Some people say the space is cursed. During the past decade, there have been four different restaurants in the sidewalk-front room of Tahoe City’s Cobblestone Center. One was even destroyed by a fire. But Aaron Bigelow is not deterred by the building’s history. He has spent the past four months remodeling the space and brewing as much beer as he can in preparation for the June 2 opening of the Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company.

Bigelow, a general contractor and an avid homebrewer for 20 years, believes his brewery will fill a much-needed niche.

“I travel a lot, and all the other communities I go in, it’s odd not to see a craft brewery, especially in a ski town,” he said. “I’m not only doing it because I love brewing, but also because it’s a good business to get into.”


Before Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co. opened, there were no other craft breweries in the Basin. (South Lake’s Brewery at Lake Tahoe is an extract brewery, which means the beer is mixed from a concentrated malt, rather than brewed from scratch on site). Mt. Tallac Brewing Company in South Shore closed this winter, and the North Shore has seen a couple breweries come and go — the Lake Tahoe Brewing Company in Crystal Bay and Blue Water Brewing in Tahoe City both shuttered long ago. The closest craft brewery to the North Shore is FiftyFifty Brewing Co. in Truckee.

Bigelow cites another statistic that encouraged him to follow his dream of opening up a brewery — craft beer is only 2 percent of the total beer market, but it’s been growing by 15 percent over the past 10 years.

“It’s getting big,” Bigelow said of craft brewing.

Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co. has the capacity to make 52 gallons of beer a day on site, has about 15 styles of beer, and offers eight beers on tap at one time, plus one cask-conditioned beer straight out of the barrel. Bigelow is currently brewing a German-style Hefeweizen dubbed Wild Hair Wheat, a low-alcohol session pale ale he’s named Paddle Board Ale (“nice and tasty, a drinking beer”), and a hoppy Indian pale ale called Hop Song. His special beer is the Hopped Up Monk, a traditional-style Belgian ale but overly hopped like a West Coast IPA. “No one else has it,” Bigelow said of the recipe he crafted himself.

Another of his creations is the Pepé Pilsner, made with white and black peppercorn, that Bigelow says goes great with salads and soups. He also makes Belgian-style sour beers, which are aged in Bordeaux wine barrels for one to two years. He’s currently brewing a watermelon saison, a traditional farmhouse ale.

But the beer he can make at his Tahoe City brewery is a drop in the bucket compared to what he can brew at his new 20-barrel brewhouse in Truckee in the Pioneer Commerce Center (by contrast, the Tahoe City operation is a seven-barrel system). The brewhouse is designed for commercial operations, and handles bottling, kegging, and distribution to grocery stores and restaurants. It can produce 600 gallons of beer a day, or 3,200 gallons a week.

The brewhouse is the reason that Bigelow had to change the name of his brewery, which was originally called Mackinaw Brewing Co. When he learned there was a brewery of the same name in Michigan, Bigelow was concerned it could hamper his efforts to get his products into stores across the country.

A vestige of the brewery’s original name is the collection of mounted, stuffed fish that lines the restaurant’s walls along with 200-year-old canoes and paddles that Bigelow found in Vermont. Thanks to Bigelow’s construction skills (his company built the Cedar House Sport Hotel), the restaurant has a new look that he hopes will fix some of the things that possibly jinxed former occupants, such as an awkward layout, dark colors, and heating that didn’t warm the room. Bigelow completely gutted the space and put in new floors, bar, audio and video system (there are seven flat-screen TVs), and redid the walls with light reclaimed wood.

Bigelow also hopes that the menu is a break from the past. The restaurant, which is billed as a smokehouse and wood grill, offers pub food that runs on average $9 to $12, with a few entrees close to $20.

“I’m not worried,” Bigelow said about the supposed curse. “Evergreen’s menu was good, but its price point was a little bit much.”

The high-end Evergreen Restaurant closed in January. Before that was Rock’s Rotisserie, Café Echo, and Café Cobblestone. The Cobblestone was consumed by a kitchen fire in 2002.

Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co. is focusing on local and seasonal food as much as possible, and Chef Nate Alder, who was the executive chef at Alpine Meadows, shops at the Tahoe City farmers market once a week. Smokehouse offerings include ribs, brisket, and pulled pork sliders. The menu also includes flatbread pizza, burgers, and salads.

Bigelow is confident that despite the building’s history of four restaurants in 10 years, Tahoe Mountain is here for the long haul.

“I am hoping we are the one that stays,” he said.

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