True Hoppiness Can Be Found

Here’s the map.

For a little city, Santa Rosa is a big beer town. So if you’re on some form of the never-ending quest for the perfect pint, you’ll eventually find yourself here. And when you do, we hope this online guide to our cool little enclave of hot little Santa Rosa breweries enlightens you.

At press time, there were at least five Santa Rosa breweries with taprooms in the city proper, with more seeming to spring up every few weeks. By my rough estimation that makes for one brewery every 8 square miles. It also makes it super easy to get around.

So, where to start? Well, there’s a method to our manic obsession with small batch beer. First, seeking ale-lightenment can be arduous work, so let us begin somewhere that serves food. Now, suck in your beer gut and let’s go.


The Tree Fort


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Tucked into a little mall on Cleveland Ave. by the freeway, Paul and Remy have created a cozy kind of clubhouse feel in the taproom at Fogbelt Brewing Company. This is the perfect place to start an SR beer tour. The wide range of ales is crazy good, and the food is amazing. Like “beer food” amazing, that is, with hardy fare such as Meatloaf Sliders, Lamb Bam sandwich, and bites like Billionaire’s Bacon, Deviled Eggs and Blanco Bean Dip. We went for the Sausage Maker, a kind of design-your-own fresh, local sausage (from Sonoma County Meat Co.) with a range of clever toppings.

A flight features the eight beers currently on the Fogbelt menu – four flagships and four seasonals, all named after redwood trees. Did you know a lot of redwood trees have names? Well, they do. And now those big trees have beers named after them. Like Lost Monarch Wit Beer, Armstrong Stout and Methuselah Barrel Aged Sour Ale.

Once we put away our lunch and arm-wrestled over which beer we liked best, Remy gave us a look around. We started in the brewing room, which is squeezed neatly into what you’d have to call a large closet off the bar. The tour consists pretty much of turning around, because it all happens here in this tiny space, and the chilly confines of the cooler in the room next door.

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Along the way, Remy told us the story of how a couple of kids with dads in the wine biz came to become Santa Rosa brewers. Turns out, Remy and Paul were aspiring filmmakers who leveraged their connections to get winery gigs in New Zealand. In their idealistic young minds, it would just be a matter of time before they found themselves on Peter Jackson’s crew behind the camera of the latest Lord of The Rings feature. In fact, as it turned out, they found that working the winery night shift meant there was no beer to be had when you clocked out around 7 AM. So they picked up a home brew kit and never looked back. They brewed for friends in Australia, then came home and started saving up for Fogbelt.

Whether you belly up to the bar inside or kick back at the
picnic tables on the outside seating area, Fogbelt Brewing Company is
the perfect starting point on the path to beer nirvana.

The Brewery and Taproom is open Monday > Thursday Noon to 10 PM, Friday and Saturday 11 AM to 11 PM and Sunday Noon to 8 PM.

Visit them at 1305 Cleveland Ave. or



One Beer At A Time


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Let’s hop on the 101 and head north to an industrial park district off Pliner Road. Because it’s entirely possible that finding your beer bliss requires getting lost in the depth of your obsession, and this Bermuda Triangle of craft breweries is a great place to do it. From our first stop, we can walk to two more breweries so, if you’re traveling without a DD, this may be the ideal time to abandon the auto.

Cooperage Brewing Company embodies the quality before quantity approach to beer making so prevalent here in Santa Rosa. Tyler Smith makes one beer at a time, and never technically makes the same beer twice. The taproom is all wide-open spaces, high ceilings and colorful artwork with room enough for fun and games like darts and even a corn hole court (if a court is what it’s called). Along with brewer and owner in his title, Tyler is also beertender, host and official explainer of what’s on tap. But he manages to tear away from the bar long enough to show us around the brewery.

Tyler takes a slow and steady approach to beer making. He brews one batch at a time, always something distinctive, and only sells what he pours out of the taproom.

So, after giving us a quick tour, we’re back at the bar before a flight of beers you can’t get anywhere else. Which is fine, because it’s a great place to hang around.

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Personal opinion here, Cooperage beers are incredible. Each one a really well thought out delight to the palette. The great thing about quaffing at Cooperage is that it’s never the same brewpub twice. At the time of our visit there were eight beers on tap. As you’re reading this, there are probably eight entirely new ones. You’d think it would be hard coming up with names for this never-ending parade of never before brews, but Tyler takes a creative approach with names that are as one-of-a-kind as the beers. Juicy Coop is a double IPA with a hop hall of fame line-up of citra, mosaic, cascade and simcoe. Blanc To The Future is fermented in Sauvignon Blanc barrels and dry-hopped with Nelson hops. Qua-Di-Da-Di is a Belgian Strong Dark and the list goes on.

There’s no kitchen at Cooperage, but there are some tasty snacks available, including our favorite Bloody Mary Popcorn from neighborhood poppers Comet Corn.

After a sampling of Cooperage brews, we can feel the spirits starting to move us towards our intended epiphany, so it’s time to move on. But we’ll be back, no doubt to see what’s on tap next.

Cooperage Brewing Company is open from 3 PM to 11 PM Monday, closed Tuesday, 3 PM to Midnight Wednesday > Friday, Saturday Noon to Midnight and Sunday Noon to 11 PM. Dogs are welcome.

Stop by at 981 Airway Court, Suite G or visit



Down To Earth


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Our search for higher knowledge carries us around the corner to Plow Brewing Company. For one of SR’s newer, up and coming brewers, Plow has a pretty rich history. Owner and Brewmaster Kevin Robinson carries the knowledge and craftsmanship required to make this operation run from the ground up. Literally. A former auto mechanic, Kevin built this brewery himself over the course of a year and a half before he could pull his first tap handle.

After completing the Master’s Brewer program at UC Davis, Kevin did stints at Pealuma’s Lagunitas and Speakeasy in San Francisco. He went deep on the fine art of fermentation at a local winery before going to work at Russian River Brewing Company. The good contacts and high company Kevin kept served him well when it was time to embark on his own venture.

Even the equipment here at Plow has a fascinating backstory. The mash tank was built from a big dump bin. The fermenters he requisitioned from a dairy salvage yard. And the brewhouse kettle has a story all its own, having gone from Dogfish Brewing in Delaware to Russian River to its current roost at Plow.

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Remember the game mousetrap? Where you connect a bunch of salvaged parts to create a Rube Golderg-like labyrinth to trap a rat. Well, that’s a little bit of what goes on at Plow.

Kevin has literally created an incredible brewery from scratch, from building out the space to rigging all the lines. It’s a testimony to engineering and personal determination. Oh, and it makes really, really good beer.

Stepping through beer making into the taproom you really get a sense of the big idea behind this little brewery. Kevin himself has a tractor mechanic farmer mentality. He wants his beers to have a connection to the earth. The name Plow, and its reference to the soil are deliberate. The cozy tasting room has a hip ag feel, with lots of iron and old-school appliances. Beer at the bar is served in cool little beakers that are totally fun to sip from. But it’s the beer-to-go that gives Plow its signature packaging appeal. Kevin has created a little canning facility right here in the pub, so you can walk away with a few of your favorites gift wrapped in original aluminum. Every can is hand poured and labeled. Think old-fashioned oil can but with delicious, fresh-brewed beer.

With our three pack to go, it was time to continue our quest, enlightened as we were by one of the friendliest, most approachable brewers you’ll meet anywhere.

Plow Brewing Company is open from 4 PM to 8 PM Monday > Friday, Saturday 2 PM to 7 PM and Sunday 2 PM to 6 PM.

The taproom is at 3334 Industrial Dr. or find them on facebook.



Beer With Character


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The fifteen-minute walk from Plow to Moonlight Brewing Company gives you time to ponder the course of your quest. How do you know when you’re getting close? Who will guide you? Then you get to Moonlight, meet Brian Hunt, and realize that, rather than answers, the teachers themselves pose only more riddles.

Brian Hunt, or Curly from Payroll as we came to call him, possesses the rare knowledge gained from a few decades worth of beer brewing in Santa Rosa.

And yet the Tao of Brian is revealed in the form of a man who seems to have more fun brewing beer than should be allowed by the laws of nature. With an energy and enthusiasm well above and beyond all the younger brewers popping up around him, Brian is happy to tell you that Budweiser brews a better beer. (“They satisfy the most people, and isn’t that what matters most?”) He serves up a rousing, rather anthropomorphic description of the brewing process. (“Yeast eats sugar. And what happens when yeast burbs?”) And when our photographer asks about the uniquely cool combination of stainless steel and fermented liquid he names an entirely new genre of libation fascination. (“Beer porn.”)

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With gesticulations that occasionally knock over glasses and bang into brewing equipment, Brian speaks the truth. He’s far more interested in crafting the kind of beers he loves to drink than chasing the latest trends. “Balance” he’ll tell you, is the key, as he seems to careen from one subject to another with something resembling a Neal Cassidy diatribe from a Kerouac novel. “Drinkability, not leading edge.” These are the qualities that have sustained Moonlight through the years. And if you’re wondering if the younger generation of SR brewers come to him for advice, Brian answers with a question. “Do you have kids?” he asks. I do. “Do they listen to you?” Enough said.

Honestly, the Brian-isms come faster than I can pencil, so I can only hope that he’s pouring when you stop in to try Moonlight’s delicious batch of brews. Of course, you’ll be well served to have the lovely (and patient) Shannon pulling the taps, too. Moonlight Brewing is best known for its legendary, and fairly widely distributed, Death and Taxes Black Beer, a dark but deceptively light-bodied Lager, with a crisp refreshing flavor. Fittingly named Reality Czeck is a soft, Pilsener-style brew. Bombay By Boat is their earthy IPA and Twist of Fate is a deep Amber Ale with pronounced hop bitterness and aromatics.

To enjoy Moonlight Brewing Company beers in their place of origin, you’ll have to stop by on Friday or Saturday between 3 and 8 PM.

The brewery and taproom are at 3350 Coffey Lane or online at



The Hub Pub


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From the industrial outskirts to the center of Santa Rosa, our spiritual journey leads us downtown to one of the city’s mainstay brewpubs. Third Street Aleworks, conveniently located on Third Street, has been around since 1996, making it a veritable old-timer. So it’s a testament to founders, and friends since high school, Todd Hedrick and Chris Hagan that their simple recipe, great fresh beer, great comfort food, and great people, has endured and flourished.

Third Street Aleworks has an old friend feel. Easy. Welcoming and familiar. It’s the perfect place to meet up with friends, catch a game or grab a bite.

It’s pub grub to be sure, but done right, with a far ranging menu covering everything from Buffalo Wings to Baja Fish Tacos. We sent in an order of Fiesta Table Nachos that arrived overflowing with deliciousness and kept us all snacking through a flight of fantastic beers.

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Brew-wise, Third Street has been a model of consistency, with a handful of the local’s favorite brews. Brewmaster Tyler Laverty took over for local brewing legend Randy Gremp in 2014, building on his reputation for balancing tradition with experimentation. Third Street brews trend towards the “Anglo-Celtic” and aggressive “West Coast” style ales. While Tyler likes to keep the portfolio fluid if you will, since they started distributing beers a few years ago, demand has increased for a few of their standards. Bodega Head IPA is one of those, based on IPA’s origins quenching the thirsts of British settlers in the Indies. Puddle Jumper Pale is a personal favorite, with a light golden color bursting with refreshing aromas of fresh Simcoe hops. Of course these are just a very small sampling of what you’ll find any give day at Third Street, along with some Occasional offerings and Seasonal/Specialty beers.

A unique treat for the true aficionado, Third Street also offers some Nitrogen Draft Beers, and were one of the first California brewers to bring back Cast Conditioned beer. These sell out fast, but with a little luck you’ll have the chance to taste one of these old-school brewing time machines.

Third Street Aleworks is open Sunday > Thursday 11:30 AM to Midnight and Friday and Saturday 11:30 AM to 1 AM, smack dab in the middle of town at 610 Third Street. Or online at



The Holy Ale


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I suppose all spiritual quests eventually lead to the same place. The top of the mountain. The highest peak. And the chance to sit before the master. And in Santa Rosa, the position of big kahuna is held by Russian River Brewing Company.

If hop heaven can be found on earth, this just might be the place.

RRBC is also right downtown on Fourth Street. If anything, its appearance is modest compared to the immense, dare we say, legendary reputation these beers have garnered. So, before we get there, a little history is in order. Russian River actually started quite near the Russian River on the Korbel Champagne Cellars property in Guerneville. As legend would have it, Korbel bailed on the brewery business and generously bestowed the brand to brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo and his wife Natalie. The rest is what you could call storied beer history. From Korbel’s small hop garden, Vinnie received a field education on growing and brewing with fresh, “wet” hops. The most celebrated Russian River brews get the locally grown, farm to brew treatment, the results of which have put these offerings way high on the world’s beer map.

Fast-forward to today and you’re sitting in one of the world’s most buzzed about breweries. And while they brew an eclectic range of beers, one in particular has captured the imagination, and high acclaim, of the so-called ale-teligencia. Pliney The Younger is a triple IPA, with three times the amount of hops as a regular IPA. The thing is, it’s so time and space and cost consuming to make, that RRBC only brews it once a year. And therein lies the key element of Pliney The Younger’s almost mythic reputation. It’s incredibly hard to come by.

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Come Pliny The Younger time, the beer is released to extremely small distribution, and lines form at the pub for a taste of the beer that made Santa Rosa famous (at least in certain beer geek circles). You’re limited in how much you can have and how long you can stay. That way everyone gets a turn. And, yes, it’s true, beer lovers come from all over for a few sips of Pliney The Younger. However, it would be shameful to dismiss the rest of Russian River’s incredible line-up. Pliney’s adopted uncle, (it’s an old story we’ll save for another time) Pliney The Elder is brewed year round and is (only a little) easier to come by. If you ask me, and most of the people who work there, Blind Pig is the best beer in the house. Particularly if you like that fresh, hoppy, citrus, pine, almost fruity flavor with a dry, bitter finish.

The Russian River Brewing Company Brew Pub is open every day from 11 AM to Midnight at 725 4th Street. Or check them out online at



Sitting here at the Russian River Brewing Company pub bar, it’s hard not to feel like you’re a part of something much bigger. Like maybe this is just the beginning of the journey, not the end. Maybe true hoppyness can be found. Maybe not. But here in Santa Rosa, the journey couldn’t be more fun.

* Caveat: This article, like most of what you’ll find at, is created by the good folks who love living in Santa Rosa, and is intended as a personal invitation to like-minded people to come visit.

Gremlintone Studio

Gremlintone Studio, created and operated by local musician and all around badass John Courage, is making big waves. Recording some of Santa Rosa’s favorite music, and creating a vibe that only Courage could produce.

The studio started as an experiment, recording a hard rock side project in 2014, with a 4 track mixer that Courage borrowed from Steve Shirrel, of Stanroy Music Center. The project was a blast, and that’s all it took; Courage was hooked on analog. In his opinion, the industry’s eagerness to dive into digital recording has bypassed a lot of great sounding affordable equipment. Chances are, many of your favorite albums were recorded analog. Older gear may not be lightweight and compact, but it still delivers.

With the 4 track, (eventually purchased from Shirrel) Gremlintone recorded The Crux, Oddjob Ensemble, Sharkmouth, Yerba Buena Brothers, Frankie Boots, Freddy Parish and others. The cost of recording an album in a traditional studio varies, but averages around $4-$6,000. But, in his home studio, Courage has created a comfortable, collaborative, affordable recording experience for his friends to, as he put it, “hit the gym” without breaking the bank.

The days of the 4 track have passed, and the studio was recently upgraded to a Tascam 388 eight track recorder at the beginning of their newest project, “The Out There Tapes: A Compilation by Gremlintone” set to release in June.

This project, in partnership with The City of Santa Rosa and Josh Windmiller of The Crux; is a compilation of 13 tracks, from 13 bands, all from Sonoma County, recorded and mixed by John Courage. The tapes were recorded on the Tascam 388 as well as a Tascam 38 1/2″ eight track. Courage says, “Most of the bands were tracked completely live to achieve the essence of their performance. The project was mixed in analog before being transferred to digital for mastering”. Culture Pop Films , our local media guru, came to capture some of the sessions live, making music videos to be released alongside the compilation.

An unprecedented insight into our excellent, eclectic local music scene, “The Out There Tapes” will document a splay of Santa Rosa’s finest musicians, a kind of a time capsule, for music lovers.

The album debuts on June 11, 2017 at the 3rd annual Railroad Square Music Festival But stay tuned to and you’ll  be able to catch a few previews.

In the mean time, support local music and keep rock ‘n’ roll alive!

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

Burma Crave

I love trying new foods, particularly those of other countries and cultures. So when a “Best of Burma: Coming Soon” sign showed up in front of the old Shuffles Ice Cream, I jumped for joy – Burmese food was coming to Santa Rosa!

After Best of Burma opened last fall, I set out with my husband to try out this new culinary adventure. I had no idea what to expect for our dinner, and I had no idea what type of food Burmese actually was. I knew very little about Burma- other than the country was now known as Myanmar, and it’s the home of origin to the Burmese Python. But as one always up for new things, I was eager to try it out.Best of Burma

Our server Kevin was very helpful, and explained that the dishes were served family style, and pointed out what items were the most authentic. For someone as clueless to Burmese food as I was, I would say they were similar to Thai – lots of noodle and curry dishes.

Best of BurmaTo start with, we ordered the tea leaf salad. It came arranged with the individual components of lettuce, fried yellow beans, fried garlic, sesame seeds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, fresh tomatoes, and jalapenos arranged around a pile of the tea leaves. We opted to have the dish vegetarian, but normally it comes with dried shrimp. Kevin then squeezed fresh lemon over the tea leaves, and then mixed everything together. He told us that the leaves are fermented in a clay pot for 3-6 months.

Best of BurmaOur next Best of Burma dish was Nan Gyu Thoke, a rice noodle dish with a chicken coconut curry sauce. Like the salad, it came arranged with the ingredients separate, and the server mixed at the table. I asked if that was a traditional presentation, and Kevin told us no, its just something they like to do because many people are unfamiliar with the ingredients. We also chose Pork Curry with Potatoes, which was as it sounded, but also marinated with pickled mangoes. I like both of these curry dishes, which were lighter and fruitier than other Thai curries I’ve had. Our server explained that most of the dishes in the cuisine were wet and saucy like these, which is complimentary to the wet and humid climate the country experiences.

For dessert, I somewhat reluctantly ordered Sooji, which Kevin described as a baked cream of wheat. It was the most authentic dessert they had, amongst a selection of sticky rice and ice creams. Despite not being excited about it (I mean, baked cream of wheat?), I was determined to explore all sides of the Best of Burma menu, so based on his recommendation, we forged ahead. It came with mango ice cream, and while it wasn’t my favorite dish by far, it wasn’t bad. Similar to a dry rice pudding, with flavors of cinnamon and coconut, it was much different than the descendant chocolate and sugary things I consider dessert.

I’ll be sure to come back. There were several other things on the menu that I’m eager to try, such as samosa soup and the rainbow salad, which was described as “4 types of noodles and 22 other ingredients that were too many to list.”

Best of Burma is located at 528 7th Street.

Phone: 707-623-9280