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Cambria's 927 Beer Company celebrates 10 years quenching locals' thirst for craft beer and building community

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Dixie Walker is a regular at Cambria's 927 Beer Company. In fact, many of the town's 5,647 residents frequent the landmark establishment, owned by brewmaster Aaron Wharton and his wife, Jennifer.

Walker favors Green Valley IPA, but "all his beers do please the palate," she said. "No matter what your taste, he has it. I usually get a half case of bottles, and Aaron drops them off on his way home—the perk of living close."

Located in Cambria's West Village at 821 Cornwall St., 927 is much more than the town's sole brewery. It's a local treasure that has helped forge deep bonds among community members for the past decade.

Beyond offering delicious beer, Walker said, the brewery provides "great conversation—from the trivial to solving the problems of the world."

Locals Steve and Jamie MacLeod echo Walker's sentiment.

According to Steve, the Whartons "have created an intimate and welcoming place where we can always get away from any societal pressures, have a cool brew, discuss local politics," and, he jokingly added, "conduct a group prayer for rain."

The Whartons know their regulars intimately and are humbled by their support.

"Many friendships have been made by the introductions at 927 Beer," Aaron said. "We alone have met so many wonderful people that have become our friends. We look forward to seeing how friends we knew in the beginning have gone on to have families, and we get to meet their kids, etc."

To express their heartfelt thanks to community members for their friendship and patronage, the Whartons will be throwing a 10-year anniversary bash on March 19 and 20. The seaside town's steady stream of tourists is equally welcome.

The festivities will feature Lompoc-based Big Truck Foods dishing up scratch-made American-style fare, and live music, including Carbon City Lights of San Luis Obispo and local band Rough House.

SMALL BUT MIGHTY Aaron and Jennifer Wharton are proud of 927, the smallest continually running brewery in the county. They only use three barrels but estimate their beer donations have helped to raise more than $50,000 for local charitable causes. - COURTESY PHOTO BY MARK DEKTOR PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Courtesy Photo By Mark Dektor Photography
  • SMALL BUT MIGHTY Aaron and Jennifer Wharton are proud of 927, the smallest continually running brewery in the county. They only use three barrels but estimate their beer donations have helped to raise more than $50,000 for local charitable causes.

And, of course, there will be beer.

Aaron said that one of the most anticipated items on the taproom menu is his limited-edition IPA, released annually in March.

"Our anniversary always features Comatose, our triple IPA," he said. "It tastes like Cambria pines in a glass due to the piney hops used in the brewing process."

While Aaron says his IPAs remain top sellers, one of his biggest surprises has been the popularity of his sour program. He likens the taste of his sour beers to "a lemonade with tangy citrus tones."

"We have a wonderful golden sour base beer that provides a great canvas for the fruit to play on top of," he said. "Working with local businesses to provide ingredients for the sour beers has proven to be a winning strategy. Olallieberries are the obvious choice here, and we source our berries from Aaron Linn at Linn's [Fruit Bin] in Cambria."

Not surprisingly, the Whartons' close connection with their customers also extends to their area suppliers.

"I have known Jenn and Aaron for many years," Linn said. "We have children who have grown up together.

WET YOUR WHISTLE Current tap selections at 927 include Dark Pilsner, Slab Town Pale Ale, Green Valley IPA, Old No. 23 Robust Porter, In the Moonlight Dark Saison, and Comatose Triple IPA. An additional nine selections, including two sours, are currently on deck. - PHOTO BY CHERISH WHYTE
  • Photo By Cherish Whyte
  • WET YOUR WHISTLE Current tap selections at 927 include Dark Pilsner, Slab Town Pale Ale, Green Valley IPA, Old No. 23 Robust Porter, In the Moonlight Dark Saison, and Comatose Triple IPA. An additional nine selections, including two sours, are currently on deck.

"I've been happy to provide Aaron with some olallieberries for making his fine handcrafted beers over the years. I look forward to tasting his finished product," he said. "I think the olallies make a special product because of their inherent tartness. The irony is olallieberries are not a prolific crop. They yield very little by the acre. Therefore, they can't be used on a grand or large production scale."

Which is just the way Aaron likes it. The microbrewery is perhaps the smallest in the county, with only a six-keg capacity.

To Aaron, limited capacity means high quality, which is a perfect fit for Cambria.

Even the bar's name is an ode to the Whartons' beloved town.

"[It's] a nod to a simpler time," Aaron explained, "when our town was so small that everyone's phone number had a 927 prefix. When locals shared their numbers, giving the last four digits was all that was necessary."

Though the Whartons moved to Cambria most recently in 2009, Jennifer was raised in the town, having moved from Long Beach at 1 month old.

PATIENCE ON TAP Ashley McKinney is 927's "bartender extraordinaire," according to owner Aaron Wharton. She's an ace worker and "always graciously puts up with us," adds regular customer Dixie Walker. - COURTESY PHOTO BY MARK DEKTOR PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Courtesy Photo By Mark Dektor Photography
  • PATIENCE ON TAP Ashley McKinney is 927's "bartender extraordinaire," according to owner Aaron Wharton. She's an ace worker and "always graciously puts up with us," adds regular customer Dixie Walker.

Their college years were spent in Modesto, Aaron's hometown. Both Jennifer and Aaron received business degrees with a concentration in human resources from Stanislaus State University in Turlock.

While Jennifer remains in the field as associate executive director of human resources for Cal Poly Corporation, Aaron pivoted from the profession after unwrapping a home brewing kit on Christmas Day in 1995.

From his first attempt at brewing, Aaron was hooked.

"I have always enjoyed cooking, and brewing beer is the same," he said. "It's following a recipe. Sometimes the recipes are good, sometimes not. Figuring what to do next time is the fun part."

While still living in Modesto, the Whartons "dreamt that someday they might own a brewery on California's Central Coast," Aaron said. Their dream became a reality when 927 officially opened for business on March 24, 2012.

"This place has provided a wonderful creative outlet for me and has allowed me to be there for my kids—Annika, 20, and Emma, 16—as they have grown," he said. "Having a business in town allowed the kids to ride the bus to the taproom, where we would do homework until Jennifer came from work to pick them up."

Opening their own brewpub also enabled the Whartons to spotlight a second passion—music.

Customer Steve MacLeod says the music-friendly bar regularly features open mic nights, and "has quickly become a very popular venue for local musicians from Cambria and other Central Coast locales."

SUPERFANS The Whartons have been following Seattle rock band Pearl Jam for 30 years. Posters throughout 927 capture more than 50 concerts. - PHOTO BY CHERISH WHYTE
  • Photo By Cherish Whyte
  • SUPERFANS The Whartons have been following Seattle rock band Pearl Jam for 30 years. Posters throughout 927 capture more than 50 concerts.

While the Whartons enjoy all music, they are particularly fond of one band: Pearl Jam. They've seen the band upwards of 50 times in concert, and have a mighty collection of posters on display throughout the brewery.

The Whartons might be considered rock stars in their own right, at least to Cambrians. At the brewery, you will spot patrons proudly donning 927 attire—available for purchase in the taproom—and eagerly singing their praises.

They're "really like a second family," said Steve MacLeod, and they embrace everyone into the 927 fold.

The Whartons couldn't ask for a greater compliment.

"[We are] truly blessed to be doing this in Cambria," Aaron said. Δ

Flavor Writer Cherish Whyte entered 927 a stranger and left a friend. Reach her at cwhyte@newtimesslo.com.

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