I thought a small storm might ruin my chance to stop by FiftyFifty Brewing Company in Truckee. My wife and I were high-tailing it home, trying to stay ahead of the weather. We’d just wrapped up our long holiday weekend by shuttling her aunt home to Vacaville and making a stop in Davis—frolicking in the quaint downtown for the night to celebrate our anniversary. Rain came and went as we drove home, but fortunately snow held off, so a lunchtime stop for beer and a bite to eat was in order.
It’s not like I haven’t been there before—in the world of beer geeks, FiftyFifty is kind of a disproportionately big deal for one specific reason: Eclipse. It’s a barrel-aged imperial stout, around 11 percent alcohol. It’s released annually. Many barrel-aged imperial stouts are available, but Eclipse stands out, as the brewery makes about a dozen different varieties of it. different varieties. Some are aged in particular whiskey, rye or cognac barrels. Others are flavored with with, for example, vanilla or coffee. Each variety gets a different colored wax dip to identify it.
Eclipse was once a coveted specialty. You had to pre-purchase “futures” to secure the most desirable varieties, and the December release party attracted elite beer connoisseurs from far and wide. But as craft beer exploded and comparable beers—many at a more approachable price than the challenging $25-$30 for Eclipse—became available, the cachet of Eclipse waned and now bottles languish on shelves, often well into the following year when the next vintage arrives. This year’s release party on Dec. 7 still sold out, of course, as everyone still loves a high-end beer bacchanal. Ironically, more beers are now catching up to Eclipse’s once-extreme price tier, but apparently the Eclipse thrill is gone for many beer shoppers.
One beer does not define a brewery, though. FiftyFifty is so named because it’s half brewery, half restaurant. The atmosphere somehow feels simultaneously modern and rustic, low lighting giving it a cozy, apres-ski feeling even in the middle of the day with no snow. A good crowd, young and old, locals and visitors alike, enjoyed meals and drinks during our visit.
We were greeted and seated promptly. To get a good sample I ordered a flight—five tasters for $11. I really admired the breadth of choices—16 taps, all house beers, from pilsner to 2016 Woodford Reserve Eclipse, and lots of variety in between. I really enjoyed a prickly pear saison and coffee oatmeal stout, though neither the IPA nor Belgian style beer stood out. Although the menu covers a wide range of brewpub fare, the BBQ chicken pizza really hit the spot for us.
The restaurant shares space with the smaller, original brewery, but FiftyFifty has increased capacity in recent years, adding a second facility for brewing, barrel aging, and canning. Cans launched just recently with four-packs of CAPA pale ale and Session 267 IPA, both available at Reno area retailers. An imperial red IPA with proceeds benefitting the Truckee Trails Foundation is also sold in cans at the brewery, as well as recent Eclipse and barleywine bottles. For those so inclined, a full bar and impressive wine list are also available.
Both satiated, we packed our leftover pizza, shuffled out into the drizzle, and hit the road home. When it comes to imperial stout—or lunch—FiftyFifty Brewing isn’t cheap, but it sure is good.