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Merced’s Bobcat Brewing Co. turns 1

Peter Howell, 24, of Merced, founder of Bobcat Brewing Co., is seen with a glass of Bare-Handers Blonde Ale, left, and Cat Tracks Pale Ale at Cue Spot Billiards, 450 W. Main St., Merced.
Peter Howell, 24, of Merced, founder of Bobcat Brewing Co., is seen with a glass of Bare-Handers Blonde Ale, left, and Cat Tracks Pale Ale at Cue Spot Billiards, 450 W. Main St., Merced. akuhn@mercedsunstar.com

It’s been a year now, and Bobcat Brewing Co. has become something of a staple in downtown Merced.

The one-man brewing company was founded by owner Peter Howell, a 24-year-old who left his native Santa Rosa to attend UC Merced. The university may have brought him to Merced, but it’s beer that’s kept him here.

He said he believes Merced is poised to grow, and he wants his brewery to be able to get in on the ground floor. “I’m going to be here for a long time,” he said.

Howell studied cognitive science at UC Merced but has taken some time off. He’s 18 units from finishing his bachelor’s degree, he said.

In his first year of business, the brewer sold about 60 barrels of beer – about 120 kegs to the layperson – to area bars and restaurants, as well as the occasional private party, he said.

In the big scheme of things, that’s a relatively small amount of beer. Turlock’s Dust Bowl Brewery, for example, makes 5,000 barrels a year. But Howell is doing it all on his own.

He brews test batches in Merced, but he makes the hike to Rancho Cordova, where he rents out brewery space to make the ales he sells.

Some of the spots where Bobcat Brewing beers are regularly sold are Cue Spot Billiards, J&R Tacos, Reinero’s Restaurant and O’Ryleigh’s Bar and Grill.

Two of his earliest brews to hit the market were Wildcat Red Ale and Prairie Lynx German Wheat, fairly tame beers with relatively moderate amounts of alcohol. Craft beers often lean toward the obscure flavors and rate high on the alcohol scale.

“I very rarely brew a beer that would be inaccessible to a first-time drinker,” Howell said.

Some of the spots where Bobcat Brewing beers are regularly sold are Cue Spot Billiards, J&R Tacos, Reinero’s Restaurant and O’Ryleigh’s Bar and Grill.

He was led into brewing in no small part because he grew up in Santa Rosa, he said. The city has a slew of drink-makers, such as Russian River Brewery and Ace Hard Ciders, and celebrates them during weekly farmers markets.

Howell said he believes Merced County is ready for its own beer renaissance, and he hopes to be one of the grunts stirring the mash and adding the hops. “I always want to be intimately involved with the brewing operation,” he said. “I never want to be a guy who sits in the office and dictates out to other people.”

For more on the brewery, go to www.bobcatbrewingco.com.

Thaddeus Miller: 209-385-2453, @thaddeusmiller

AT A GLANCE

Some of Bobcat Brewing’s beers and their alcohol content

Wildcat Red Ale: 6.2 percent

Prairie Lynx German Wheat: 5 percent

Bobcat EYE.P.A.: 7 percent

Bare-hander’s Blonde Ale: 5.2 percent

Cat Tracks Pale Ale: 5.3 percent

Source: Bobcat Brewing Co. website

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