By John Miller l March 16, 2023
The long-awaited opening of the Tioga-Sequoia Merced Taproom in downtown Merced is slated for April 8.
A special Grand Opening celebration on that day, starting at noon, is expected to have a block party-type feel — complete with food trucks, street vendors, and live music. Highlighting the event will be the release of a brand new beer from the Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Company.
However, for those who can’t wait until April, there are a few chances to get an early taste of the fresh brews. Starting on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, look for pop-up openings throughout this month, as the new Tioga-Sequoia staff members get their bearings in the new market.
Keep reading this article for more details on the taproom openings.
A legacy in mind
The opening of the 5,000-square-foot taproom, located on the bottom floor of The Tioga apartment building at Main and N streets, is three years in the making. Understandably, progress on the project was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Michael Cruz, the Tioga-Sequoia president, says the company never wavered from its overall plan.
“It’s in a building named The Tioga, and I thought that was just too much of coincidence,” Cruz says. “Once I took a tour of the building and Downtown Merced, I just knew that this was it, and I didn’t need to look anywhere else.”
Over the past year, Cruz and his team have been hard at work, recreating the space, and building a staff with local hires, including General Manager Elizabet Alvarez. Working together, the taproom has made use of the landmark Tioga while honoring the legacy of the area.
“We really tried to match the intention of the historic space, and the effort of the developers that also developed the El Capitan, the Mainzer, and the Tioga, as they put a lot of money into keeping it beautiful and reinventing the vintage looks and feel,” Cruz says. “So we stuck with that for our concept, but intertwined our brand’s ethos.”
Tioga-Sequoia’s outdoorsy image is made clear throughout the interior design, including thick wood furnishings and earthy decor, green tile along the bar, soft-leather lounge seating and abundant natural lighting from the large windows. In addition, they plan to expand seating to an outdoor parklet area, which would allow patrons to enjoy a beer with a street-side view.
Plans for entertainment
While some of these initial qualities are being carried over from the Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Company’s founding location in Fresno, local staff members are eager to have the Merced community shape the new space.
“One of the things I got to witness while working in Fresno for the last ten months or so was how they integrated themselves into the community — whether its highlighting local artists or food vendors,” Alvarez says. “A lot of the things I have been seeing are aspirations to do here, but not by copying and pasting what they’re doing in Fresno, but by applying the same concept here and highlighting downtown Merced and growing Merced.”
Cruz added that weekly or monthly events could include karaoke nights, loteria nights, pub quiz contests, and other ongoing programming. “As a bigger picture, we would like to have monthly or annual events that are more significant than being just at our location,” Cruz says.
He describes the plan as: “An entertainment district where people go from venue to venue, or to different sections of Downtown Merced, with a lot of pop-up venues where you have engaging and entertaining programming of food, music, art, vendors, culture spread out throughout Downtown Merced on a monthly basis.”
A beer and a cause
The brewery has another mission that will resonate with many local residents living in the Gateway to Yosemite.
Founded in 2007, the Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Company was created with the goal of highlighting the beauty of nature. In particular, the business looks to showcase the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains, national forests and parks, and Yosemite and Sequoia National Park in particular. In addition to highlighting areas that many of their beer products are named after, company officials see part of their mission as advocates and stewards for natural landscapes.
“The idea of keeping our backyards beautiful is important,” explains Cruz. “People travel from all over the world to visit a lot of the outdoor areas that California has to offer.”
And despite the closeness of some of these natural wonders such as Half Dome in Yosemite or the General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park, Cruz points out that a number of local residents have yet to make their way to see these areas.
“Its a combo of making people aware and getting them used to working with these organizations, and getting people outside and on a trail, or in one of the parks, and then helping to maintain those areas so future generations can experience them as well.”
To that end, the business has been a part of the 1 Percent for the Planet Initiative, meaning that one percent of their gross annual revenue goes to nonprofits that help sustain these natural wonders. Additionally, Cruz expects the initiative to grow with new partnerships in the Merced area.
A selection of brews
Some of the more popular beers Tioga-Sequoia Brewery has become known for include Half Dome and the General Sherman India Pale Ale (IPA).
“As much as possible, we source local ingredients — especially when we do fruit related beers,” Cruz says. “California, and especially the San Joaquin Valley, is great for produce like citrus and stone fruit. One of our flagship beers, which is Half Dome, we use predominately Central Valley peaches which go into the brewing process for that beer. We’re proud that we can source 100 percent California grown peaches for that beer.”
Outlining the General Sherman IPA, Cruz said that the 7.5 percent IPA “embodies the spirit of the largest living tree on Earth, which is the General Sherman tree. It’s one of the largest single IPAs on the market and it has been around since we started. Cruz continued, saying that for those who enjoy IPAs the General Sherman IPA is a “perfect IPA and it’s a blend of hops, citrus fruit, and a malt backbone that emphasizes the hops more than most IPAs.
Grand opening, soft opening details
For those who are looking to make their way to the grand opening on April 8, the fun will start at noon, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony taking place at 2 p.m with local dignitaries. The taproom is expected to be open until 11 p.m.
Cruz notes that a special beer to commemorate the occasion will be released during the event, and that the special brew will make use of local produce as part of the flavor profile.
“We haven’t announced what it is but I can say that it is a strawberry beer and it’s focused on local fruit,” he says. After being released at the grand opening, the special beer will make its way onto the market and into stores, and will kick off the process of specialty beers first released by the brewery through the Merced location.
For those looking to get an earlier look at the Tioga-Sequoia Merced Taproom, a soft opening on Saint Patrick’s Day is planned.
“We’re going to be open from 2 o’clock to 11 for a soft opening to just test the waters on Saint Patrick’s Day,” Cruz says.
The soft opening will help the new Merced staff members become acquainted with the process of serving and running a taproom, and identify any areas that can be improved upon before the grand opening event. As part of the festivities of Saint Patrick’s Day, the taproom will be serving green beer.
From that point forward, residents can follow the brewery on their Instagram @TiogaMerced to find dates between Saint Patrick’s Day and the grand opening where the taproom will announce additional pop-up events.