Thinkin’ to drinkin’, we offer a rotating round of spots we love.
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 in vain 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 complement each other, making veteran
pub patrons feel at home. But there are also 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.
DEMPSEY’S 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 nice balance, and is light and crisp. Through Silver In Blood has a terrible name, but it’s a creamy amber ale, almost like a light stout but hoppy. On your way down Mendocino Avenue, 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 creates 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 it has everything you need: A comfortable bar, plenty of tap beer, snacks, and a living room feel. 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 a 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 | 707.843.4583
3334 Industrial Drive, Santa Rosa
Open Mon-Fri, 4pm to 8pm; Sat-Sun, 2pm to 7pm.
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. 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.
stumptown.com | 707.869.0705
15045 River Road, Guerneville
Open daily from 11am until closing
If you are like me, and who isn’t, you have driven past Stumptown Brewery a thousand times on your way to the river, but never stopped in. What looks from the road to be dive bar with a grain hopper out front turns out to be a great place to spend some quality time with a few pints and a bit of smoky meat. And that’s exactly what Babs and I did one sunny Sunday. A small inside bar looks out to a covered outside bar area and a large deck. The deck is the main attraction. Sit down at one of the many picnic tables and gaze over the pleasant meadow below and the Russian River. “It’s paradise,” I heard Babs
utter in reverent tones. As you know, there is a bit of a competition among brewers to come up with the interesting names for their brews. Stumptown is in the top tier of competitors with such offerings as Rat Bastard Pale Ale, Blimey (the wanker) E.S.B., and Donkey Punch Pils. For those who are not impressed by watching the river roll by while sipping a Rat Bastard and discussing Descartes, there are pool tables, air hockey, TVs—not large but numerous—a juke box, and a fireplace with couch. Let us all resolve to slow down and explore. You just might discover a place like Stumptown and call it paradise. —D.P.W.
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 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 exwactly 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. Plus, there’s the world’s tiniest English Pub barfront reproduction tucked inside. And a piano! Take off work early this Friday and treat yourself to the unusual pleasures of a midday apple and pear shindig. —G.G.
SPIRIT WORKS DISTILLERY
6790 McKinley St., #100, in the Barlow, Sebastopol
Open for a daily tour Friday-Sunday, 4pm; reservations recommended
Spirit Works Distillery is a grain-to-glass distillery that produces vodka, gin, sloe gin, and barrel gin with both a straight wheat and straight rye whiskey coming to market late this year. Owners Timo and Ashby Marshall met while working as sailors but soon found their love on land and of land in West County. With Timo’s family having a history distilling sloe gin, the two have taken on the ambitious project of running their own micro-distillery using organic and local wheat as their base and locally-grown herbs and citrus to enliven the gin. —G.G.