New at the Depot: Eats, booze, cans, party pad
As the Depot Craft Brewery Distillery enters its fifth year of business, it feels like the place has come into its own — as if the architectural promise of the Depot now is being matched by what happens inside.
The Depot, a pioneer of East Fourth Street renewal, occupies the former 1910 headquarters of the Nevada-California-Oregon Railway.
The building's renovations celebrate tradition without overly relying on (what have become) clichés of "vintage" design, like faux taxidermy, thickets of Edison bulbs, "barn" wood and jumbles of nostalgic whatnots straight from grandma's attic.
THE DEPOT CRAFT BREWERY DISTILLERY
Address: 325 E. Fourth St.
On the web:This way to the sips and sups
In the past few months, this stylistic sureness finds its complement in what's new at the Depot: a more focused menu for winter, a soaring events space, a first-ever canning line for beer, and two beverage launches that harness the team's love of exploration.
"After four years, you find out what you do well," said Brandon Wright, an owner of the Depot. "You adopt the things that work and jettison the things that don't. This is all part of us upping our game."
Over the past four years, the menu at the Depot has moved from, early on, a pub grub approach (viz., sausages, pretzels, spaetzle) to something more layered, more global, more tightly edited, more compelling. Much of the credit goes to Nick Strowmatt, executive chef since late 2015.
To make vegetable skewers distinctive — no easy task — he brines the vegetables, then spikes them with balsamic reduction. In a similar vein, wasabi almonds jab a baby spinach and red onion salad.
Strip and chips unite New York strip steak, russet potato chips flurried with chipotle powder and the Depot's version of ranchero sauce.
"We kept getting asked for A.1. Sauce," Strowmatt said, "so we reverse engineered it with our barbecue sauce, beer mustard and Worcestershire, calling it our ranchero sauce. We just didn't want to do steak and fries."
Sweet, hot, sour
Strowmatt, who grew up in Hawaii, has a way with the melting pot flavors of the Aloha State.
For lettuce cups, chopped mushrooms or ground pork are marinated in sugar, soy sauce, mirin, garlic, ginger and a hum of heat from sriracha.
Scallops, graced with coconut milk and sambal-lime butter, are nestled in coconut rice — a mingling of sweet, hot, sour.
Latin flavors, also loved by the chef, elevate grilled lamb chops with cilantro-poblano chimichurri, and with potatoes al pastor that pay homage to the Mexi-Lebanese, pineapple-chile, spit-roasted pastor tacos that have become a Mexican classic.
"We have a huge breadth of flavors in beer and spirits, and we want to find that in the food," Strowmatt said of the ecumenical menu. "We want the food to lend itself well to whatever you're drinking."
'It has kick'
And these days, the drinks program at the Depot is more diverse than ever.
The outfit recently introduced a bloody Mary two-pack featuring the distillery's East Slope Vodka and its bloody mix batched on premise.
The vodka, born as Sierra Nevada snowmelt, is pot-distilled five times for smoothness (but with character). In the bloody mix, cane sugar, filtered water and distilled vinegar link arms with lemon, molasses, tamarind and tomato.
"It's tangy. It definitely has a kick, like everything we do," said Wright, the Depot co-owner. The two-pack sells for about $42 at the Depot, Costco and Raley's.
In the barrel
Booze meats beans for Bourbon Barrel Aged Coffee, a partnership between the Depot and local Hub Coffee Roasters.
Coffee beans are aged in barrels where the Depot's Biggest Little Bourbon once slumbered, then roasted by the Hub to draw out the fruity character of the beans and the rich vanilla toastiness imparted by the barrels.
"The aroma of the bourbon comes through pretty intensely," Wright said, "but the finish is pretty balanced. What sparked my interest was the food science. I began as a brewer, then became a distiller and now I'm picking up coffee roasting."
The coffee is sold in 12-ounce packages for $19 at the Depot and Hub locations.
And on the brew front, the Depot has installed a 35-foot canning line with a yield of about 65 cans (12-ounces) per minute. Codi Manufacturing of Golden, Colo., a leading purveyor of craft canning systems, built the line, which can be used to can Depot brands and any contract brews.
The Depot does a brisk business in events; that business can now be brisker with the debut of an events space in a former warehouse that lies next door to the main building, directly east on East Fourth Street.
The 35,000 square foot digs feature a soaring, shallow-barrel-vaulted ceiling spanned by exposed trusses and threaded with silver ductwork. In the rear, there's storage for beer and spirits inventory. In the front, about 9,000 square feet can accommodate 200 or so people, with a full-service bar and draft lines.
The space can be arranged for spirits tastings, yoga classes, wedding receptions, dinners, corporate gatherings and more.
"It gives us a lot of flexibility to do custom jobs for our clients," Strowmatt said.
Think of it. Birthday downward-dog beneath fiesta lights followed by Depot bloody Marys followed by lettuce cups and lamb chops.