Craft Beers at Ava’s Downtown Market

by Carter Coleman

When I was a lad, my dad was a Bud man. Back in those days, you had a choice of Budweiser, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Schlitz, and Old Style. No one in our working-class neighborhood drank Millers. (You heard of men who did and we suspected that they were swingers.)

So you can imagine my confusion, when picking up beer at Ava’s, the new downtown market, to be faced with a wall of beers with names like Raging Bitch, Damnation, Hoppy Ending, Dogfish Head, Old Rasputin, Palate Wrecker, Shock Top, Bitter American, Hell or High Watermelon, and Brew Free or Die IPA.

If you haven’t been to Ava’s lately, check it out. Ava’s is a full-service market, located at 340 Castro, that features local foods including Acme breads, organic produce, grass-fed meats, Straus dairy products, Marianne’s ice cream, organic produce, and healthy alternatives like gluten-free foods.

“About 80% of what we stock is by customer request,” said Juan Origel, co-owner of Ava’s Downtown Market. “This applies to our beer selections, as well as our grocery, dairy, produce and meat departments.”

When faced with such a perplexing assortment, I go with a rating. So I picked a beer that was a 100 pointer. A Chimay in the blue 4-pack.

What was notable was that it was very expensive—like wine expensive. And, like a lot of Belgian ales, it was wine strong with 9% alcohol. And it was delicious. (There are some cheaper Belgian options, too, like Leffe, or the locally crafted Belgian-style brews like PranQster.)

What’s popular among the Ava’s crowd? “The IPA styles are very popular now, and those by Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma are good sellers,” said Juan. “I’d say the two most popular beers right now are Hoptimum and Monk’s Blood.”

What’s Juan’s favorite beer? “For everyday drinking, I like Victoria, which is from one of the oldest breweries in North America. It tastes like a cross between Negra Modelo and Corona.”

To see more of what Ava’s carries, visit, and click on the beer section. Leave a comment on what your favorite is.

And for you Bud and Pabst men in the Old Mountain View neighborhood, don’t be dismayed. Ava’s does carry these American favorites, too. One of my favorites is PranQster by North Coast Brewing in Fort Bragg, which compares favorably to Damnation, brewed by the Russian River Brewing company in Santa Rosa. Damnation is better, with a hint of lemon, but at half  the price, PranQster goes down easier.

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