Whether you are a fan of lagers or ales, an environment in which to taste freshly brewed beer never looked so good. And it’s within a 15-minute drive from Vacaville.
Anheuser-Busch Fairfield brewery on Thursday officially opened its new tasting room and gift shop, 6,000 square feet of renovated space costing $1 million, on Busch Drive, a hardy stone’s throw from Interstate 80.
As visitors walk into the gift shop, spacious — with warm, earth-toned colors — and well laid-out, they will find no-surprise brewery-themed items. Among them are sweatshirts and T-shirts, glasses and tote bags, books and caps with logos. For history buffs or just the curious, a company timeline, with oversized, black-and-white historical photos and easy-to-read text, graces a far wall.
Just off the gift shop is the new tasting room, formerly home to some company offices, equally spacious and welcoming with warm, earth colors, tables and chairs for beer tastings, and the room’s centerpiece: a long, slight V-shaped bar with a glass top made of 100 percent recycled glass, the colors speckled throughout. Behind the bar is the Budweiser creed etched in copper. Some of the room’s structural support columns feature carved wooden hop vines, and murals of brewing ingredients, rice and barley among them, line the walls.
Brewery general manager Kevin Finger said the tasting room meets the state’s current green building standards and, in keeping with the company’s “green” commitment, plans call for a second wind turbine to be built on the company grounds in spring.
New to the tasting room experience, he noted, are “Flights of Fairfield,” which includes a twice-daily complimentary brewery tour and an in-depth beermaster tour. This beer experience is available for groups of up to eight adults 21 and older and includes a one-on-one session with a brewing expert who can inform about many different beer styles, their ingredients, and proper pouring and tasting techniques. Tourgoers also will learn about food and beer pairings. The program is offered every 45 minutes, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., for $15 and includes glassware to take home.
Finger said the new gift shop and tasting room “allows us to expand our tour with experiences people can’t get anywhere else.”
In the tasting room, not only can patrons taste and buy company products brewed in Fairfield — Bud Light, Budweiser (the company’s two flagship brands), Rolling Rock and Shock Top Belgian Wheat — they can sample a batch of “Wild Wheats,” which includes Hoegaarden, Shock Top Pumpkin”; a batch called “Around the World,” which includes Stella Artois, Becks and Bass; and a batch called “Fields and Orchards,” which includes Cran-ber-ita, Stella Artois Cidre and Wild Blue.
Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Solano, who attended Thursday’s grand opening, called the company’s $1 million upgrade “a commitment to the community.”
It was a thought echoed by Sue O’Leary, director of brewery experiences for Anheuser-Busch.
“Thousands of visitors come to the brewery to take part in our world-class tours and beers each year,” she said in prepared statement. “With our new space and this additional offering, we will continue to deliver the one-on-on experience that sets Anheuser-Busch apart.”
Follow Staff Writer Richard Bammer at Twitter.com/REBammer.