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Club Life

Campbell Brewing Company
200 E. Campbell Ave., Campbell; 408.866.2699

By Jim Harrington

Hours: Sun-Thu 11am-midnight; Fri 11am-2am; Sat 7:30am-2am
Amenities: Pool tables, bar menu, full kitchen, two full bars, live music, televisions, outside seating

BREWPUBS thrive in a strong economy. Back in the mid-'90s, long before the tech bubble had burst, it seemed like there was a microbrewery on every corner of every town from Morgan Hill to Marin. Techies embraced those handcrafted ales and heavy porters and toasted to a good life that seemingly would never end. But that feels like ancient history these days as people are insulating their attics with worthless stock options and watching their carbs by drinking Michelob Ultra.

It remains to be seen whether a town like Campbell can support two brewpubs in a still questionable economy. The newly opened Campbell Brewing Company is hoping that the answer is a definitive yes. The massive downtown brewpub will be competing against the nearby Rock Bottom, which has been drawing big crowds of beer lovers for years to its Pruneyard location. CBC takes over the space that once housed the Campbell branch of Stoddard's. Where Stoddard's failed, CBC hopes to succeed by offering live music, a huge lunch and dinner menu and inexpensive brews that appeal to a wide variety of drinkers. So far, it seems to be working. The brewery opened its doors on July 15 and has been doing big business, especially on weekends.

The place is absolutely gorgeous, with a 100-foot marble-topped bar on the ground floor and a large staircase that leads to open balcony seating, pool tables and a dance area. There are TVs all over the place and sidewalk tables that provide great people-watching opportunities. And notably, the owners have tackled the troublesome acoustics that once made even having a simple conversation difficult at Stoddard's.

The menu is a step up from regular upscale brewpub fare, offering everything from Thai shrimp salads and crab cakes to grilled Portobello mushroom burgers and smoked chicken rigatoni. The five house beers, which are brewed on site by veteran brew master Mike Gray, are all terrific. Highlights include the Camel Cream Ale, a refreshing hot weather brew with a relatively low alcohol content, and the Dry Creek Wheat, a filtered beer with a delightfully dry finish. The best selling point is the price. Pints are just $3 all day, every day, which makes having a happy hour redundant. "We are pretty much happy all the time," Gray admits.

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From the August 25-31, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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