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Photograph by Amber Turpin
Somebody's Gotta Do It: Brewers Alex Stefansky (left) and Skot Colacicco ponder whether they objectively have the best job on the planet.


Uncommon Brewers prepares to unleash Belgian-style goodness on Santa Cruz.

By Amber Turpin

Alex Stefansky and Skot Colacicco had each played around with home brewing as a hobby when they met in 2002; within minutes they were planning a batch of cider. From there the seed of an idea began to develop, and now, after 4 1/2 years of recipe development, Uncommon Brewers is ready to release its first beer. "We're doing a lot of stuff that no other brewery is doing. It's all unfiltered and we use live yeast, so it's always changing," says Stefansky. For now they're on their own as far as distributing to their accounts, which include several local outlets and a few around the greater Bay Area. Production is taking place in the Sash Mill, "not even a forklift drive away" from their grain and hop supplier, Seven Bridges Co-op. The first release, Siamese Twin Ale, is a Belgian-style double ale with lemon grass, kefir lime and a hefty 8 1/2 percent alcohol content. According to Stefansky, it's dangerously easy to drink. Navigating FDA regulations has been a constant learning process for the two, and so the Golden State Ale and Baltic Porter will be released as permitting allows. Who knew using whole licorice in the porter would lead to chemical testing to prove its nonmedical status? Sounds like good medicine to me. Look for Uncommon Brewers beers around town on tap and in stores in the coming weeks.

In a somewhat obscure, plain-faced structure on Scotts Valley Drive is a new dining option. Mint Fine Living and Fresh Bites opened a few months ago as a home décor boutique with plans to offer a small selection of food and wine in the adjoining space. Those plans have bloomed into what is now a wine bar with stools, a smattering of tables, a small deli case and a simple yet complete menu of sandwiches, salads and wines. What is not produced on-site due to nonrestaurant zoning regulations is sourced from local vendors: Kelly's French Bakery, Lifestyles Culinary Arts, Chocolate Visions and a handful of Santa Cruz Mountain wineries. Meats are cooked out the back door, highlighted in selections such as Ed's Special, a tri-tip sandwich on a Kelly's Cuban roll, and the pulled pork sandwich, which is "smoked slowly under the three-legged tree" with green chiles and pepper jack. The tuna sandwich is made with Dave's line-caught tuna, and the menu indicates other nods to local and organic ingredients. Future plans call for cheese plates and charcuterie to accompany late afternoon tastings. (831.438.5900)

Cole Canyon Farm has appeared back at local farmers markets to help us get our gardens going. Their seedlings and starts, representing a multitude of nature's edible best, are now CCOF certified organic as of January (like many local farmers, they always maintained organic standards but chose not to pay for certification). Another new development for Cole Canyon is its permanent retail stand in Moss Landing, open Wednesday-Sunday from 11am to 7pm at the Whole Enchilada Marketplace. If you haven't traveled south along Highway 1 in a while, this spot offers a nice little roadside break. A branch of Surf City Coffee is here, as well as a pretty good deli.

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