Silva Brewing Company isn’t “easy” to find, and that’s not a bad thing.
In a corporate world that, more and more, aims to dumb down and homogenize our food and beverage choices, California’s craft beer scene continues to experience a defiant and jubilant renaissance. Will this craft beer explosion ever end? Not if legendary brewer Chuck Silva and his spunky wife, Mary Jo, have anything to do with it.
This humble Paso Robles power couple is passionate about crafting small batches of clean, crisp, dynamic beer worth seeking out.
I am one of many who have already gone searching for Silva.
On a frigid Paso Robles morning, I park outside the Pour House and—after noting that the “front” door is closed—swing around the side of the building to a nondescript alley. Aha!
I soon find that the industrial looking and very cozy Silva Brewing Company is all warehouse on the outside, all flash (shiny stainless steel tanks, neon orange taps) on the interior. This, you have to see to believe.
Speaking of flash, now is the part where I gracefully remind you that Chuck Silva is, indeed, former brewer of Green Flash Brewery, a pillar of craft beer ingenuity in San Diego.
If you don’t know Green Flash, know this: As of 2015, it was the fourth largest brewery in San Diego County and 41st largest craft brewery in the United States based on sales volume. During his 11-year tenure, Silva created a number of popular beers, including Green Flash West Coast IPA and Le Freak. He’s a big deal, but none of the hype matters to him.
On this day, Chuck’s manning the forklift, moving pallets around—doing general “beer stuff.” See, this passion project isn’t just a tasting room, it’s a 10-barrel facility. You are smack dab in the middle of the beer, and that’s the real charm of it.
“Visitors like to see the guys sweat,” Mary Jo says with a laugh. It’s the truth. Everyone from seasoned craft beer nuts to beer newbies to notable local winemakers have been bellying up to the silvery bar. Mary Jo and Chuck are always doing something around the 333-square-foot facility. In such close quarters, it’s physically hard not to bump into them.
On a break between brewing and hosting a private tour, the couple takes a moment to gab with yours truly. We sit at the adjoining Pour House, which happens to be the quietest place in the vicinity (the Pour House taproom and soon-to-be expanded music venue, like Silva Brewing Co., opens in the afternoon).
The newlyweds married about a year and a half ago, and they act like it. You can tell that they’re absolutely pumped to be working together for the first time. Still, you might be wondering: Why would Mary Jo, who has a solid corporate job at Kashi—and Chuck—a distinguished brewer at Green Flash, give up their lives in San Diego for the wilds of an unknown adventure?
“Both my parents passed away within a year and a half of each other, and I saw them always making plans. They never had the chance to do it,” Mary Jo says. “We thought, ‘Let’s just do it.’ We aren’t getting any younger.”
Chuck, who grew up in San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, and Atascadero, had always wanted to have his own business, and it made sense to start one near family. But what to do? Start an organic farm? Build surfboards?
Mary Jo, always the cheerleader, was insistent. “I said, ‘Of course we should start a brewery!’ Let’s take your passion and make it into our business,” she explains. “When you’ve been brewing beer for 19 years, you don’t just wash all that talent down the drain.”
The initial idea to move to the Central Coast (without procuring the brewery location, I might add) happened in 2015, during the couple’s romantic Hawaiian honeymoon. While sipping mai tais, they made up their minds to go head first into their dream. A year later, a fated pit stop at the Pour House sealed the deal.
“With downtown Paso, we were reluctant; it wasn’t on our radar,” Mary Jo says. “But we immediately loved it. We had to wait an hour for our realtor to show us a house, so we went to have a beer. Sitting with the realtor, sipping on the beer, I just slammed the glass down and said, ‘This is where I want to live, downtown Paso.’ Suddenly, our search went from anywhere in SLO to a few blocks in Paso Robles.”
Shawn Copen, owner of the Pour House, had previously offered up an adjoining warehouse space to Silva (at the time, the 333-square-foot storage area housed some tanks and an old Dodge Dart). Sitting there, just steps away from what would become their new brewery, the whole deal seemed like a no-brainer.
Now, Chuck and Mary Jo are living the dream. They enjoy that slower pace of life they craved, and they know their customers by name. Heck—they can walk from their house to their brewery, which is pretty cool no matter how you slice it.
It’s no surprise that Chuck’s already got a whopping eight beers on tap since opening in December. The lineup—a pale ale, golden IPA, walnut stout, orange saison, red IPA, West Coast-style IPA, German-style kolsch, and German-style amber—is as varied as Chuck’s imagination. When I ask him about what makes him tick creatively, his big bushy beard parts with a warm smile.
“Talking about the beer, it’s my favorite part,” Chuck says. “I didn’t want to do just one thing here. This is not a sour house or IPA house. I really wanted to be able to deliver a range of good, crisp, fresh, clean beer.”
And oh, he does. My favorite is currently the 525 Golden Pine IPA, named after the brewery’s offbeat location. With a mildly sweet undertone and bursts of aromatic mosaic and centennial hops, it is a very good beginning to a whole new chapter of the Silvas’ lives.
Do yourself a favor and pick up a crowler—a 32-ounce aluminum can sealed right before your eyes—that is sure to keep your beer as fresh as it would be if you were drinking it right there in the taproom. After all the accolades and awards and national press, what could be more important than this?
“I felt like I had fulfilled a lot of goals and achievement where I was at. The one thing I hadn’t achieved was owning my own brewery,” Chuck says. “Since I started brewing on the stovetop back in ’94, I dreamed about this day.”
Grab a pint, a crowler, a growler, or a beer flight at Silva Brewing Company, located at 525 Pine St., suite B. Enter through the Pour House or access through the alley between the Pet Hospital and post office. The brewery is open Wednesday through Sunday. For more information, go to silvabrewing.com or call 369-BEER.