Farm To Tap
Sustainable ethos, community focus and award-winning brews represent what Temecula's thriving craft beer scene is all about.
Social connection is what ultimately inspired Refuge Brewery’s co-founder and president Curt Kucera to turn his home brewing hobby into a vocation. A mechanical engineer by trade, he deeply enjoyed the communal aspect of sharing the fruits of his hobbyist labors with friends and neighbors who would gather in his garage to try the latest batch. After decades of this informal ritual, Curt decided it was time to create a sanctuary where greater numbers could congregate and experience that same sense of “getting away from it all”—while socializing over quality brews. Given his passion for Belgian-style beers, the name Refuge is a tribute to the monks who sought refuge in Belgium during the French Revolution.
When Refuge opened in 2012, there was only one mature brewery in Temecula. Today, there are more than a dozen diverse breweries, several meaderies, and distilleries in town. Refuge, a standout in growth has become one of the largest breweries in the Inland Empire by production volume. Naturally, beer is the true star of the show at Refuge. At any given time, there are 18 beers on rotation for tasting. Every week, there’s something new and different to sample—usually seasonally inspired. While Belgian-style beers remain their specialty, Refuge also crafts hazy IPAs, classic IPAs, lagers, pale ales, and stouts. Blood Orange Wit, a Belgian-style white ale, is their award-winning flagship beer. In 2017, it earned the coveted gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in the Belgian Style Fruit Beer category.
Well before that prestigious endorsement, demand for the Blood Orange Wit grew rapidly. Blood oranges have a very limited growing season, so they had to get creative about sourcing the volume of fruit needed to produce the beer—200 pounds go into every batch. They discovered a third-generation citrus farmer in Hemet who had a large blood orange grove on its last legs. It was revitalized and now they buy up to 40,000 pounds from that farmer every year.
In addition to supporting local farms, the brewery makes a concerted effort to reduce waste and contribute to sustaining the community. Instead of sending their spent grains to landfill, Refuge donates it to local farmers who use it to supplement livestock feed. Wilson Creek Winery has experimented with spent grain in a mulching process for their vineyards because the high nitrogen content is good for the soil.
The relationship with local wineries is symbiotic. Many local breweries experiment with making beer in wine barrels, which is uncommon in the beer world. As Curt says, “It’s an outgrowth of us living here, being part of wine country and embracing what this valley can deliver to people.” Cheers to that!
For a city of its size Temecula, is home to a big concentration of craft breweries turning out distinctive and award-winning beers. The growing craft beer movement is such a significant part of the community and is celebrated every May with Temecula Valley Craft Beer Month. The calendar is packed with special events and festivals and the breweries offer special deals and pours.
Many local breweries experiment with making beer in wine barrels which is uncommon in the beer world.
If you prefer to leave the driving to someone else, book a guided Van’N Boozy brewery tour. You’ll get to taste at three breweries, traveling in their whimsical fleet of modified VW buses.
You might be lucky enough to meet the brewmasters themselves. Whether you’re a beer aficionado doing some “research,” refreshing your palate after a couple of days of wine tasting or simply looking for a cool spot to grab a drink and bite, the Temecula Valley Ale Trail overflows with delicious possibilities. While in Old Town, stop by Ironfire Brewing where their ales and lagers have their own unique “brand” or sit on the patio at Stone Church Brewing for a frosty and some people watching. Getting a little hungry? You can find hand-crafted pizzas at award-winning Garage Brewing Company and sip on a local favorite – Mango Hefeweizen.
Leave the driving to someone else and book a guided Van'N Boozy Brewery Tour.