New kid on the block

Jim Hardesty

Photo courtesy of Nor Cal Brewing Co.

Plaques and memorabilia line the wall above the high, dark wainscoting, and several tables fill the room near the warm and richly colored bar. But this is not just a pub, it’s also a brewery. Nor Cal Brewing Co. is the latest addition to what owner Jim Hardesty is calling the “fermentation district” in south Chico. Nine taps line the back wall, and behind it all you can see glimpses of the equipment used to make the beer. Hardesty, who’s lived in Chico for 20 years, has been making beer since 1981, when some friends gave him a homebrew kit for his 20th birthday and challenged him to start his own brewery. Eight years later, Hardesty quit his day job and started working in the microbrew industry; he worked his way up to become a successful consultant helping small beer companies optimize and maximize their beer-making operations. In July, he opened the Nor Cal tasting room at 180 Erma Court, Ste. 100. Check out for hours and other info.

Tell me about Nor Cal Brewing.

We do all the beer-making here. We have a small brewhouse and a little bit of capacity, but it’s all geared for this pub here, the tasting room and the tap room. So, having people come in here and have a pint of beer, that’s what we’re focused on right now. We’re part of a neat neighborhood we’re hoping people are going to want to come to and kind of check us all out.

Is this actually a bar?

Yeah. That’s exactly what it is. I think you’re going to see a lot of this type of stuff happening … a lot people are very comfortable coming into this warehouse, industrial kind of [area]. More and more little breweries are doing this kind of thing.

What can you tell me about your beer?

We offer a range of beers that are all small-batch … we have from wheat to pale blond ale, brown ale, porter. What makes these unique? I think it’s just my experience, the amount of experience that I’ve actually had in the industry and kind of understanding and honing on and working on some of these recipes for so long, that they are really good and solid. Some of them I’ve had in the arsenal for 25 years and cannot make them any better, I believe.

How do you feel about being a part of this growing area?

The fermentation district is really supportive of everything going on here. We’re trying to drive people down to our area, and I think that’s the most important thing I can say, is just come down and check out the area and share everything that’s down here—not just me, but all of us—because there’s a lot of businesses in here that I think people are gonna want to check out and move around a little bit and maybe do a little loop and visit us all because we’re here and we’re close.