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Martinez’s sizzling craft scene offers beer ‘from heaven’

My Bay Area brewery tour has taken me around the bay from San Jose to Livermore and Richmond. This time, I headed for Martinez, the historic East Bay city that was settled in the early 17th century and incorporated in 1876. Its downtown area is known for its antique shops — and, of course, the county courthouse — but a variety of new businesses have opened over the last few years, including two stellar breweries.

Five Suns Brewing

Martinez’s Five Suns Brewing is the brainchild of five lifelong friends who met in kindergarten — think of the brewery’s name as a play on the idea of five native sons. The guys opened their brewery in 2017 in digs previously occupied by an old commercial laundry. They’re now in the midst of a big move to larger quarters, an old Bank of America building on Main Street just a couple of blocks away, with a soft opening set for this weekend.

The new space boasts a beer garden and two levels of indoor space offering beer flights, of course, and amusements including a pool table, air hockey, video games and pinball machines. Food trucks will park by the back beer garden, and there are nooks and crannies everywhere, so you can mix with other beer lovers or be as private as you want.

Co-founders Jess Jackson, who was trained at UC Davis, and Michael Tucker do the brewing, while Dennis Boettcher and Sean Macias work front-of-house and run the brewery. (Fifth sun Nick Riccobono has assumed more of a silent partner role.)

Martinez’ Five Suns Brewing is the brainchild of childhood friends, from left, Mike Tucker, Jess Jackson, Dennis Boettcher and Sean Macias. (Courtesy Jay R. Brooks) 

On the day I visited, there were 13 beers on tap, including nine that were also available as six-packs to go. (You’ll find many of Five Suns’ beers at the nearby Raley’s, Total Wine and other Martinez markets, as well.) The brewery does a wide range of styles. They have the requisite IPAs, both clear and hazy, but the majority of the line-up offers a nice mix. The popular O.G. Burst is a refreshing wheat beer made with guava and orange. Valkyrie is a light blonde ale, and Reliez, a solid West Coast pale ale. I was particularly taken with Granger, a tasty chocolatey porter. Their Forester IPA was also a standout. They make some kettle soured beers and a hard seltzer, too.

Details: Open daily beginning Jan. 15 at 626 Main St. in Martinez;

Del Cielo Brewing

Husband-and-wife team Luis Castro and Cielomar Cuevas opened their Del Cielo Brewing right next door to Five Suns’ previous location in 2018. Luis is originally from Colombia, Cielomar was born in Puerto Rico and they met in Cleveland, Ohio, where Luis was working on his MBA. In 2010, they moved to the Bay Area and began homebrewing in their kitchen. Castro was bitten by the bug, joined the DOZE homebrew club and began entering competitions. Between winning awards for his homebrew and hosting increasingly large potluck gatherings so friends could drink all the beer he was making, the couple decided to open their own brewery.

Castro does the brewing and Cuevas puts her graphic design experience to good use on the beer labels for Del Cielo, which means “from heaven” — or in their case, “beer from heaven.”

Martinez’s Del Cielo Brewing sits on a prominent corner downtown, wooing beer lovers with its array of IPAs, lagers and more. (Photo: Del Cielo Brewing) 

I have to agree. Castro is an amazing brewer. He’s made the leap from homebrewer to professional effortlessly. Every beer I tried was well-made, interesting and delicious. On the day I visited, Del Cielo’s 19 beers were divided into two boards with eight hoppy beers and 11 mixed styles.

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