Within the East Bay there is an overwhelming amount of drinking holes, breweries, top tier restaurants and late evening dives. Benicia is undoubtedly included in East Bay hot spots with its popular bars, breweries and restaurants that offer top craft beer, fine wine and cocktails from trendy to classic. However, sometimes it isn’t where crowds are that you’ll find the rare and interesting. Brüehol, a Benicia brewery located in Benicia Industrial Park, is growing in popularity in a way that pleasantly reflects its name. “Brüehol means ‘Brewed in a hole in the wall,’” says Mark, the founder and owner of Brüehol Brewing alongside business partner and fiancé, Natalie, who says, “we want to stay true to our name when it comes to expansion and future plans – small, deliberate, and consistent.”
Mark is a local Benician with a strong sense of community and a desire to support the place where he was raised and where he has raised his son and daughter. Newly engaged to Natalie, who is also from Benicia, and working full time in DNA forensics for multiple government agencies, Mark meticulously designs and produces his craft beers. Natalie works as the Director of Operations for an up and coming family-owned luxury wine brand in Napa Valley. She and Mark met at Benicia’s annual Peddler’s Fair, where Mark had set up a booth for the Napa and Solano IAFF [International Association of Fire Fighters] 1186 and all of the beer was provided by Brüehol. “The craftbrewing scene grows by leaps and bounds and, much like the wine industry, has potential no matter where it is placed,” says Natalie, “When I first met Mark, I had told him that my expertise was in opening new wineries. This led me to asking him all kinds of questions about, ‘have you tried this?’ and ‘it would be cool if…’ I’d like to believe he welcomed my ideas.” The operations side of the business is masterfully handled by Natalie thanks to her thirteen years working in the wine industry.
Mark is the brewer and procurement specialist, and his love of German style beers is reflected in many of the brews they offer. Attention to detail, ingredient consistency, careful observation… all these and more have helped shape Brüehol craft beers. The ingredients are bought from various regions nationally and internationally with an emphasis on German beer style. The brewery procures noble hops for much of their brewing; these hops, grown in “noble regions” located in central Europe, have a uniquely exclusive flavor, smell or combination of the two that is scarcely found growing anywhere else in the world. “We buy an amazing volume of these hops and other limited quantity items in bulk and willingly share these ingredients with our neighboring brewers across California.” Water, a most mandatory ingredient, plays a massive part of what makes the German-style beer of Brüehol taste effortlessly clean and smooth. They meticulously check water pH to make sure that it is perfect for the flavors they want to come across to their patrons.
Ingredientsmake the beer, but beer isn’t the only thing that makes the taproom. Mark and Natalie designed and created their “hole in the wall” using items from Benicia, both historical and current. On the walls you’ll find cutouts of old-fashioned German characters once owned by Benicia Soroptimistand many other items of local significance. The bar tops and tables were made by Mark who is also a wood craftsman. “The bar top and tables were made in my woodworking shop in Tomales Bay from driftwood of local, coastal Cyprus.”
Brüehol is a big supporter of local law enforcement and firefighters. They created the “Buddy Board” which allows patrons to buy a beer for off duty law enforcement and firefighters that come by from all over Solano, Napa and Contra Costa County. This was such a hit that we opened it up to anyone, you can buy a friend a beer and have it waiting there for them. Natalie adds, “We love to support our Benicia schools as well. Anytime they are doing a candy bar fundraiser, we have boxes lined up for our patrons to purchase in support.”
Home to over 40 different beers crafted and brewed in-house and in conjunction with other local breweries, the depth and breadth of their collection is amazing. Their beers are all named for places, history and people of Benicia and Vallejo. The best way to start enjoying Bruehol’s many beautiful brews is by ordering one of their flights which include 10 healthy tastes of various beer styles. One of my favorites is the 9thStreet Relaxer which pays homage to the beautiful views and sunsets that can be seen from Benicia’s West 9th St. pier and park. Another favorite is Peacekeeper Ale, whose name is a clear nod to local law enforcement. Bruehol craft beers can be found at Bella Siena, the Benicia Yacht Club, The Cellar, and Nine 0 Seven Grill, but I encourage you to take a trip to Benicia Industrial Park and immerse yourself in a great Benicia brewery experience with Mark and Natalie. I promise you’ll love it.