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Wednesday, 18 January 2017 16:04

Ten Winter Options in Gold Country

TASTE News Service, January 19, 2017 - The forecast for this time of year is wet weather, and while California always needs it, it's not always a welcome sight for visitors who have planned a trip to the Gold Country area along Highway 49.

Columbia Candy Kirtchen PicmonkeyIt's still hand-made at Columbia Candy KirtchenTASTE News Service, August 26, 2015 – Inside Columbia State Park in the heart of Northern California's Yosemite Gold Country business is conducted almost exactly the way it was in the gold rush era.

The Columbia Candy Kitchen has been the home of handmade confections in Columbia, California since the late 1800's, when a Danish confectioner settled in this gold rush town. A fellow miner, C. Rex Nelson, became the confectioner in the 1930's. After four generations, the Nelson family still produces the finest candies from original recipes, cooked in bright copper kettles, using original molds and cooled on marble tables that are more than 100 years old.

Candy canes are still made the old-fashioned way at Nelson's Candy Kitchen in Columbia. Visitors can watch through windows of the exhibition kitchen every Saturday and Sunday at noon and 1 p.m. from the end of November through the weekend before Christmas.

USA Today included Nelson's Columbia Candy Kitchen in their “top 10 sweet shops across America article”, calling the business “the type of place I go way out of my way to visit.”

Now there are three locations; the original kitchen in Columbia State Park, an additional location in Sonora, both in Tuolumne County, and another one in nearby Murphys, which is in neighboring Calaveras County. The flagship store produces 85% of all of their confections sold.

About the Area

Stage Coach in Coldumbia CA PicmonkeyThere's an occasional traffic jam in downtown ColumbiaTuolumne (rhymes with “follow me”) County, home to Yosemite Gold Country, located 133 miles east of San Francisco, is a pristine, scenic expanse reaching into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  

Gold was discovered in Tuolumne County in 1848, the same year as the find at Sutter's Mill in El Dorado County. These events helped to set off the gold rush of 1849.

The main highways leading to the picturesque drive from the San Francisco and East Bay Area are Highways 108 and 120 from the west and Highway 49 from the north. The State Highway 120 entrance to Yosemite National Park is considered the “front door” of the park for the San Francisco Greater Bay Area.

The Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park, and other surrounding areas provide natural vistas and settings for hiking, water skiing, horseback riding, rafting, camping, snowmobiling, boating, snow skiing, fishing and other outdoor activities. Seven restored historic hotels, four golf courses, numerous and varied dining establishments, historic saloons, five wineries and hard cider distillery, train rides, casino, seven museums, two state historic parks, five live theaters and many bed-and-breakfast inns are among the many other attributes that make the county a year round vacation destination.

Editor’s Note: If you’re thinking of visiting this part of the old west, consider first visiting Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. In the Gold Country section you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to Sierra Foothill Wineries and Craft Beer purveyors.


1864-Ale Abe Lincoln label

Oakhurst, CA – September 26, 2013 – The Southgate Brewing Company in Oakhurst is holding a release party to help show off a new beer that helps mark the 150th Anniversary of the signing of the Yosemite Grant.

The 1864 Ale, produced by brewmaster Rick Bouke, is an Oktoberfest style beer that will be available throughout the fall. Bouke said he used the past as an influence while creating this new brew.

“I am excited to brew this beer for such a special occasion as the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln signing the Yosemite Grant. I tried to make a beer with techniques that would be similar to the beer being brewed 150 years ago,” he said.

The beer is described as being amber in color, with a smooth toasted toffee and caramel flavor.

“Rich, toasted malts toasted in the our wood-fired oven and fresh, local hops sourced from a secret location near Yosemite Valley, make this beer a balanced and refreshing seasonal beer perfect for a Fall in the Sierra,” said Casey Hawkins, owner of South Gate Brewing Company.

A release party is being held on Saturday, Oct. 5 starting at 3 pm to debut the new beer and help mark the milestone of President Lincoln signing the Yosemite Grant that set aside Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove for preservation.

Festivities will include an Art Exhibit by local artist Courtney Lynn who has designed the 1864 Ale label of President Lincoln as well as the other South Gate Brewing labels; live music, Oktoberfest-style dinner specials by Chef Dawn Pliche, 1864 logo t-shirts & steins giveaways, plus a grand prize drawing for a two night stay in a cabin at The Redwoods in Yosemite. Also, attendees are advised to be on the lookout for President Lincoln himself, to make a special appearance.

“It’s a great honor to be involved in the celebration of our ecological history,” said Hawkins.

“Brewing a beer with locally sourced hops and toasting grains here on site will give this beer a uniqueness that speaks to our local community. We hope everybody enjoys the craftsmanship and thought that Rick is putting into the 1864 Ale,” he said.

Numerous events will be held in Madera County and each of Yosemite’s four gateways to honor President Lincoln’s preservation of Yosemite in an action that paved the way for the creation of the National Park System. To learn more about the anniversaries, go to www.nps.gov/yose/anniversary.

Editor's note: Links to the websites of brewpubs like Southgate Brewing Company can be found in the Resource Directory of Taste California Travel. Also in the Directory are links to Lodging and Dining options in the Yosemite area.

Monday, 03 June 2013 21:05

New Microbrewery in Oakhurst

Southgate Brewing in Oakhurst PicmonkeyFrom left, Lindsay and Casey Hawkins, owners of Southgate Brewing Company and brewmaster Rick Boucke, toast the success of their new Oakhurst brewpub.

Beer lovers have a new place to try just outside of Yosemite National Park. Southgate Brewing Company opened their doors in Oakhurst—about 15 minutes south of Yosemite--just prior to the start of the Memorial Day Holiday weekend and so far, the public has loved the new microbrewery and restaurant.

Owner Casey Hawkins said it’s his staff’s attention to service and detail that has helped them gain a quick following.

“We have a knowledgeable, dynamic team that delivers top notch service to every guest in a fun, family friendly brewpub environment,” he said.

“Our menu pairs beautifully with our house made beers and is thoughtfully sourced, featuring American Pub fare with some exciting twists. Fried Artichoke Hearts and House Made Potato Chips are a great way to start your meal. Our South Gate Burger is made with grass fed beef from Painted Hills Farm, and our Mary's free range chicken is another house favorite,” said Hawkins.

Ingredients are locally sourced, with cheeses coming from local dairies, most of the produce sourced from local growers and even the ice cream for their root beer floats comes from Reimer’s Vanilla Bean ice cream. For patrons looking for wine instead of beer, local Idle Hour Winery wines are featured on the menu.

While the food has been earning praise, it’s the microbrews that many people are coming for, and those too have earned commendation from the public.

“We have the Deadwood Porter, a smooth dark porter with roasted malt and coffee flavors, the Gold Digger Blond, an easy drinking pilsner-style beer lightly hopped and great on a hot day. We have the Sawtooth IPA, A west-coast style IPA with a slightly tropical/citrus flavor and smooth finish and our Glacier Point Pale Ale is hoppy pale ale with grapefruit and citrus flavors and my personal favorite,” said Hawkins.

Editor's note: Planning on being in the Yosemite area? In Taste California Travel's Resource Directory, you will find a link to the website of Southgate Brewing (in the High Sierra section of our Beer listings). Also in the directory are links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options in the area.

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