Boulder Creek Brewery Switches Hitches

Locals Set Adrift Without “The Fishbowl” and Times Together at the Boulder Creek Brewery Outpost

By Julie Horner

On March 29th, 2015 the well-loved Boulder Creek Brewery was gutted by fire. The building remains, an empty shell, at 13040 Highway 9, the epicenter of Boulder Creek. A “For Sale” sign tacked to the façade has signaled the end of an era for months now. They’re not going to rebuild.

Moving to Boulder Creek from Ben Lomond some years ago, refuge and solace was found after tedious upheaval, boxes and belongings, with a late-night plate and a velvety pint. Relative newbies to town at the time, Mo was quick to put us at ease: “No sleep ‘til Brookdale!” he pretend-screamed into an imaginary mic, putting a local twist to the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep till Brooklyn” and setting the scene for life in our new digs. Hell yes, we could stagger home on foot, and all would be right with the world! What a find, Boulder Creek and its Brewery!


Home of original on-site brews such as Dragon’s Breath IPA and Redwood Amber Ale, the Brewery was a hub for wonderful food and good times for local characters and travelers through. After the fire, which is believed to have been sparked by an electrical wiring failure, the heartbeat of a small mountain town was silenced for a few breathless, unbelieving months. The day after the fire, neighbors wandered down in a daze to stand outside the building squinting up at the morning light pouring through where the roof used to be. The brand-new awnings and “Boulder Creek Brewery” sign remained intact as if nothing had happened.

For regulars, the ghostly absence of colorful family friendly community gathered together over a solid meal and a tasty pint was deafening. Rarely has an off-the-hook burger, locally brewed beers on tap, and a catch-up on current gossip (and the wedge-cut fries) been more sorely missed.


Time heals and the spirit of a mountain town always prevails. A stroke of good fortune after bad allowed the business to move sideways and kitty-corner one block to the just-vacated Boulder Creek Music storefront under the I.O.O.F Hall at 152 Forest Street. For the better part of two years, the Boulder Creek Brewery Outpost kept the vibe alive with locals and visitors alike, stirring up small bites in a clever ‘kitchen-in-a-pinch’ and pouring exceptional guest taps. The lifeblood of a small town again found its course, and on most evenings “The Fishbowl,” as the seating area at the front of the establishment became known, would be bubbling with smiling faces, tall tales, and uproarious laughter.


And seasons have turned again. The note taped to a late September window reads: “Nancy’s next chapter coming soon. I will be moving down the road a ways to open Boulder Creek Roadside Café. This will be in the old Burger 9 location. I look forward to having a real kitchen again. Hope to see everyone there. Thank you all for your support.”

Boulder Creek Roadside Café is expected to open its doors in December just a short jaunt north of downtown at 15520 Highway 9, across from Garrahan Park and near the Mountain Store. A hungry, thirsty mountain town anticipates slipping comfortably back into the familiar sharing the day’s travels over exceptional brews and sinking teeth into the best burgers in the county! Stay tuned:

Copyright 2017 Julie Horner for the San Lorenzo Valley Post

Photos by SLV Steve and Julie Horner

Associated story:

Smoke and Glass – Sean McLean Photography

By Julie Horner

7:00 a.m. December 29, 2014. The early sky above the Boulder Creek Coffee Roasting Company was cast in Easter egg hue, the morning sun still below the mountain. In a personal test of will and strength I had agreed to meet Boulder Creek photographer, Sean McLean, on location to experience what he does best. Sean said, “Given that my niche tends to be coastal AND the long range surf forecast looks promising, how about we drive together down to Steamer Lane?” Excited, I asked if we REALLY needed to meet so early. He said, “Oh my friend, I’m usually at the lane before the sun has risen…the light goes all to pieces by 9:00.”

As it turned out the weather was good for boating, fishing, and going to the beach, but not so promising for waves after all. We decided on Plan B: A bone-chilling stroll through the mist-shrouded redwoods at Henry Cowell State Park.

I met Sean last summer at the Santa Cruz Mountains Art & Wine Festival in Boulder Creek. He was photographing the local bands and the scene on the green, families and singles, diapers, dancing and dangly earrings as the end-of-summer revelers drank in the last of the hot days and whatever was on tap among the local brewers and vintners who had enthusiastically thrown down in support of the local vibe.

Between last summer and this winter Sean landed an excellent freelance position as a photojournalist with Santa Cruz Waves, the place to go online for local coast 411. I was curious. As we pulled into Henry Cowell on that frigid December morning, I asked Sean if he surfed. He laughed, “Oh God, badly. I surf like I dance, and nobody wants to see that!”

Sean loves people, and he loves to photograph them in action in landscapes where they’re doing what they love. He said, “I take photos that tell a story…that invite the viewer in to explore and connect.” Sean focuses on trying to capture what’s on a subject’s mind – the interaction with the world. He is attracted to magic and wonder and things that make you go, “Ooo!!”

A completely delicious image to Sean? “A glassy backlit wave with a surfer either riding it or in the act of dropping in. This provides a warm blue-green light inside the wave that often frames the surfer’s upper body. The spray at the top of the wave can emphasize the power of the ocean – or it can completely negate it. The water has texture too; bumps and ridges of light and blue…the sea is alive and it’s not just about the surfer in the water.”

Sean posts his photos on Santa Cruz Waves online gallery every Saturday morning. He says, “Usually that’s surf action around Steamer Lane but it’s pretty much up to me. This area is rich with landscape, coastal, sunsets, wildlife, and the occasional human being.” According to Sean, there’s beauty, adventure, and friends everywhere. “This is a hoot!” He’s just a really friendly guy out shooting surf.

He’s also a big-time planner, consulting weather and tide reports and calculating when and where to be with his equipment to seize that moment when something spectacular happens, for that shot that’s “off the hook.”

Back at Henry Cowell the sun had finally sent dazzling tentacles of warmth into the forest canopy and the trees were smoking. It was one of those off-the-hook moments. As I stood shivering, my breath suspended in puffs, Sean was showing me how to use my own camera, which I’d brought along in case I could scrape off a little of his magic frosting. Sean said, “It’s all about the lenses…basically picking the brush to paint with.” Sean is quick to strike up conversation with anyone who is curious about what he’s doing. A tourist couple approached us and Sean dove right in to telling them about all the amazing hiking they could do during their stay. “I love to share. I mean, this is Santa Cruz County!”

On the Web:

On Facebook:

On Santa Cruz Waves:

(c) 2015 Julie Horner – Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin, February 2015

Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California. Email:


SMC_2632-Redwoods and Sunbeams-4x6x300dpi

Tina Saso Photography – Community, Captured


By Julie Horner

What caught my eye was the recent iconic photograph of local American roots musicians, Sugar by the Pound. It was a Marilyn Monroe moment. The photographer had captured the very essence of femininity and strength and sheer porcelain beauty in a series of relaxed looking shots; in-the-moment expression and sense of playful movement, the honesty of cotton fabric against smooth skin and the function of well worn instruments.

The photographer is Tina Saso, a San Lorenzo Valley native who now calls Boulder Creek home. That series of photographs was taken just moments after Sugar by the Pound had wrapped up their set at the Boulder Creek Harvest Festival. They’d ducked into a friend’s yard to shake off the heat of the day and the high of being “on” in front of hundreds of folks enjoying the lingering warmth of a long, hot summer in the Santa Cruz Mountains. You can see in those photographs Tina’s ability as a genuine people-person to put her subjects at ease, feeling themselves and having fun so that personalities shine through.

It’s a natural impulse for Tina to photograph family and friends. Drawn by everyday people, mamas and babies, the rustic and the well-lit, she becomes the story teller and a recorder of moments in time. She told me that she especially enjoys photographing her subjects on-location outdoors, incorporating the environment whenever she can. Wilder Ranch, Henry Cowell State Park, and Boulder Creek’s Camp Joy Gardens are favorite locations, providing color- and texture-rich backdrops for her subjects.

Tina enjoys a deep connection with Camp Joy, having spent many days of youth with Leifin and Towhee Nelson on the acreage. Now their children run wild in that wondrous landscape, and Tina can be found chasing the kids around, adding her personal perspective to capturing what they do among the orchard trees and arbors.

“I have always been a social person and love working with people of all ages.” According to Tina, her enthusiasm for photography is complementary to that love. She is passionate about lighting and composition and facilitating the perfect environment for feeling joy, to reach that moment together at a shoot “when magic is happening.”

While her favorite experiences involve photographing individuals in a natural setting, she also has a keen eye for large compositions involving company staff and is in high demand as an event and corporate photographer. Her expertise includes evocative wedding portraiture and exquisitely pristine landscape and nature photography. Capturing life as she sees it: From the glow of the mother-to-be to the delicate form of the newborn asleep; children innocently at play to teens and adults at ease in the everyday.

Several times a year Tina hosts professional photo sessions by appointment at Camp Joy Garden. I can think of no finer place to create family memories through portraiture, to bookmark a place in time for loved ones framed by the beauty of the Santa Cruz Mountains.


On the Web:

On Facebook:


Sugar by the Pound by Tina Saso Photography, Boulder Creek CA.

(c) 2014 Julia Horner

Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California.