Like all the very best gastropubs, Old Possum Brewing Co. promises locally sourced food that closes the loop from brewer to farmer and back again in holistic harmony, with the added benny of getting a buzz from a juicy double IPA.
Likely story. Then you look around the back, and the Sysco truck is pulling up with a load of corporate-packaged food, right? When I’m on assignment for Made Local Magazine, it’s my duty to do the legwork on that angle. Just to be sure.
12:58 pm: I pull into position on a quiet little street in a South Santa Rosa business park backwater. Here are construction companies, HVAC services, and food manufacturers that sell tortillas by the pallet. Not the likeliest location for a gourmet outfit.
12:59 pm: Still no sign of a Sysco truck, but I’m thirsty, so I head in.
1:00 pm: Cofounder Sandro Tamburin is expecting me in the tap room, which was closed for a week prior to relaunching with a new menu.
Old Possum 1.0 opened here in 2018 because it’s adjacent to the custom brewing company that Tamburin cofounded with business partner Dan Schulte, where they brew up batches of wort, a sweet “tea” of malted grains that forms the foundation of beer. When it came time to add a tap room, he didn’t want to hang a few bags of pretzels behind the bar and leave the food options at that. A native of Italy who speaks in serious, measured tones—with a soupçon of Texan accent—Tamburin became a restaurateur in his 20s and is also a UC Davis-trained winemaker. He wanted to go big with this small brewpub, with an ambitious, full-circle, “snout to tail” menu from whole animals, but it was expensive and time-consuming. “We have done it, and we will do it again,” Tamburin promises. But for now, the Old Possum 2.0 menu is focused on good ol’ burgers and fries.
Not any burger. Not any fries. Tamburin poached chef Derek Harn from Sebastopol’s Ramen Gaijin. Harn, who spent a decade in Portland, Oregon’s dining scene, has opinions on burgers and fries: burgers are made from house-ground meat (from Golden Gate Meat Co., which offers Sonoma County-raised meats) and fries from house-prepped, organic Russet—not Kennebec, Harn stresses—potatoes.
Veggie options at Old Possum include a house salad ($8) with Little Gem lettuce from Singing Frogs Farm of Sebastopol and toma from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. Dirty fries ($9) are not so much dirty as detailed, with small peppers, green onion, and bacon. Good thing I’m still hungry when the “Burger Harn” arrives, perfectly medium, on a brioche bun from Costeaux French Bakery of Healdsburg. There’s just enough “secret sauce,” something involving melted onion, mushroom, and butter, to weld burger to bun, without making a mess out of the mechanics of consuming it.
That’s when the truck almost sneaks by me. But it’s no corporate food truck—it’s an old pickup, barely puttering down the road with a load of brewery waste bound for Takenoko Farms, a “food recovery farm” in Windsor that raises heritage hogs on a gourmet stew of discarded grain and vegetables. Closing the loop.
The beers, by the by, are delicious, from the fruit-infused hazy IPA to dry, robust red ale. Just take it easy on the 12-percent-alcohol, whiskey-barrel-aged stout, or you’ll be playing possum, too.
357 Sutton Pl, Santa Rosa
Tuesday – Friday 12PM-7PM • Saturday 12-8PM