When my husband and I try to get out for a bite and a movie in our hometown of Atascadero, we book our sitter and usually eat super early, with all the seniors and the happy hour crews. Seeing a film first and having dinner after makes no sense, our bedtimes being what they are and all.
Plus, it's always seemed like no place in Atascadero serves decent food past 9 p.m. ... until now. We visited Wild Fields Brewhouse on a recent Friday night, and the place was packed with families and couples, with every seat taken at the bar.
- Photos By Beth Giuffre
- BREWERY PIGGYBACKS Brewmaster Ryan Fields gives his wife, Jacque, a piggyback ride through his brewing facility. The Fieldses have been working insane hours to bring the Atascadero community this gem of a pub, located just over the bridge from Sunken Gardens, across from the Galaxy movie theater.
We started with two of our four beer flights, naming off our favorites, and then the food came up at the counter. Meanwhile, across the well-designed and beautifully lit space, families spread out, joyously, effortlessly playing games. Next time we'll bring the kids.
That massive building—the former bowling alley, across from the Galaxy Theater—was made into a local brewpub by Ryan and Jacque Fields. Ryan is the brewmaster: a Templeton/Cayucos local who studied physics at UC San Diego (which means he understands the mass per volume and cohesion of molecules of each beer he taps for us).
"My main focus when it comes to beer is just making a quality and balanced product that's approachable to everyone that has a balance of flavors," Ryan said. "I don't like beers that smack you over the head with one particular ingredient or flavor.
"I like traditional styles," he added, "but I like to experiment and try new things at the same time. So I try to make a beer exactly to style, or I'll try to make a beer my own and kind of get a little wild with it."
Hence the brewery's name.
Heading up the operation as CEO and co-owner is Jacque, whom he met while they both worked at Pizza Port in San Clemente and Beachwood Blendery in So Cal. While Ryan took the brewmaster route, Jacque excelled in hospitality, moving up to a position as executive director of the Orange County Brewers Guild.
During the local brewery's planning process, the couple learned of the 100-year-old cedar tree that had been removed from Sunken Gardens and was sitting at Rustic Lumber in Santa Margarita. This tree is now part of the Wild Fields bar and booth seating, creating that warm, homey space they longed for.
"We love having a full menu, and yes, we are a brewery, but you don't have to drink to come in here, and you don't have to eat to drink beer," Jacque said.
With dietary restrictions for herself and for her 2-year-old son, Russell, she said she was mindful of special diets when composing the menu. She even talked me into trying the vegan Brewhouse Bahn Mi, made with a marinated and grilled carrot, which I swear on my Grandpa Earnest's German beer stein is the best "hot dog" I have ever tried.
- Photos By Beth Giuffre
- LUSH FIELDS On a recent Friday evening, Wild Fields was packed with families, couples, and a flow of customers taking bar stools to watch football and hang out. The brewhouse has only been open a month, but the word has spread far and wide.
Being that the building used to house the old Atascadero bowling alley, the owners incorporated Rollerball, aka mini bowling lanes, in their remodel. Rollerball, Jacque explained, is essentially a blend of "arcade meets bowling," a no-fuss, bowling shoe-free game with half-size balls and half-size lanes.
The pub also keeps it fun with an arcade, air hockey, foosball, and a toddler corner.
The Fieldses like to think of their menu as a comfort food "playground," with some super-affordable prices. They serve bites such as chips and onion dip, veggie and hummus plates, grilled broccoli with house-made cheese sauce, pickled veggies and brie, or a simple pickled egg served with pretzel sticks.
The Bundled Up portion of the menu serves up sandwiches like the Polish kielbasa and the Brewhouse Bahn Mi. For the purists is the Just the Meat section, with your choice of one sausage (one topping, two sauces, one side) or the sausage trio. There's also the build-your-own option, with choice sausages to be paired with cheese sauce or more than a dozen other sauces (including chipotle aioli or vegan mayo) plus toppings, which include pickled jalapeños or three-bean chili (vegetarian available too) for an extra buck.
And the Half-Pint menu is classic: hot dog, PB&J, mac 'n' cheese, or grilled cheese for $4 or $5, and it comes with potato chips, pretzel sticks, or apple slices.
- Photos By Beth Giuffre
- BRING YOUR PARENTS The arcade games at Wild Fields are the real '90s deal, including Ms. Pac Man (refurbished to also play Frogger). You may even notice some retro games styled into Ryan Fields' beers ... like the Cosmo Canyon Red Ale. Adults and kids were entertained on a recent night, with basketball, video games, foosball, air hockey, and Rollerball.
And Wild Fields makes it easy to be on the wagon, with Sunshine Soda, Bravus Brewing Co. White Ale, IPA, Raspberry Gose, and Stout non-alcoholic craft beer selections.
The beer menu will rotate the 14 or so house beers. His wide variety of styles and flavors include four categories of beer: light and crisp, hoppy, dark and malt, and Belgian and specialty. My BFF was the Imperial Coffee Stout Unstuck in Time, and my husband raved about the R2JZ Double IPA with Pineapple. The pineapple was just a little essence, nothing overdone.
Ryan has years of experience making Belgian style, Lambic-inspired sour beer, traditionally made from malted barley and unmalted wheat that's fermented by naturally occurring airborne yeast and often flavored with fruit. On special occasions, Ryan liked his Lambic beers, but for everyday occasions he's more into the German pilsners.
"West Coast IPA is also my jam," he said. "As I get older and drink more and more beer I kind of like a lower and lower ABV [alcohol by volume], more nuanced, lighter flavors.
"The most important thing is that we have a beer for everyone." Δ
Flavor writer Beth Giuffre is glad there's a beer for her. Send your favorite brews to firstname.lastname@example.org.