Chuck Frowein ponders more changes at the Alehouse, including more barbecue, pop-up events and more music. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Chuck Frowein ponders more changes at the Alehouse, including more barbecue, pop-up events and more music. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Some big changes are going on at Grillin & Chillin Alehouse in Hollister. The huge Sharks Stadium mural by local artist Riley Nester is almost finished. There are brand-new crafted cocktails on the menu.  And, bowing to customer demand for blood orange beverages, there is a new and wonderful Country Blonde Ale and a cocktail and both are just full of the stuff.

Oh, and owner Chuck Frowein sold his Grillin & Chillin Roadhouse restaurant on San Juan Hollister Road to Adam Jones, who has reopened it as “Harvest Time Roadhouse.”

“I have mixed emotions about selling the Roadhouse,” Frowein said, “It was the one where we started everything in 2009 and what really introduced us to craft beers. But it was time to consolidate things, and I think Adam, who took it over, wants to see it blossom and become even better.”

Focusing his attention on his 401 McCray St. location has given Frowein a chance to bring some favorites from the old Roadhouse menu that had never been offered at the Alehouse before, including a much larger selection of tacos.

As we sampled the beer and cocktails, we nibbled on two versions: the brisket taco and the Asian marinated beef street tacos. Both are served with a coleslaw topping and a creamy habanero sauce which gives them a restrained but spicy kick.

The sauce is something Frowein dreamed up one day as he was making fish tacos while his wife was away.

“I made it for her and she said, ‘Get out of the way,’” Frowein said. “She added some dill to it and some yogurt. She told me to try it, and it is actually better than mine, but I’ve never told her.”

Frowein’s enthusiasm for his experiments and his new items is easy to see and you can tell he loves being in the kitchen. 

“Both me and my wife cook,” he said. “So I’ve taught our chefs everything. If I needed to, I could jump back in there and do the full gig. It would be a week of pain for the customers until I got used to things again and kicked the training wheels off, but I could do it.”

As he ponders more changes at the Alehouse, including more barbecue, pop-up events, more music, Frowein remains devoted above all to customer satisfaction.

“There is something satisfying about being able to complete a job,” he said. “But in this business, you never get to complete anything because everything is never ending. I am always working to be sure the customers get the best stuff we can make.”

Beer and Cocktails at Grillin & Chillin Alehouse

Blood Orange Country Blonde Ale (4.5%) – “We have been getting a lot of people asking about blood orange recently,” Frowein said.  “Whether it was White Claw or Trulys or whatever. This one you can still drink as a beer and not just you’re drinking juice.” This ale has a light, uplifting aroma that is more reminiscent of cherries than blood orange and that fruit profile carries into the taste, providing a quick spike of citrus that is very refreshing. More of a sipping beer than a food beer, but I think it would probably go well with BBQ.

Blood Orange Smash – “We ended up buying a lot of blood oranges,” Frowein said, “and I was trying to figure out how to use them all.” His solution was to combine a puree with soda water and bourbon, with the sourness of the orange bouncing off the sweet caramel of the bourbon to create a relaxing and satisfying cocktail. This is an easy close-your-eyes-and-sip drink with enough bourbon in there to give it a flavor without overwhelming the orange and chasing you away. A nice one.

Avocado Margarita – “This was inspired by an avocado lemonade,” Frowein said. “I had to work with the balance, but I think it makes a great margarita.” There are times I think I am the only one on the planet that does not like avocados, so I was a little reluctant on this one. Made with Torada Silver tequila and a house-made avocado margarita mix, this cocktail was a surprise to me. The avocado adds a creaminess to the drink while the lime and tequila provides the snap. This went really well with the tacos, and while I still hold avocados at arm’s length, I would definitely order this one again.

Watermelon Crawl – Made with Platinum vodka, watermelon puree, ginger beer, lime juice, and jalapeno slices, served with a wedge of watermelon, this cocktail made my day.  The flavor is a playful combination of fruit and bubble gum with some warmth from the jalapeno and some tingle from the ginger. Bursting with swirls of fun flavors, this is not a serious drink at all but a perfect summertime refresher. I can’t imagine anyone drinking this and not smiling.  Their most popular cocktail at the moment and, for me, a must-try.

Tequila Honeybee – This drink began as a way for Frowein to use up some of the lemons from the tree in his yard. Made with Torada Silver tequila, house-made local honey syrup, and fresh lemon juice, it somehow escapes being too sweet from the honey or too tart from the lemon. This is a more subtle drink than you would expect, very gentle and delectable. Think alcoholic cough drop with the soothing dark honey hitting the back of the throat as the lemon rides high on the taste buds. 

All of these drinks were made with the brands of alcohol detailed on the menu, but they can be made with top-shelf ingredients on request.

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BenitoLink thanks our underwriters, Hollister Super and Windmill Market, for helping to expand the Eat, Drink, Savor series and give our readers the stories that interest them. Hollister Super (two stores in Hollister) and Windmill Market (in San Juan Bautista) support reporting on the inspired and creative people behind the many delicious food and drink products made in San Benito County. All editorial decisions are made by BenitoLink.