A quickass review of Mad Duck Craft Brewing Co’s new brewpub in NW Fresno: It’s cool.
There. There’s a quickass review.
Alright, a little more reviewing…
So, there are many areas of Fresno that are underserved, most certainly. Sometimes it feels like Fresno is only River Park, Downtown, Fig Garden Village, Tower, and Fashion Fair. If a place isn’t in one of those areas then it doesn’t exist. Small city ways.
NW Fresno has been begging for a place like Mad Duck, even if it didn’t know it. The new location is at the NE corner of Herndon & Marks (across from Taco Bell, behind the Starbucks and new Ampersand Ice Cream.
They picked a good spot.
It’s small, or at least feels small, in comparison to the Campus Point location. Before I saw it I was bummed that it was small. Small means more waiting for tables, in my eyes. While that may be true, I like the vibe the small gives. It feels more social and neighborhood than Campus Point.
The combination of the North West Fresno crowd and the Mad Duck brewpub atmosphere, if I could pick one band that could describe the vibe it would be Fleetwood Mac.
I can take or leave Fleetwood Mac but that feeling you get when you’re in a good mood, just starting to relax and forget life, you have a couple of beers in ya and the perfect part of a song comes on and you’re like “Yeah, man, this.” That is Mad Duck NW Fresno. Classic rock in new packaging.
The patio is big enough and cool but it’s not shaded properly. I don’t understand, in Fresno, if you have the budget to build a patio but don’t shade it properly, it makes zero sense. There were two people on the patio, huddled against the wall trying to bleed any full shade they could from the building and the only reason they were out there at all was the fact that they had a dog with them. So, hey, I guess they allow dogs on the patio if you were wondering.
Shade your patios properly, Fresno. In case you have not noticed, the sun is a bastard around here.
So the food seems to be the same as the Campus Point location, along with the beer. Since this location also has brewing equipment, I hope that each location will have its own beer. Meaning, one you can only get at THAT location. That would be cool for us beer geeks.
If you’re wondering what the best beer they make is, I say it’s the Citra. And The NW Fresno location’s is very solid, so far. The almond brown and the “Dog Daze” are too bad either. Hope the guest taps start getting more interesting.
Overall, solid fun neighborhood place. Fresno needs more neighborhood spots, like ALL Fresno neighborhoods, and hopefully, this proves this part of NW Fresno deserves more. See ya there.
Is there Russian River beer in Fresno? YES! Where can I find Pliny The Elder in Fresno? I’ll tell ya in a sec. But right now I just gotta yell something: “Fresno is finally a Russian River Brewing town!”
Only Russian River approved businesses and distributors (thank you Delta Pacific Beverage for being worthy) are allowed to carry Russian River beer. The major requirement being that the beer must always be refrigerated and cared for properly.
Let me say it again because it’s damn awesome: Russian River Brewing Company beer is now available in Fresno.
We were the last major region in California to get it, but that is okay. It’s here now. The past is past, we are now a Russian River town and it is incredibly awesome.
If you’re wondering, “What the hell is the big damn deal about this “Pliny” guy and why is Russian River beer such a thing?” that is okay. You’re not a beer geek. Cool.
Santa Rosa’s Russian River Brewing is probably the greatest Beer Geek brewery of all time. Their IPA, Pliny The Elder, ushered in a whole style of beer called “West Coast IPA”. I consider the beer the Godfather of the modern IPA.
For a while there (if it isn’t still) Pliny was the number one most traded beer in the beer geek world. If a beer is heavily traded (shipped illegally to regions where a person can’t get the beer), that means it’s highly sought after – aka damn good.
Not only do we get the core Russian River beers now, we even get cool colab beers like the one Russian River and Karl Strauss did recently:
My AC unit went out this Summer. The first string of hot days revealed that the compressor in my 25-year-old beast died. It was not going to be worth it to replace it.
I need a new air conditioner. But it’s not always that simple.
Paying for things like a ‘crane fee’ and taking on a loan, was not something we are into this Summer. Beer Slushies at Tioga? Sure. $15,000 central air units? No.
So, we are going to have to get through a Fresno Summer without traditional air. With only a swamp cooler. Ol Swampy (pictured above). Pray for us.
Never thought I would be glad to have a swamp cooler as a backup
We are lucky to have Swampy. The previous owners had both units hooked into the vents. Use the Swamp when things are in the 80s, switch to the Central AC when things start getting ripe.
Those with evaporative cooler experience know, when the triple digits hit, swamp sucks.
Luckily, Fresno does have a good base condition that swamp coolers like: dry heat.
Joke about it all ya damn want but dry heat is hella better than humid heat, for many reasons. One of them is you can tweak your cooler for max coolness:
The best tip from that video? Starting the cooler early!
Blowing swamp when it was already warm was my biggest mistake. It is too much of a struggle for Ole Swampy to cool things down once the house is warm. Starting the cooler at 8 am as opposed to 2 pm makes a big difference.
Yeah, you have the cooler running all day and that can be an expense. But it’s still much cheaper than running an old AC unit.
The frozen bottles and soaking the pads make a small difference but not really worth it for me since my unit is up on the roof.
But what about at night?
Right? Sleeping in a hot room is the worst. I want it cold enough to need a blanket. Being warm during the day is one thing. Trying to sleep when it’s super hot feels like trying to sleep on top of Blackstone asphalt.
That’s why I broke down and bought one of these bad boys for the room:
If you love ‘hotel style’ AC, this is something to look into. It won’t work for the house, but it will keep one bedroom cool and it’s damn nice.
Go turn your swamper on now!
Keeping the cooler in good order and turning it on in the morning, that’s all ya really need to know. Ad the room unit and everything is chill.
Of course… I have not been through August yet. Check back later. In the meantime, I’m feeling like heading Downtown for a Beer Slush:
Here are some of my favorite spots in Fresno that are no longer around. Basically, the 80s for an NW Fresno kid.
Hopefully, it sparks your own memories, wherever the hell ya grew up.
Blackbeards would be number one on my list except it is somehow still there. Intact. Almost unchanged. Which is awesome and sad at the same time.
MALIBU GRAND PRIX FRESNO
In the same place the Costco parking lot is now, behind the shopping center at the NE corner of Blackstone & Herndon, was Malibu Grand Prix. Letting kids race little Indy-style cars seems like a bad idea, but I never heard of anyone getting seriously hurt at it.
I think I spent more time in the arcade playing Tempest than on the race track. It was always a bit intimidating to me to drive those things … There. I said it. The Malibu cars, made for children, intimidated me. Didn’t know I’d be working out childhood issues today.
“I really could get into this!” is not something I ever said though. For the record.
WOODWARD PARK DRIVE IN
We no longer have a drive-in movie theater in Fresno and it sucks. The last one we had was Woodward, which is now a Home Depot and a Costco – definitely not an upgrade.
I can still remember going to the concession stand in the center, stealing looks at the other movies playing that I was too young to watch, enjoying the perfect Fresno Summer Nights and only half paying attention to the movie we came to see.
Madera still has one in operation, if you want to try and experience that again.
VIDEO GAME CAGE AT BLACKSTONE TOYS R US
This used to be the only place (that I can remember) you could get any game you wanted. Saving up money to get the latest hot game, only to find they were sold out of it, was always a bummer.
Bringing up the paper tag that represented the game, taking it to the cage and having them hand over the actual game, is one of the more satisfying things from childhood I recall. Is that sad?
TOWER RECORDS IN THE KMART SHOPPING CENTER
I got this picture from former Tower Records (OG location) worker, Dale Stewart of Capitol Punishment fame.
Records to the left. Tapes to the right. CDs eventually taking over. Record displays in the center. 45s of the Top Twenty Songs. These are the memories.
FESTIVAL GAME PALACE
It was not easy to try and make a $5 bill last for an afternoon, but I managed somehow. Shout out to Paperboy and the manual hockey game by the snack bar.
Dear God I could watch this all day:
THE GRAPE TRAY
It was next to the original Fresno Cost Plus at the NW corner of Shaw & Fresno. A sandwich shop, deli, and wine store. The reason I remember is it had a unique upstairs eating area unlike any in Fresno. I guess there is something about sitting and looking out over the shop from up high while having a salami & swiss.
The Grape Tray is still around. But it’s now at Palm & Bullard in the Opus One shopping center. And it’s just a wine shop. No cool upstairs or sandwiches. Boring.
I think it’s even in the spot that used to have a tiny record shop I would stop into after school and rarely buy something, much to the owner’s chagrin – wish I could remember the name of it.
FIG GARDEN LIQUOR (Original)
I know it’s still there but when I was a kid, Tom Seaver’s Father-In-Law owned it. He had the best (non-card shop) baseball card selection in town. He would even hand out autographed pictures of Tom Seaver to those of us that seemed like they cared. I got one or two over the years.
ARTHUR’S TOYS ON BLACKSTONE
The place to be even after Toys R Us opened. No other place could I look at custom electric cars to add to my track. It’s now Whitie’s Pets and went in there recently and was able to conjure a tiny bit of the vibe.
This is not me but I had the exact setup. Now I feel like going out and buying one:
The hobby shop place in Fig Garden Village that sold model airplanes and cars, Bob’s Village Hobby. (Read about owner, Bob Hansen, here). My memories of the place are faint, but it definitely inspired me to hang my model planes from my bedroom ceiling.
The Fig Garden Movie Theater. I so much wish it was still there. If you are too young to remember, it was located roughly where the Deli Delicious and noodle place is, in the back NE corner of Fig Garden Village.
Festival Cinemas. Saw all the important 80s movies there. Empire Strikes Back. Raiders of the Lost Ark. The greats.
I could go on for a while, as I’m sure you could too. Often I wonder what my kid will one day fondly remember about Fresno? It definitely won’t be a Drive-In.
Fresno’s Chicken Pie Shop is now closed for good. What are we going to do with that building?
Respect to the Chicken Pie Shop. A Tower and Fresno icon of breakfasts, chicken pies and green booths is now gone. Thank you for your service and your uniqueness. You will be missed.
Okay, now, what is going to happen to that building?
This a a major spot in the Tower District. A large building. On Olive. Next to all the things. It would be bad for the Tower District and bad for Fresno if it were to sit un-leased for a long time. We must figure this out.
Can it be a Trader Joe’s?
This is what everyone wants. If not a Trader Joe’s then something like it.
Yeah, Trader Joe’s is not realistic. Neither is any kind of market like a Trader Joe’s. Nice thought though.
Oh man, all of those suggestions are good.
Bitwise is so invested in Downtown now, I’m not sure they would come back to the Tower. They totally should though and that would be a good spot to do it.
Another stage for performing, whether for music or plays or comedy, would be perfect.
A craft beer tasting room or co-op?
Yeah, I would be into a Modern Times opening a tap-room. Very much so. It would be best if it was a local brewer. But the only one right now that could pull it off would be Tioga. Maybe Dust Bowl or South Gate. This is my favorite suggestion.
But what could a new tenant do to the building? It’s the Tower District and don’tthey have a Committee that must approve of the things and such?
In this month’s Flowing With Famous, we suggest that David Fansler, creator of legendary Fresno restaurants Tahoe Joe’s, Yosemite Ranch, Pismo’s and Westwood’s, should open a theater district themed restaurant. But I don’t think he knows how to create a restaurant South of Shaw, so nevermind.
Let’s Get To Leasing!
Well then. We have an open space in a major location in the Tower and some good suggestions on what could become of the location. Somebody get to work on something.
In the meantime, I gotta see about acquiring one of those iconic Chicken Pie Shop booths.