Trail House Rocks

Bikes and beer are a big part of what makes Santa Rosa Santa Rosa. And now they come together in the perfect blend of cycles and suds at the new Trail House.

Every so often, something comes around that grabs your attention on multiple levels, thereby compounding it’s desirability. This can be as simple as discovering wine-flavored ice cream, where two previously unaffiliated trains of interest collide with spectacular results.

Long story short, Trail House, Santa Rosa, had that effect on me. It started to dawn after seeing their early stage social media, often depicting keg pickups at some of my favorite local breweries.

But these are the NorCal Bike Sport guys? What are they doing building a lethally awesome draft arsenal?

A hopeful thought crossed my mind: could it be they were in the midst of opening a business that happily married two of mankind’s greatest assets? This isn’t reckless hyperbole either – if you stop reading and Google ‘bikes and beer’, your computer will strain under the heaping content devoted to this much praised duo.

As it turned out, they were in fact crafting a legendary temple for all those who appreciate good eats, brews, and the outdoors. Being that I hold coffee, bikes, and beer closer than some human beings, my excitement was brimming.

Who is to blame for all these good decisions? Enter NorCal Bike Sport/The Bike Peddler’s Glenn Fant and Shane Bresnyan.

If you’ve bought, serviced, raced, or even just ridden a bicycle in Santa Rosa over the last ten years, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of these guys or benefitted from their expertise. Together they have devoted a majority of their adult lives to enriching those around them through two wheeled machines, and with this newest venture, are upping the ante.

Inspiration came from years of riding the world famous trails and roads around Santa Rosa and always yearning for the perfect spot to decompress and connect with like-minded individuals. You really can’t blame them – can you imagine a ski resort without a lodge?

Although Glenn and Shane had seen a few business models in the ballpark, nothing was close to their ideal vision, and the dream remained elusively intangible, hovering just above an already busy schedule of running two of Santa Rosa’s most respected bike shops.

A big hurdle was nailing down the right location, which they insisted must be close to the highly regarded trails of Annadel.  After five years of fruitless searching, the current Montgomery Drive location became available and they pounced, business plans in hand. What followed was a tireless back and forth with county officials and other necessary entities, all with the goal of bringing their ideas together and making the concept a reality.

A winning combination soon took shape. Trail House now stands as a coffee spot, bike shop, clubhouse, and craft beer tasting room all rolled into one; best part of all – it looks great. It takes only a couple of steps inside sister store NorCal Bike Sport to realize these guys pay considerable attention to interior design, and with TH, they’ve dialed it in like a well-tuned racing bike.

On top of their own touches, Glenn and Shane collaborated with Brett Harrison and Specialized Bikes, whose detail-oriented style fit snugly with their vision. Considering the space hadn’t received much love since the mid-80s when it was a Press Democrat newspaper dispatch center, this was no easy task. To facilitate the significant building transformation and often thick red tape, local standout Kirby Construction was enlisted and together they produced a seamless flow between front seating area, bar/kitchen, and bike shop.

Although Trail House carries a smaller inventory than NorCal and The Bike Peddler, mechanic work is unlimited and of equal quality to any other bike store. On top of repair and supplies, they also offer demo bikes from brands like Specialized, Santa Cruz, Kona, and Ibis.

Don’t ride? No problem. You don’t have to love bikes to love Trail House. Its relaxed atmosphere is a great place to read, work, and catch up with friends. Hunger is easily thwarted by an attractive menu of sandwiches, pizza, burritos, and various breakfast items.

Moreover, because the menu was designed by cyclists, coffee and beer offerings are taken extremely seriously. The ever-rotating draft list brims with quality, local brews, and Plinys with your friends taste that much better when you don’t have to fight your way to the bartender, Black Friday style.

The last word goes to Shane, who took the time to share some insight on his lifelong passion:

“Cycling is an amazing outlet. It can be used to clear your head, and bring you back to Earth after a long day or week. Races can elevate you to the highest highs, or the lowest lows. Rides bring people together that normally wouldn’t ever interact. Rides also allow you to connect with places you live or visit on a level that brings a higher of appreciation of these places. This is our community. People from all walks of life, coming together because of the bicycle and cycling. Seeing all of these folks come together at the Trail House is flattering. Trail House is also drawing people who don’t cycle, but now that they are here might become a little more interested. We are planting that cycling seed and watching it grow.”

Check ‘em out!
4036 Montgomery Drive
Santa Rosa, CA 95405
Sun – Thu:  7am – 10pm
Fri – Sat:  7am – 11pm

Restaurant Week Review:
Bird and the Bottle

With over 130 restaurants participating in this year’s Restaurant Week here in Sonoma County, it’s not hard to find a spot that’s tailor made to suit all your food and drink desires.

Menus are generally available online, which is incredibly convenient. It took only a few minutes of browsing on my iPhone before settling in on Bird & The Bottle, located just off the 101 on Fourth Street. I’d both heard and read the odd praise before my meal there, which set in place a bar I hoped would remain consistent.

outside signage

Right off the bat, I appreciate B&TB’s location. Fourth Street tends to carry with it some trepidation regarding parking, but the location is just far enough east to safely reduce the prospect of block circling and hazard lights. Instantaneous parking, albeit on a Tuesday night, makes for a great start to any meal.

Once indoors, you’re greeted with a tasteful and cozy scene. The building was originally constructed as a home in the early 1900s, and although thoroughly renovated, there is definitely a vibe of homey intimacy, especially in the upstairs section where we were seated. Acoustics in the room where we dined initially came off as noisy, but I soon retracted that thought after realizing it was less about the room and more about the man behind me who took to conversation like he was relaying traffic from a helicopter.

Ok, food time. Being that it’s Restaurant Week, we went straight for their exclusive prix-fixe menu and got to ordering: three courses, each with a few options, $39. Our waitress was terrific and laid out the basics with an infectious cheer. Soon we were enjoying a delicious craft beer and cocktail and getting in the odd conversation when the chopper reporter was catching his breath.

restaurant week: prix fixe menu

The appetizer was wood grilled goat brie, red pepper roasted garlic jam, and smoked almonds. The warm brie was gooey, subtle, and worked well with the toasted rye bread. The jam and almonds brought up the rearguard with an interesting contrast, and we made the dish disappear with shameless speed.

Restaurant Week: Prix Fixe menu

I’m a huge pork fan, and the “Moo Shu Style” smoked pork shoulder clicked immediately. The garlic chive pancakes were crepe-thin yet surprisingly fluffy – a great mouthfeel when combined with the pork. Excellent selection of trimmings and even homemade kimchi!
I can’t speak to their regular menu, but the Restaurant Week offerings were hearty and filling. My partner and I merely ordered one of the $39 prix-fixe selections and it was the perfect amount of food to get us safely to dessert.

Goo Goo Pie in Another Jar rounded out the evening. This was basically a Mason jar full of peanut butter custard, caramel, and chocolate. A tad rich for my tastes, but delicious nonetheless.

bird and bottle dessert

Overall, I had a great time at Bird & The Bottle, and would definitely return. Although food is the all important criteria for judging a restaurant, there are many other factors that play a role in the combined experience. I was happy that our server was kind, attentive, and knowledgable. We received our food and drinks in a timely fashion and the entire meal went by, as it should, smooth and enjoyable.

Bird & The Bottle

1055 Fourth Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95404

It's Almost Pliny Time

Out There Guest Blogger Tom Edwards is here to tell you that Pliny the Younger 2017 is coming, and it’s okay to believe the hype.

You’d have to be living under a very large rock to be completely unaware of the craft beer revolution that has gripped Sonoma County. Not only have a slew of terrific new breweries opened up over the past five years, but industry veterans have taken a flamethrower to the phrase ‘resting on one’s laurels’ and continue a relentless expansion of quality and production power. A recent Sonoma Magazine issue said it best: Welcome to Beer Country.

SR_RR2_pliny the youngerAlthough Santa Rosa’s list of beer-powered happenings continues to grow, from bustling beer fests to educational industry conferences, one event has remained the undisputed heavyweight champion of the scene: Russian River Brewing Company’s Pliny the Younger release.

Along with its milder uncle, Pliny the Elder, the brew duo have become household names in most parts of the county, and let us stop for a second to appreciate that fact: the idea that a pair of high quality beers have garnered so much love and respect that the mere mention of their names is enough to evoke a thoughtful nod or reminiscent smile in a large portion of the region’s beer-drinking population. Cabernet Sauvignwho?

SR_RR3_pliny the younger brewing2017 marks Russian River’s 13th unveiling of Pliny the Younger, and despite this relatively lengthy tenure as one of the nation’s go-to beer releases, legend surrounding the event refuses to diminish. Tales still abound regarding the incredibly complex mixture of bitterness and malt character, all under the inexplicably aromatic bouquet of hop aroma – a combination that catapulted Pliny the Younger to rest comfortably atop the charts of all respected beer rating publications.

Tasty beer is all good and well, but it takes no more than a few financial figures to show just why Pliny the Younger’s release left its distinction as world class beer tasting and soared onward to that of economic force. According to most recent studies, the fortnight long pouring spurred on $2.4 million in economic impact, with 65% of attendees traveling from outside the county and spending their money locally. Talk about the power of good beer.

We had a chance to catch up with Natalie Cilurzo, president and co-owner of Russian River Brewing, to get some of her insights into the Pliny phenomenon.

RRbrewing co menu pliny the youngerThe economic impact figures for PtY’s release are quite startling, did you ever think that it would become such a big event for Sonoma County?

We never set out with the intention of this turning into anything other than a winter seasonal beer. The results of the impact study were mind-blowing! Vinnie and I are proud to be able to have our business contribute so much to the local economy.

How has the event evolved over the years, is it as big of deal around the brewery as it is for the beer fans that travel far and wide to attend?

RRbrewing co shelf of growlersIt takes months of preparation from the brewing schedule all the way through to the extra staffing and distributor allocations. It’s really, really time-consuming just getting ready for releasing this one beer! Once the beer is on tap, it’s pretty much business as usual inside. The real event is in line. I have always said that, but now the City of Santa Rosa provides us with an actual Events Permit that makes it official.

It is well accepted that PtY is a very special beer, but non-beer fans may still scratch their heads at the fanaticism it brings. What are some things the average person may not realize about the brew – from time involved, to ingredients – that sets it apart?

RRbrewing co brewery vatsNot everyone is willing to stand in line for hours to drink beer, I get that. With the recent release of Star Wars VII, I found it rather head-scratching to see people camping out for days just to see a movie. The folks over at Apple have had to become good at crowd control, too, when they release whatever latest version of the iPhone. Pliny the Younger IS a special beer and we take great pride in making it better every year through hop selection and fine-tuning the brewing process. Younger takes about 6 weeks to make, tying up already precious tank space. The fermentation is longer due to the higher alcohol, and it is dry-hopped 4 times. Pliny the Elder takes only 3 weeks from brew to package. The extra malt and hops in Younger makes the final yields extremely low, thus making it the most expensive beer in our portfolio! Brewing it just once a year is not only fiscally responsible, but it keeps it special to both us and our loyal customers!

RRbrewing co pliny the younger brewing equipmentHave there ever been any variables/setbacks that have threatened PtY’s release, or is it safe to say we will be enjoying this event for many more years to come?

Managing the line and our neighboring businesses is the most challenging aspect of the release. We have worked very hard over the years to minimize the negative impact on Downtown. Sometimes it is dampened by large amounts of rain, but nothing has ever threatened the release of Pliny the Younger!

Despite Russian River’s beers receiving overwhelming and far reaching praise, you guys have kept production outputs and expansion to a relatively mellow pace. What sort of principles have guided this impressive commitment to quality and thoughtful growth, especially in the face of such rampant development in the craft beer industry?

IMG_0258_1Vinnie and I are firm believers that fast growth is not a sustainable path for our business or our personal life. Organic and conservative growth fits with our business philosophies and our intense commitment to quality. We are constantly reinvesting in our company to make things better. Last year we installed a brand new 50bbl brew house at the production brewery. Our kitchen staff is enjoying a new dishwasher and a 3 compartment sink. The bathrooms at the pub are getting a much-needed facelift. And we have invested about $250K in our small lab! In the past couple of years we also successfully bought out all of our remaining investors. Now we are busy paying off debt and figuring out our next move. This is a lifestyle venture for us and we love what we do.

Get all the details regarding Pliny the Younger’s release at



Screen shot 2016-02-03 at 6.29.03 PMTOM EDWARDS spent most of his life in Nevada and abroad, moving to Sonoma County about ten years ago to attend Sonoma State University. Despite graduating with a Kinesiology degree, he became so engrossed with homebrewing and the craft beer world that he decided to pursue a job within the industry, eventually leading to a brewer position at Bear Republic Brewing. On top of brewing, Tom has worked intermittently as a freelance writer, and tries desperately to devote any remaining time to cycling.

A Brew Fest For Bean Fiends

How many brews could a homebrewer brew if a homebrewer brewed at Brew?

Step aside, coffee – this is a job for beer. I stumbled across that statement online and found it pleasantly amusing. Perhaps a bit sad from the viewpoint of someone who enjoys neither, but they’re probably the same folks that don’t find Seinfeld funny.

So how does this tie into a homebrew competition? Well, there just so happens to be a very special one happening on October 27th at Brew, and the details should make any sud-loving bean fiend (possible beer name?) tickled with excitement.

fridge-with-beer-home brew

If you haven’t been, Brew is located in historic downtown Santa Rosa and has a fun array of coffee-infused beverages, amazing craft beer & cider, and tasty food items that won’t run you more than ten bucks a pop. Menu choices are carefully created from organic, locally sourced ingredients, which is always a great way to showcase the collective awesomeness of any region, especially our very own Sonoma County.

I’m a huge fan of the aforementioned goodies, so my personal interest in Brew was a no-brainer right off the bat. Take my money, damn it!


The homebrew competition is in its third year, so you can definitely expect at least one person there to say, rather justifiably, “This ain’t my first rodeo.” On top of cleverly placed catchphrases, you can also look forward to the fact that operations will be even more dialed in after two previous years learned experience – a positive thing for any event.

Another cool aspect of the event is that many of the folks entering this competition will no doubt have professional aspirations of ascending to a commercial brewing level. How many of you beer fans would’ve loved to try Ricardo Norgrove’s Red Rocket homebrew, long before Bear Republic made Racer 5? How about Tony Magee’s original Lagunitas IPA? Vinnie’s early versions of Blind Pig?

Home Brew Competition

Well, given the rapid growth of Santa Rosa brewing, one can only imagine that a trip to Brew’s homebrew competition may be a ticket to a long enduring flavor memory, one which you can bust out ever so coyly at future gatherings. “This one time, at Brew…”

The piece de resistance is the competition’s solitary flavor guideline: the homebrewed beer must include coffee. Don’t you wish all official rules were as flat-out amazing as that?

Home Brew competition

This is of particular interest to those of us that enjoy the bitter, roasty characteristics of the almighty coffee bean, as well its uplifting effects. Four Loko made this combination illegal for countless companies, but it’s craft beer and we don’t pander to the laws of mere mortals.

Many of us love coffee stouts and porters, but it’ll be great to see what the more intrepid  brewers concoct when given this parameter. Who can forget how awesome HenHouse’s coffee saison is?

That’s it for now, hope to see everyone doing their taste buds and Santa Rosa-minded souls a favor by getting out to the event.

Brew is at 555 Healdsburg Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95401

You can learn more about Brew’s Home Brew Competition here.