For Shelter Cove, a sleepy seaside town populated by fishermen, surfers and backpacking tourists, a local brewery seemed like destiny. While it's been under a year since the Gyppo Ale Mill opened its doors, regulars are already wondering how they survived without craft brews on tap and gourmet pub fare close by.

click to enlarge Shelter Cove fish & chips. - AMY KUMLER
  • Amy Kumler
  • Shelter Cove fish & chips.

For those who only visit Southern Humboldt's famous coastline on occasion, Gyppo offers a welcome respite after a day of outdoor recreation. The owners are quick to highlight that Gyppo's not just the only brewery in town, it's the first. As a fiercely independent community that prides itself on quality of life and stamina, Shelter Cove has been long overdue for its own brew.

Situated next to the Shelter Cove Campground, the brewery and taproom were designed to reflect the heritage of the Lost Coast. A low-profile, horizontal building, Gyppo is constructed from the golden planks of reclaimed redwood that give the ale house its name: A gyppo is historical slang for a lumberjack who cuts down his own trees — in other words, not a company man. Essentially, a gyppo is a mashup of everything iconic to Shelter Cove: anti-authoritarian, freewheeling and just a little salty.

Once inside Gyppo's doors, the tough lumberjack vibe is quickly melted by aromas of fresh hops and fried fish. After spending years in negotiations with local municipalities on permits, owners Julie Peacock and Josh Monschke are committed to keeping Gyppo a family-friendly gathering place for the community. Since opening last July, Gyppo has offered an array of creative activities for the community, including Beer Yoga, Zumba & Pints and Beats & Brews. Both Peacock and Monschke have deep ties to Southern Humboldt but were raised in Oregon — she in Bend, he in Joseph — where brewpubs are a cornerstone of small-town culture. "Josh's dad went from being a Gyppo logger in Redway to Oregon, so owning a brewery in Humboldt fuses our backgrounds," says Peacock.

Understanding that remote landscapes inspire lumberjack-sized appetites, Gyppo's menu is stacked with gourmet pub grub. If sharing appetizers over a game of cornhole, try the house fermented olives loaded with fennel and orange rind ($5) and an order of Parisian-style shoelace fries with an uber-garlicky aioli ($7). Moving on to dinner, the Choke Setter Burger ($15) features a half-pound of Painted Hills Ranch Beef, sautéed onions and aioli, while the Shelter Cove Fish & Chips ($18) are the best way to taste the local merroir.

click to enlarge A pet-friendly patio. - AMY KUMLER
  • Amy Kumler
  • A pet-friendly patio.

Above all, Gyppo is about food — and the beer! With an impressive portfolio of classic and specialty beers, it's just sensible to get friendly with the locals over a sampler. For $3 per 4 oz pour, try both the West Coast IPA (50 IBUs are balanced with a toasted caramel finish) and the NEIPA, a tamer version of everyone's favorite après-surf brew. Inspired by the local farming industry, Gyppo's Amber Ale is bursting with green and herbaceous aromatics (it's the hops, we think) and a freshly cut character. Finally, the Grande Mexican Logger might be the star of the show — ever chased a shot of whiskey with a Corona? The perfect beer for a beach vacation, the Mexican Logger's antique-y flavors are the product of being aged in rye bourbon barrels. Gyppo has made some 16 types of beer, so what's on tap will rotate. Peacock recommends looking out for her personal favorite, Gyppo's Session IPA. "It still has lots of IPA flavor but less alcohol, so you can drink a few," explains Peacock.

Once you arrive in town, ask anyone where to find Gyppo — it's quickly become the best place to enjoy a welcoming taste of life in the Cove.

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