Time, The Lost Dutchman opened about a year and a half ago, and is one of Chico’s best-kept secrets. It’s among a handful of top-notch craft beer bars that have popped up around town over the past few years. This one is far from downtown, which is fine—maybe even desirable—except for people who want to ride out from other parts of town, because there’s no good way to get there on a bicycle.
There’s a small food menu with dishes priced $10 and under. I ordered the mac and cheese ($8) and it was delicious, with a crispy top layer of cheese, gooey stuff underneath and a hint of basil. Abby ordered the goat cheese panini ($10), which I didn’t try because I’m not down with funky cheese, but she said it was solid.
We ordered a flight of four 5-ounce beers of our choice ($10), and our first sample was Sierra Nevada’s CBE Imperial Stout. It was crafted with input from the Chico Beer Enthusiasts group during a Beer Camp visit, and it’s a real monster (9.7 percent alcohol), made with toasted coconut, vanilla and cold brew coffee. It was jet-black and smooth. Next up was 2 Towns Cider House’s Made Marion marionberry cider, which was pretty incredible. I tend to expect ciders to be sickly sweet, but this wasn’t, and it tasted spot-on like blackberries. Then there was Dust Bowl Brewing Co.’s Super Tramp wheat-wine style ale, which had a straightforward foundation of wheat flavor with a strong strawberry finish (strawberry puree is one of the ingredients). We were both lukewarm on it.
Our last sample was my favorite beer of the night. I’ve been told that hazy IPAs—cloudy and unfiltered in the New England style—are the new, trendy thing, so in the spirit of being cool, we made sure to be seen sipping Barebottle Brewing’s Mango Shakes IPA. It was juicy and not the least bit bitter. Abby, who usually hates hop-bombs, said, “It tastes like an IPA, except not bad.”
It was around closing time when we finished the flight. We paid the bill (about $40 with a tip) and agreed it was well worth it. We stepped into the Chico night for the (long) ride home.