June 9, 2020 – Uncommon Brewers, located at the Oasis on River Street near the Patagonia outlet, has a spirited surprise in store. They are opening the Oasis on June 11th, for their loyal fans and for anyone in need of a tropical staycation, complete with a stiff drink and some righteous pizza.
What to expect? Some very uncommon spirits, distilled in a time-consuming fashion from Uncommon Brewers beers, along with tropically-themed cocktails.
Oasis owner and Uncommon Brewery founder, Alec Stefansky, told us, “Our spirits program is beginning with a range of white whiskeys distilled from Uncommon beers. We’ll be releasing a line of white rum later in 2020.”
And there’s pizza!
The new pizzeria kitchen at the Oasis is being run by Chef Zachary Inman. He’s working with a pizza dough recipe developed using a sourdough culture maintained by the Stefansky family for four generations. The dough is crisp and light, with a bright sourdough tang. It’s unique and undoubtedly “uncommon.”
Stefansky admits that the original concept he had for the Oasis space was too difficult to execute. He calls the kitchen “dysfunctional,” and truth be told, he says, “none of us made any money.”
So he decided to pursue a different approach. “I decided to focus on pizzas, a lineup of great beers, along with wine and spirits, preferably all local.” He says it will be challenging to base a cocktail program on the spirits he can produce right now, as he is using a very small capacity still. Consequently, he may turn to other local distillers for additional ingredients. His marks the third craft distillery in the Santa Cruz area, alongside Osocalis and Venus Spirits.
For starters, you will be able to enjoy a cocktail list curated by manager Michael Sylvia, featuring items like Navy Grog Punch, along with a family Mai Thai recipe, heavy on the tropical fruit flavors. “Everything has a tropical décor and theme,” says Stefansky.
A distillate made from Hop Wallah IPA, which is done with curry and garam masala, really lights up different parts of your palate, depending on what you’re most inclined to notice. “Sometimes it comes through as coriander, sometimes ginger, sometimes cardamom,” says Stefansky, of the resulting distillate from the very passionfruit and mango-driven beer. “There is a diverse mix of flavors, making for a very complicated spirit. I’m trying not to be greedy about heads and tails. All our white whiskeys are cask strength to keep things simple. They are the same ABV.”
Upon opening on June 11, the entire Uncommon Brewers canned beer lineup will be available. The spirits on deck will include the one made from Hop Wallah and one from his Belgian triple yeast beer, which Stefansky describes as filled with banana and clove. Finally, there’s the distillate from his Ventana Special Bitters, aged in bourbon barrels with redwood branches, which exude tannins that dry out the rather flirty alcohol that clocks in at 14.5%. Flavors of heady chocolate and caramel malt come through in the distilled wash as well.
Stefansky says they will also offer a few cans from his friends and collaborators in the region. Not only does the menu feature six different sourdough crust pizza by the slice daily, as well as by the pie, but you can find fresh from the field salads, along with tasty bar snacks like garlic knots, available to-go, for delivery, and to enjoy outdoors in the temporary seating space in front of the 415A River St. location.
He admits that living and cooking here on the Central Coast is a joy. “Local produce is easy. To be cooking in this region is a pleasure, because everything is so fresh.”
Stefansky says his pizza dough is “pretty simple,” as it’s made from 00 and bread flour. Ah, but it’s that special sourdough starter that does the trick. He says the pizza oven is nothing fancy. It’s a high temperature gas oven, which fits just fine in the given space.
“I would really love to have a wood oven, but logistics dictated a gas oven.” So you make do. Typical pizzas from said oven include the onion, cheese and Italian sausage, potato with rosemary and green onion, and the white sauce with corn, cilantro, pardon and Serrano pepper topped with Tunisian carrot salad. He says the menu will continue to grow from here.
Stefansky expects that there will be seats for 40 patrons outdoors initially, in compliance with social distancing. “Our priority is to create a safe space wherever people get together. My hope is that nobody will be putting anyone else at risk.”
And that is certainly not an uncommon desire. Let’s all be safe out there.
The initial hours of the Oasis will be lunch, Thursday through Sunday, from 11AM, with dinner Thursday through Saturdays.
Order online at www.oasissantacruz.com
Laura Ness is a longtime wine journalist, columnist and judge who contributes regularly to Edible Monterey Bay, Spirited, WineOh.Tv, Los Gatos Magazine and Wine Industry Network, and a variety of consumer publications. Her passion is telling stories about the intriguing characters who inhabit the fascinating world of wine and food.