James Murren
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Earn Your Beer Mendocino

The Earning

The beach at Van Damme State Park along the Mendocino County coast is where you’ll find Kayak Mendocino. Their sea caves tour offers an hour and a half paddle adventure that will leave you with a greater sense of awe for planet Earth and a big smile on your face. The stunning rocky coastline, home to oystercatchers, seals, jellyfish, sea stars, and other aquatic life, showcases natural beauty at its finest.

Paddling through the rock gardens, you can explore what are known as the Rumbler and Cathedral sea caves, where you’ll witness the raw intersection of water and rock — a testament to the passage of time. On my outing, the gentle ocean, bluebird sky, and soft breeze made for a relaxed experience, with each turn revealing new encounters to appreciate non-human life.

Photo of kayakers in Mendocino, Californi. They are paddling through blue water with cliffs on both sides

Kayaking Mendocino offers beautiful scenery. Photo: Liquid Fusion Kayaking

After a few hours of kayaking, I strolled along the boardwalk at MacKerricher State Park’s beach. Suiting up in my winter wetsuit at Pudding Creek Beach, I embraced the chilly 55-degree water and waited for 2-3 foot waves to ride. In the lineup, I bobbed and bodysurfed, catching decent waves from time to time. One perfect wave carried me to knee-deep water near the shoreline, leaving me grinning and chuckling with joy. As I swam back out into the vast blue Pacific Ocean, I eagerly awaited more thrilling sets.  kayakmendocino.com

The Beer

North Coast Brewing Company does not need an introduction. Since 1988, they have been at the forefront of California’s independent craft beer movement. What I was not aware of, though, is that they use non-GMO ingredients and are a Certified B Corporation (a company that has voluntarily met the highest standards for social and environmental performance) brewery. I respect that, as well as their support for marine research.

Walk inside the front door of North Coast Brewing Company on Main Street in Fort Bragg and you will see the array of awards that any brewery would dream of attaining. Scrimshaw, their classic pilsner, is iconic, so much so that I would put it up there next to Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale as being a pillar of California and USA beer. Oh — and they have beer cocktails! I had the White Russian for dessert. Three letters sum it up … Y-U-M! northcoastbrewing.com

While in Fort Bragg, stop in and check out Tall Guy Brewing. Pat, the owner/brewer, worked at North Coast for 30 years and as of July 7th, he has his own brewery. The London Fog English Porter on nitro was as it should be for the style. Maybe check out Overtime Brewing, also in town. I am not much for what I call gimmicky beers (artichoke beer and jasmine green tea beer, anyone?), but their Drinkin’ Beer, a pilsner-style light beer, was on-point and went down easy. To savor the best of Fort Bragg’s breweries is to embrace the heart of California’s craft beer culture — a delightful journey of flavors and dedication.

Read other Earn Your Beer columns here