Tom Lucas is excited about plans to open a tap room in southwest Ceres to promote his family's fledgling craft brewery.
"We're excited," said owner and brew master Tom Lucas. "It's been a long journey to say the least. We can't wait to get out there."
Blaker Brewing is preparing to escalate the brewery from its current family farm based operation on Fulkerth Road six miles west of Turlock. Lucas has signed a lease in Ceres with the intention of breaking ground for a new 6,000-square-foot facility in March with a tentative opening in July. The craft brewery will feature a tap room on Monte Claire Drive off Farm Supply Drive. The industrial area in southwest Ceres is home of Classic Wine Vinegar, California Landscape Supply, Thrasher Golf, and Chatz Roasting.
"We can't sell beer yet but we've been able to supply beer for non-profit events, like the Central Valley Brew Fest and Smoke on the River and those sorts of thing," said Lucas. "We've done other events throughout Ceres, through the Lions Club, and through the Chamber of Commerce. That's how we've gotten our products out there."
Blaker Brewery is not licensed to sell its beers yet until it gets an established address. Tom said he just sent an application off to the state and that he expected the process to take three to four months.
"I have to wait until I actually have a building secured before I can get a license. We'll be able to sell in stores. We will be at stores, bars, restaurants throughout the area and then you can come to our tap room and taste. We'll have a little reach-in cooler that you'll be able to purchase our product by can or bottles and by kegs as well."
Lucas is submitting plans to the city for approval of the suite.
"We've had a lot of support from the Ceres community," said Lucas. "It's been really neat. It's been wonderful working with some of the folks in Ceres - Renee Ledbetter at the Chamber of Commerce has been a real warrior for us. She introduced me to so many people in Ceres. And also Tom Westbrook at the city of Ceres. He's just been so helpful and supportive. We're really excited and feel like we've gotten the response from some of the people that matter in Ceres to bring us into that town. They've really courted us. They wanted us there and we want to be where we're wanted."
"We know Blaker Brewing could have chosen other areas to locate, but we are so excited that they have decided to make Ceres their new home," said Ceres Chamber of Commerce President Renee Ledbetter.
Blaker Brewing's website mentions that they produce seven craft beers but Lucas continues to experiment to create new ones.
"We're going to put three to four styles out on the market. We'll have in our tap room up to 12 handles is what we're planning right now. We've probably made at least 20 different styles. We have kind of a group of about 10 that are fairly solid that we can bring in right away. We're always experimenting and innovating and coming up with new stuff. We'll have a few handles in there that are always rotating new fresh supply of different styles."
The website mentions these products: the Vanilla Bean Milk Stout (4.9 percent alcohol); Plowed Under IPA (Irish Pale Ale) at 7.1 percent; Festa Vienna Lager (5.5 percent); the Measure-X Double Brown Ale (5.7 percent); Big Nothin' Wee Heavy (9.9 percent); Summer of '38 Cream Ale (4.6 percent); and Fix Session IPA (5.0 percent).
Lucas said the Lucas Dairy has been operating since 1938 when his great-grandfather started it. They operate a dairy and also grow corn, wheat and hops. Brewing came along in 2012.
"In the last five or six years we started to develop this brewery idea. Where it kind of grew out of was we were home brewing as a side project and then we started to think we could do something that incorporates the farm. We realized brewing is farming, you know, you've got the barley, you've got the hops. We are able to grow some of our own hops. Another aspect that kind of tied the brewery back into the farm is our spent grains can go back to our cattle. So we get kind of a little loop there, a sustainable loop between the farm and the brewery. When we some of those connections we thought we've got something that can be special here, a true farmhouse brewery."
Lucas said he's been energized by watching the Dust Bowl Brewery take off in Turlock. The product is served in local stores and at eateries in downtown Turlock and at their new brewery/restaurant on Fulkerth Road west of Highway 99.
"They've been very helpful and it's been great getting to know those guys. They've helped us with all kinds of small ideas to help us get started. Seeing what they're doing now is at a different level. It's been pretty incredible to watch them grow in such a short period of time."