Brewed awakening

High Sierra cook Becca Evans and server Traci Palone present the Hawaiian pizza with a spicy kick.

High Sierra cook Becca Evans and server Traci Palone present the Hawaiian pizza with a spicy kick.

Photo/Allison Young

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My wife and I made the mistake of parking in the back lot of Baldini’s Sports Casino, giving us plenty of time to soak in the aroma of stale cigarette smoke and cheap cocktails as we hiked through the building. Thus our expectations were pretty low by the time we found the street entrance to High Sierra Brewing Company.

The room is spacious, with a mix of high and low tables, booths and barstools, decorated with brewing paraphernalia, exposed faux brick walls, and a pair of currently de rigeur roll-up doors in place of windows. Compared to the rest of the property, this modern-styled brewpub feels a bit out of place.

Wrapped around a large bottle, the menu of beers brewed in-house was a bit difficult to read, or perhaps I’m just getting old. On the plus side, both the alcohol percentage and bitterness rating is listed for each brew. All 12 house brews are available in pints, talls and pitchers ($3.95, $4.95, $8.95), as well as sampling trays of six, nine or 12 ($7.95, $10.95, $13.95).

I ordered the full tasting flight and found much to like. Overall, I found the darker brews more interesting—particularly the espresso-infused stout—though the OMFG Double IPA packed enough hoppy punch to earn its name and then some. The full flight equals 3.75 pints, making this both an interesting experience as well as a great deal. Housemade root beer and cream soda are available for those on the wagon.

The food menu is comprised mostly of classic pub fare with a few interesting twists here and there. The “egg rolls” were essentially small chimichangas, three deep-fried flour tortillas stuffed with avocado, black bean, corn, tomato, queso fresco and cilantro cut into six pieces and served with a very good ancho chili dipping sauce. The smoothness of avocado contrasted well with the crispy wrapper. We both enjoyed these quite a bit.

Though several “SteakBurgers” are listed (half pound patties of ground steak and beef), it took no time to zero in on the one to try—the 51/49er. The patty is a mix of ground steak and pork topped with iceberg lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and special sauce ($10.95, $1.95 extra for cheese). The bun was above average—lending some actual flavor to the experience—and I could distinguish both pork and beef in the patty. Cooked right to order and seasoned perfectly, I’d say this was among the best burgers I’ve had all year. I substituted a side salad for the fries in an attempt to counter all the carbs with something leafy and green ($1.95 extra).

Speaking of carbs, my wife’s small Hawaiian pizza was a revelation ($10.95). Though I’ve made these at home for my family, I’ve never been a fan of pineapple on pizza. So, when I tell you this is the first time I recall liking any form of this Canadian concoction, that’s really saying something. The secret is the fruit, either tossed or marinated in chili powder, countering the sweetness and marrying well with a bold, zesty sauce. Add a very thin, crispy crust—housemade with brewers grain—and you’ve got a winning combination I’d want to order again. As with the burger, this was one of the better non-homemade pizzas I’ve had in a long time.

As I was polishing off the beer samples, my wife ordered the daily cobbler for dessert ($7.95). This day’s selection was mixed berry—a warm, well-balanced filling served in a good-sized crock with a crumbly topping and huge scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. I had a couple of bites, and then my wife made it disappear faster than I could drink the beer. It’s fair to say she liked it, which sums up our overall experience. We liked it a lot. Only next time, I’ll remember to go in the front door.