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Award-winning brewers to open tap room in July
dust bowl pic1
While the Dust Bowl Brewing Company Tap Room restaurant and pub isnt open quite yet, the brewerys Fruit Tramp beer was sampled by participants at this years Taste of Turlock in May. - photo by ANDREA GOODWIN/ The Journal

In a relatively non-descript warehouse on Spengler Way, two local men are brewing beer that’s earning accolades worldwide.

It’s been a quick rise for Turlock’s Dust Bowl Brewing Company, which sold its first pint of beer in June 2009.

That beer, Hops of Wrath, earned a Gold Medal at the World Beer Championships. It’s earned a 93 point exceptional rating from the Beverage Tasting Institute, who described the beer as, “A hophead's wet dream.”

The accolades qualify Hops of Wrath as the third best India Pale Ale ever scored by the Beverage Tasting Institute.

It’s hard to imagine, but Brewmaster Don Oliver of Hilmar has grown used to these accolades in his short career.

After five years as a Marine Corps helicopter mechanic, as a home brewer Oliver entered the Samuel Adams Longshot Homebrew Competition in 2006. He won, with his Old Ale.

In 2008, Oliver completed the Master Brewers Program at the University of California, Davis. He was named John S. Ford Award winner that year, scoring the highest score in the world on the Diploma in Brewing Exams. He travelled to Cork, Ireland to retrieve that award.

But when Oliver and Dust Bowl Founder Brett Tate, a long time Turlocker, retired high school teacher and coach of 20 years, started Dust Bowl in 2009, it was hard to imagine Hops of Wrath would be so respected.

“I just wanted to start my own business really,” Tate said. “You don't know really how it's going to be received.”

One of the concerns was with the flagship Hops of Wrath’s style; India Pale Ales are popular among savvy beer drinkers in urban areas and the Pacific Northwest, but not too common in the Valley. In deference to this, Oliver crafted a “gateway IPA,” with less bittering than most mainstream IPAs in order to “train the tastebuds.”

Those tastebuds have caught a taste for the beer, now available in bars and restaurants from Fresno to San Ramon, from Twain Harte to Stockton and Los Banos. Dust Bowl is even available for purchase at Modesto Nuts baseball games, and online at

In hopes of spreading the taste for Hope of Wrath even farther, Oliver and Tate are in the process of opening Dust Bowl Brewing Company Tap Room restaurant and pub, currently under construction in the Mercantile Building at the corner of Broadway and West Main Street in downtown Turlock.

The building is receiving some of its final touches right now, with painting ongoing and furniture due today. The kitchen still needs work, but the duo hope to open the Tap Room – the brewery’s first direct connection to the public – by the first week of July.

The full kitchen will offer a limited menu. What will be offered will be good, fairly-priced, and fairly-sized Tate said – but the food isn’t intended to be the Tap Room’s forte.

“We want you to drink more and eat less,” Tate said.

Ten beers will be on tap at any one time, selected from about 20 recipes engineered by Oliver and unavailable anywhere else – save for a couple “guest taps” for friendly obscure breweries offering unique styles, and a few hard ciders from a cidery in Sacramento.

“It'll be nothing that you can see at any other place,” Tate said. “It'll be some random stuff.”

Dust Bowl’s own recipes are constantly changing, Tate said, like Dust Bowl’s Fruit Tramp, sampled at this year’s Taste of Turlock. The crystal wheat beer was brewed with boysenberries then; just this week, Dust Bowl thought, ‘Why not raspberries?’

The Tap Room will allow Dust Bowl to receive instant feedback on their offerings, Tate said, and is also expected to drive interest in the still-fledgling brewery.

The opening of the Tap Room is expected to double Dust Bowl’s production. Given the brewery’s 1,200 barrel capacity at their current location, the Turlock-based brewery could hit capacity – and be forced to move brewing operations — by the end of 2012.

Some of that demand is expected to be in the form of to-go beer, available in 64 ounce “growlers” perfect for a tap-fresh beer for four at dinner.

Of course, the Hops of Wrath will be available on tap, ready for anyone to take home in a growler. But a new, special Double IPA is expected on tap too – taking advantage of those trained tastebuds.

“Get ready for the next one, we just brewed it the other day,” Tate said. “It’s going to be hardcore.”

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.