New Grass Valley taphouse to offer beer, full menu, sports and more |

New Grass Valley taphouse to offer beer, full menu, sports and more

FILE — Thirsty Barrel Taphouse and Grille chef James Herzig and owner Craig Davis are excited to bring craft beers and pub comfort food to downtown Grass Valley (file photo from 2017).
Lorraine Jewett/For The Union

Know & Go

Thirsty Barrel Taphouse & Grille

Owner: Craig Davis

116 Neal Street, Grass Valley

Lunch & dinner Wednesday through Monday

Phone: 530-802-5488


A popular saying claims, “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”

That could be the mantra of the Thirsty Barrel Taphouse & Grille and its owner, Craig Davis.

First, he scoured the country during a four-month, 49-state reconnaissance mission. He planned to find a thriving community that would support his new business venture. Instead of choosing a large, metropolitan area, he put down roots in Grass Valley.

“I chose Grass Valley because I liked the beauty of the area and the kindness of the community,” said Davis, who moved here in April.

Davis planned to open his new Grass Valley business under the moniker of Twisted Ale Taphouse & Grille. Just before opening, he had to change the name to Thirsty Barrel Taphouse & Grille.

“Let’s just say I learned a lesson in trademark law,” he said, explaining that an East Coast establishment had a similar Twisted Ale name.

Davis planned to offer a wide selection of the very finest craft beers. But his girlfriend — who became his fiancé just weeks ago — doesn’t like beer.

“So I added wine to the menu,” said Davis.

He leased a vacant building at 116 Neal Street, started renovations and planned to open during the busy summer dining season.

“Construction delays prevented that,” said Davis.

Now he hopes to open the taphouse by the end of the month. The restoration turned a dilapidated building into a welcoming venue with a rustic, industrial décor: galvanized pipe accents, barrel ends, concrete countertop main bar and walnut bar rails. Authentic double barn doors are topped with Davis’s motto: “Beer and a Dream.”

Beer will flow from 30 different taps. Craft beer brewed at Nevada City’s ol’ Republic Brewery and Three Forks Bakery and Brewing Company will be featured, plus craft beers from across the Pacific Northwest. A dozen different wines will also be offered.

Davis said he’ll staff Thirsty Barrel Taphouse & Grille with up to 16 employees, among them chef James Herzig. Davis said he challenged Herzig to develop a menu with a lot of variety and reasonable prices.

“We’ll have something for everyone,” said Herzig. “We’ll have a regular bar menu, but we’ll also offer seasonal, special dinner entrées.”

Herzig has seven years of experience in the restaurant industry. He worked at BriarPatch Co-op, the organic Nectar Café in Auburn, and Wise Villa Winery and Food Pairing Bistro in northern Placer County.

“I’m going to serve modern pub fare with a farm-to-table twist,” Herzig said. “It’s going to be comfort bar food, but a little lighter and little fresher. I am a craft beer fanatic. I’m excited to bring my experience to the craft beer world. It’s an exciting time for chefs to serve beer and wine pairing dinners. It’s always a lot of fun and customers really like it.”

The taphouse will be open for lunch Wednesday through Monday. On those same days, it will remain open until 10 p.m. or midnight.

“I know there aren’t a lot of places downtown that stay open late for food,” said Davis. “My goal is to stay open a little later than the other places and be an economic driver. Having craft breweries and restaurants that serve craft beer will bring people here from all over this area and beyond.”

Davis’s background includes 21 years of retail management, including 11 years of store management for Walmart.

“I decided I wanted to follow my dream, my path,” said Davis. “I’ve always been intrigued by having my own business, and craft beer has always been a part of what I wanted to do.”

The taphouse appears to have all the ingredients for success. The bar has been tastefully decorated, the adjoining covered patio has an open-air feel, and a large room separate from the bar and patio can be used to host private parties and other events. Combined, all three areas can seat 65, and there’s plenty of room for others to mill about. There are seven big-screen TVs, and David subscribes to NFL Sunday Ticket so football fans won’t miss a down. There are three city parking lots within two blocks.

“Downtown is very excited to get a taproom and restaurant,” said Grass Valley Downtown Association Board Chair and city council member Lisa Swarthout. “It’s a trendy type of business these days. It’s going to be popular with our new demographic of young people who come to downtown for movies, shopping and the Center for the Arts.”

Davis is content, now set both in life and his plans.

“I’ve put a lot, but not all, of my life savings into this,” he said. “I’m driven to ensure it’s successful.”

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at

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