PLOW Brewery

Down To Earth

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 it’s own, having gone from Dogfish Brewing in Delaware to Russian River to its current roost at Plow.

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 incredibly 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 it’s 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.

707-843-4583


Fogbelt Brewing Company

The Tree Fort

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.

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 FogBeltBrewing.com

707-978-3400


Third Street Aleworks

The Hub Pub

THIRD STREET ALEWORKS

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.

Brew-wise, Third Street has been a model of consistently, with a handful of the local’s favorite brews. Brewmaster Randy Gremp has earned his stripes as a craft brew veteran, having inspired some of Sonoma County’s most acclaimed brewers. Balancing tradition with experimentation, Third Street brews trend towards the “Anglo-Celtic” and aggressive “West Coast” style ales. While Randy 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 ThirdStreeAleworks.com.

707-523-3060


Moonlight Brewing Company

Beer With Character

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.”)

And yet, 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 it’s 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 Saturday and Sunday between 3 PM and 8 PM.

The brewery and taproom are at 3350 Coffey Lane or online at MoonlightBrewing.com.

707-483-2537