There is a saying in wine country that goes something like this, "What's it take to make great wine? Great beer." Well, the beer bar just got set a lot higher in Paso Robles with the addition of Silva Brewing to the burgeoning Central Coast craft beer scene.
Silva Brewing is the namesake of legendary Green Flash brewmaster Chuck Silva and his wife, MJ. His resignation from Green Flash in September 2015 surprised many. After all, the San Diego-based brewery was, and continues to be, a pillar in the craft beer industry.
In the 11 years with Silva at the helm, Green Flash's hop-driven beers won numerous awards around the world, including at the World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Festival. He was the face of the company as it grew from a small brewery to the 48th largest craft-brewery in the United States.
So, why would Silva give all of that up — a successful venture in a beautiful place to live — and open a brewery in Paso Robles? It's probably the question Silva is asked most often.
The short answer is, "it was time," Silva says, while taking time out from a bustling Saturday afternoon at the brewery's small tasting room on Pine Street behind the Pour House.
The shiny stainless steel 10-barrel brew system that includes four 20-barrel fermenters, a 20-barrel bright tank, with a 1,000-barrel per year brew capacity, is tightly packed into the 1,500-square-foot space officially addressed as 525 Pine St., Suite B.
Roughly, 300 square feet was set aside for the tasting bar that opened Dec. 3 with five releases — 525 Pine, a golden IPA; a German-style amber ale dubbed Suite B; a German-style blonde ale called 1st Gold; a walnut milk stout aptly named Nut Farm; and a West Coast hoppy Paso Pale.
Currently visitors to the tasting room can purchase flights. Beer to go includes refillable stainless steel growlers or crowlers, single-use 32-ounce aluminum cans filled fresh at the taps. Down the road Silva will offer hand-bottled specialty beers in nifty cork-and-cage packaging.
And, collaborate with others, be they brewmaster, winemaker or none of the above. Silva has already partnered with Firestone Walker brewmaster Matt Brynildson on a beer that was featured at their beer festival in 2016.
Silva is working on the recipes for a portfolio of roughly 20 beers ranging from hop-centric, verdant India pale ales to clean, balanced ales hailing from various European cultures, including the aforementioned German-style ales with a fresh twist and Belgian-style farmhouse ales (aka saisons), some of which will incorporate a wide
Chuck Silva has opened Silva Brewing in Paso Robles. He spent years as the brewmaster of Green Flash in San Diego.
array of locally grown ingredients.
"We are going to use local ingredients when we can and have fun with it," Silva says, pointing to the Nut Farm, which pays homage to Paso's early days when the hillsides were dominated by almond and walnut orchards before being replaced by vineyards.
"I thought it was a beautiful local tie in," Silva says. "Kind of a fun flavor to include."
The Central Coast is an area that Silva knows fairly well. After all, he was born in San Luis Obispo and grew up in the county, making the opening of Silva Brewing a coming home party.
"It's like coming home for me," Silva says. "We wanted a place to put down roots," he adds.
Returning to the area, specifically Paso Robles, played into Silva's stepping down from Green Flash. He and his wife were wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of San Diego life and be in a place where they could also open a viable brewery.
Being able to walk to work and still be close to some of the amenities offered by San Diego were important to the newly married couple. Paso Robles fit their needs and wants perfectly and became their home more than a year ago.
The goal all along was to start a business, "something we could call our own," Silva says. The couple agreed that it made sense to "play to their strength" and that obviously meant opening a brewery.
Landing in the space behind the Pour House was "where we were meant to be," Silva says.
"There was already a provisional license on the space," Silva says. "We lived not far from here and could walk to work. We had a vision and it evolved into this is what we were meant to do."
The Pour House, which has Silva's entire lineup on tap, is Silva's defacto taproom as a door connects the two.
"It's really a great partnership," Silva adds.
The space is modest and that's just how Silva wants it.
"We don't plan to grow and grow and grow," he says. "I want to stay small, experiment and showcase the region, bring back some older beer styles that I really enjoy drinking that I think are very accessible."
Silva, who is an icon in the beer world, having spent 19 years crafting his trade, is enjoying working side-by-side with the woman he loves in a place that is near and dear to his heart.
"I am having as much fun as ever and now I don't have to ask permission," Silva says with a big smile.