Tap Room?
In A Grocery Store?

Or, why I believe David Lannon may be the smartest man in America.

wholefoods001Now that we’ve settled into our new home in Santa Rosa, I’ve been floor malting grains from Mendocino and Sonoma counties in my garage. I know. Don’t ask. But, actually it gets worse. Lately I became obsessed with finding out how my malts compare to what the big guys sell. This being the Bay Area, I figured there must be an app for that. So I used Yelp. But when Whole Foods turned up as an option for homebrew supply stores, I figured it must be a paid ad or some kind of mistake. After a little digging, however, I was shocked to find out that, yes, Whole Foods in Santa Rosa sells homebrew ingredients and equipment. Who knew?

wholefoods016Once I arrived to pick up said malts I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Like James W. Marshall at Sutter’s Mill, I was discovering something almost as valuable as gold (to me, anyway). A Tap Room in a Grocery Store! It’s as if I had been trekking through the desert for years with no water and then suddenly there was water. Except it wasn’t a desert, it was a grocery store, and there was beer.

wholefoods012And yet, somehow this all makes nothing but absolute sense! Being a husband and a father of three year old triplets I don’t have time to go to bars much anymore. But this? This is not a bar. This is a Tap Room. IN A GROCERY STORE! No longer does running errands have to be a chore. I am backing out of the driveway before my wife can even get the words Milk and Eggs out of her mouth. We’re out of salsa? I better go to Whole Foods. Only two yogurts left. I’ll be right back.

wholefoods007Turns out, the Santa Rosa Whole Foods was the first store in the company to install a tap room. The Peter Freuchen type of character that hatched this amazing idea was David Lannon. As a resident of nearby Sebastopol he knew that beer would go over well with the local’s taste for craft beer. So he put in a tap room four years ago and it has proven so successful that they had to double its size this year. It also has become a model for other whole foods across the country – and it all started here with the support of the Santa Rosa beer drinking community.

wholefoods003The beer selection is superb and three members of the staff, headed up by Tyler Smith, have completed the cicerone certification program. They have also started to offer beer pairing dinners with the staff cooking up the menu. Oh yeah, and if you want to learn how to make beer at home, Tyler also offers homebrew classes.

I personally like to stop in and get some “shopping” any chance I get. So let me take this opportunity to say THANK YOU, David Lannon. Santa Rosa is a better community because of your pioneering vision.

Beer Making In The Fogbelt

On an unassuming stretch of Cleveland Ave. a couple of friends decided to do what every homebrewer dreams of doing everyday. They opened a brewpub. FOGBELT BREWING COMPANY to be precise.

Paul Hawley and Remy Martin grew up in Healdsburg. Both the sons of prominent winemakers and both with extensive experience in the winemaking business. In fact, they started brewing beer together while working at Kim Crawford in New Zealand.

“We worked the night shift and when our shift was over at 7am all of the beer was gone. The day crew would drink it all when their shift ended in the evening. So we just started making our own beer for us to enjoy” says Remy. “The saying goes…Behind every great wine there are about a thousand beers”, chimes in Paul.

Paul and Remy are the embodiment of everything that I expected from Sonoma County when I moved here last year. Down to earth, friendly, authentic. All with a casualness to hyper quality ingredients that most of the country would die to get their hands on.

Maybe it is an issue of accessibility. If you grow up around such high quality food and wine, you just kind of accept that this is “just the way it is”.

The staff at Fogbelt all seem to be homebrewers themselves and are welcome to use the pub’s pilot system to test out their own recipes. So they do. On their days off.

The food menu is small but they pack a ton of flavor into what they offer. Their vendors are top notch. Sonoma County Meat Company, Costeaux Bakery, Imwalle Gardens. Everything local. Including the hops that they use in their Fresh Hop Beers, which are grown on two acres at Paul’s family farm. They have brought that attitude of “just the way it is” to their freshly opened brewpub and thankfully we can all go in and experience it ourselves.





For those more into craft brewed beers and urban subculture than tasting rooms and luxury estates, Santa Rosa is a little slice of city in the center of Sonoma County. No manicured gardens or gift shops – we’re talking brewpubs and grub here. No dainty tastes – mostly pints and growlers. So if your love of libations leans more towards suds and hops than sniffs and swirls, we’ll see you Out There in Santa Rosa.