Your guide to local beers and brews.
Thinkin’ to drinkin’, we offer a rotating round of spots we love. Download a map of beer, cider, and spirits houses at . .
or pick one up at your local visitor’s center.
CLOVERDALE ALE COMPANY’S RUTH MCGOWAN’S BREWPUB
ruthmcgowansbrewpub.com | 707.894.9610 131 E. First St., Cloverdale
Open Monday-Thursday, 3pm to 9pm; Friday-Sunday, 11:30am to closing
For those weary of being sandwiched in at Russian River or waiting vainly for a stool to vacate at Bear Republic, Ruth’s is a revelation. Behold, vacant bar stools abound! The brew list covers all beer bases: Pale Ale, Stout, Wheat, Belgian Triple (ABV 8.75%), and something called Mighty Shillelagh. The menu explores all the many ways that deep-frying and cheese can compliment each other, making veteran pub patrons feel at home. But there also are half-a-dozen salads and lots of chicken. You can have fish tacos and an Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Stout as I did and enjoy a nice surprise, full of caramelized onions, roasted peppers, fish not so much fried as blackened with bits of interesting stuff. It was pleasantly picante, especially with their green salsa. Go to Ruth’s with a regular—we all know someone from Cloverdale—get one of those free stools, and don’t rush. —D.P.W.
DEMPSEYS RESTAURANT & BREWERY
dempseys.com | 707.765.9694 50 E. Washington St., Petaluma
Open daily from 11:30am until closing
Tucked alongside the Petaluma waterfront, Dempsey’s is known for the excellence of its burgers, the pile-high loft of its stringed onion rings, the insane height of its pork chops, and its flagship Red Rooster Ale, a caramel-infused, hoppy flower of a drink. With homemade root beer on tap for the kids, a relaxed outside dining area in the front perfect for people-watching, and a take on comfort food that skews to Asian and Latin flavors, it’s no surprise that Dempsey’s has slid comfortably into its
20th year. Look for seasonal beers and a changing tap roster that swings from IPA to stout, and includes a spin-inducing 11.25% ABV barley wine. —G.G.
FOGBELT BREWING Cº
fogbeltbrewing.com | 707.978.3400 1305 Cleveland Ave., Santa Rosa
Open Monday-Saturday, noon to 10pm; Sunday, noon to 8pm
With a background in winemaking, the folks at Fogbelt Brewing Company now aim for a much tougher fermentation process. Because while it takes a lot of good beer to make great wine, the big secret is that making beer is actually a lot harder than letting some grapes go to juice. Tucked away in an interesting corner of Santa Rosa on freeway frontage property, Fogbelt must be sought out, but once found rewards the effort. Featuring a seasonal menu made to match the suds, a large bar and outdoor tables, Fogbelt is a welcome addition. —G.G.
HERITAGE PUBLIC HOUSE
heritagepublichousesr.com | 707.540.0395 1901 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa
Open daily from 11:30am until closing
The owners of Heritage have aspirations. They ditched the deep-fried cheesy whatsit menu, changed their name, and hired chef Josh Silvers to revamp the food. A big sign on the building declares this to be a Gastropub. They certainly have all the gastro-accoutrements: cloth napkins, plenty of black, real flatware with fancy dimpled handles, oddly shaped plates, and little bamboo toothpick swords that hold their smoky, saucy pork sliders together. Who says a brewpub can’t have good food? This one certainly does. There is a regional brew list with the usual suspects plus four Bloodline brews. While experiencing minor disquiet to be drinking a beer called Bloodline, I enjoyed the Session 23, which has a nice balance, and is light and crisp. Through Silver In Blood has a terrible name but is a creamy amber ale, almost like a light stout, but hoppy. On your way down Mendocino, this is your stop for great local beer—plus, you can find something to eat on this menu that you won’t later regret. Aspirations, it turns out, are good to have. —D.P.W.
PETALUMA HILLS BREWING
petalumahills.com | 707.776.4458 1333 N. McDowell Blvd., Suite A
Open daily, 2pm to 9pm
Petaluma Hills Brewing is one of a trio of breweries that create a cosmic beer convergence at McDowell Boulevard and Scott Street in Petaluma. Having carved a taproom out of its working brewhouse, it’s not fancy, but has everything you need: a comfortable bar, plenty of tap beer, snacks, and a living room feel. The place was surprising full of happy people on the Tuesday afternoon of my visit. (Not drunk-happy, just happy-happy.) This is a good place to discover whether or not you like nitro beers, which are pressurized using a high ration of nitrogen to carbon dioxide, resulting in a creamy texture, smaller bubbles and more complex taste profile. Petaluma Hills offers most of their beers in both traditional and nitro brews. Compare and contrast a Big House Blond, for example, in both nitro and CO2. With nitro, you don’t have to fight your way past the bubbles to taste the beer. You decide if that is a good thing. It’s probably my imagination, but I do feel something standing on the corner of McDowell and Scott. It feels like victory. —D.P.W.
PLOW BREWING COMPANY
Divinebeer.com | TK3334 Industrial Drive, Santa Rosa
TK Brewmaster Kevin Robinson’s ambitions are large, but his place is small—for now. But “small” is perhaps the best way to enjoy Robinson’s singular beers and rarefied vision. With just three beers on tap the day we visited, Plow is nicely located across the street from Bottle Barn, in a tiny storefront abutting its production facility. The tap room and brewery are linked by a doorway that leaks the heavy metal rock that animates the production crew and a backless 1953 refrigerator whose door opens directly into his chilled keg room. There is a TV, but Robinson admits he put it up high on the wall so that those wanting to watch sports would be more comfortable sitting away from the bar while those who want to talk beer can belly right up and learn all they could want to know about the smooth, hand-crafted brews he produces. Robinson’s overarching brand, Divine, refers to the 750ml bottles he produces four times a year which reflect his background as a winemaker, but his daily beers are a revelation. Think of the large bottles as heaven, the tap brew as earth, and make Plow a regular stop on your Bottle Barn rounds. —G.G.
WOODFOUR BREWING Cº
woodfourbrewing.com | 707.823.3144 6780 Depot Street, Sebastopol
Open Tuesday-Sunday, 11:30am-9pm
Woodfour features an innovative brew program with a draft beer focus on wet hops when in season as well as farmhouse, Saison, and other traditional styles that change during the year and a bottle program that rivals the Slanted Door in internationality and pure beer-geekiness, but the truth is—we go there to eat. With a bar menu that features homemade scallion potato chips, deviled eggs, house pickles and smoked trout, that old bowl of nuts or pretzels other joints shell out doesn’t stand a chance. We have an unseemly obsession with their little gems salad and forest mushroom ragout that is nearly an embarrassment to describe in public but probably qualifies as love. Take your favorite beer nerd and enjoy the large outdoor patio on a warm day, the modern fireplace in the chill. And definitely have that salad. —G.G.
ACE IN THE HOLE
Acecider.com | 707.829.1223 3100 Gravenstein Hwy. N., Sebastopol
Open Friday afternoons, 2pm to 5pm only
Ace is one of the first artisanal cider brands to break nationally and all credit goes to the hard work of owner Jeffrey House, who has helped to make cider an American drink nearly as fluent to our tongue as it is to his British compatriots. Longtime residents might remember the Ace pub at the corner of Graton Road and Highway 116 before the place was taken over by the Dutton tasting room. The new digs aren’t exactly new—they’re lodged inside Ace’s warehouse in an industrial park just south of the former spot—but the small window of time for visiting makes it seem like a weekly party. Take off work early this Friday and treat yourself to the unusual pleasures of a midday apple and pear shindig. —G.G.
SPECIFIC GRAVITY CIDER Cº
specificgravitycider.com | 707.823.3964
Nana Mae is the go-to name for fine organic apple juice, so it was only a matter of time that they branched out into hard cider. Nana Mae’s principal Paul Kolling specializes in dry-farming heritage fruit all over the county, single-handedly keeping some orchards from being replanted to grapes or McMansions. Together with former winemaker Alison Schneider and farmer Steve Howard, they have just rolled out Specific Gravity, a craft cider that emphasizes the taste profile of the Gravenstein apple, a Slow Food Ark of Taste heritage fruit that gives much of West County its name. Not yet available at a tasting room, Specific Gravity is available at most independent grocers and the team is pouring at just about every food and wine event you’d want to go to anyway. —G.G.
SONOMA COUNTY DISTILING Co.
sonomacountydistilling.com|5625 State Farm Drive, Rohnert Park | 707.583.7753
Weekday and Saturday tours by appointment only; $20, benefits a local nonprofit
The alembic still, a North African invention that is still best made of copper and heated by a live fire, is the basis for the whiskeys produced in this modest Rohnert Park business park. Much of the distillation technique employed has not changed since the 1500s, and the resulting rye and wheat whiskeys as well as the bourbon wouldn’t be unfamiliar to a member of gentry from that century. Hand-crafted and fairly obsessed over, the spirits are the result of a the team that includes brewers who fled the beer industry but bring the same high level of technique to a fair different beverage. —G.G.