Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cali trip report - Part III

Day 6
After cleaning up our campsite and packing up the rig, we headed southwest from Foresthill and again through Sacramento. I managed to see the Golden Gate Bridge from a rest stop, which was as close to San Francisco as we'd come. Roughly 15 miles north of San Fran is the suburb of Novato, where Moylan's Brewery is located.

Moylan's Brewery
Kat had a classmate with a connection to Moylan's and thankfully he was able to get us in touch with Brendan Moylan, the owner of the brewery. After we sat and enjoyed a sampler of their fine brews, we met up with Brendan who gave us a brief tour of the brewery. We were impressed that everything is done right here at the brewpub in Novato, from brewing to kegging and bottling. the restaurant/pub is one side of the building, while the other is split into three floors that house the brewery. Brendan was great, and we really appreciated him taking time out to give us a personalized tour.

We took it fairly easy at Moylan's, since the plan was to visit two more breweries later in the day. From Novato we traveled north on US-101 just 15 miles to Petaluma, home to one of our favorite breweries, Lagunitas. I've been drinking their beer since before I met Kat, which was seven years ago. I had wanted to visit their headquarters for quite awhile and I was brimming with anticipation when we reached the city limits of Petaluma.

As we pulled into their driveway, I began to feel a bit unsettled. Unlike Moylan's, which has an inviting look from the outside with flags and enormous grain silos, Lagunitas was right in the middle of an industrial business park. We pulled into a parking spot and sat there, staring at what looked like a warehouse. Sure, there were kegs out front and employees wearing company t-shirts, but I couldn't help but think, "This? This is what I've been waiting years to come visit?" With some uncertainty, we exited the truck and walked over to the building. A sign pointed us away from the warehouse towards the office were we went to check in.

Lagunitas Brew Kettle
The front office was much more welcoming, with all kinds of memorabilia and framed news articles about the brewery on the walls. Stephanie welcomed us, and after waiting a few minutes for any others, we left the office to begin the tour. The tour started in the Lagunitas tasting room, where Stephanie began pouring 6oz tastes of each of their regular brews, not waiting for us to finish the previous ale. They were surprised at our knowledge of the brewery, and tried finding beers we hadn't already tasted. She did find one; the Hop Stoopid Ale, which is as the name suggests, an IPA with a ridiculous amount of hops. I managed to talk her into letting us take a bottle with us, which we'll save for some special occasion.

The tasting room was a comfortable loft that sits above the brewery. Lined with old couches, a Foosball table and a vintage upright piano, the room was very cozy and open to employees after their shift. Here we were able to get a few stories from Sean, the head bottler, who has been with the company for a long time. Stephanie poured us a final beer for the walk, and we went downstairs to tour the brewery. Lagunitas brews in 80 barrel batches (a barrel is equal to 15.5 gallons). This was an interesting contrast to Moylan's, which only brews 20 bbl. batches. The size of the operation was noticeably different, from the size of the brew kettles and fermenters to the bottling operation. The entire staff was very friendly, and if we had a question Stephanie couldn't answer, she'd pull over one of the brewers who would discuss it more in depth with us.

When the hour was up, we went back to the office and loaded up on souvenirs. It could've been the beer, but I left feeling very satisfied, even with the high expectations that comes with a build up of several years. We gave our thanks, and headed back up 101 to Santa Rosa.

We headed to our camp spot, a city park on the outskirts of Santa Rosa. After setting up the tent, we packed a backpack and walked a mile to catch the city bus into downtown. Russian River Brewery has a brewpub in downtown Santa Rosa, and we were determined to have pints of the Pliny the Elder that we brewed a homebrew version of months earlier. We started with a sampler, that included all of their currently available beers. It was almost a 50/50 split of American style and Belgian style ales. We did find a few beers that we liked from the sampler, but clearly the Pliny was our favorite. Russian River did have some great pizza as well. I have to thank them for our new favorite combination - pepperoni, pineapple and jalapenos (The jalapenos here were the spiciest I've had in a long time).

I have to say that Russian River didn't leave a great first impression. While we certainly enjoy the beer, the location of the pub catered more to a college age "meat-market" lifestyle. It seemed like all around us were young adults either on dates or their with their friends to try and meet others. The real downer is that they would not fill the growler we had brought with us, they required we bought one from them. Since they had already rung up beer, food and t-shirts, we figured we'd find some beer of theirs to take home from a grocery store instead (we never did). Besides, we'd need a few extra dollars to give the cabbie since he took us the long way back to camp - asshole.

Day 7
After clearing the cobwebs, we arose and got the hell out of Santa Rosa. A quick stop at a wifi cafe was needed; both for coffee and so I could fulfill my unemployment requirements. Another familiar brewery was nearby, in Healdsburg just 20 miles north.

Bear Republic Brewery
Bear Republic was what we had hoped last nights experience would have been. The staff was friendly, and the patrons were even friendlier. We ordered a sampler tray of 15 2oz tastes of their current brews. While we tasted some fantastic ales, we talked it up with a couple of locals. Bear Republic brews on the spot here (mostly their specialty beers) and at their brand new brewery further up the road in Cloverdale. They also had no problems with filling up our growler from home, so we made sure to take some of their fine ale with us.

We pushed on north, now eager to be in the Redwoods. It was really nice not to have to be in a rush, and we were able to take the scenic routes through the forests instead of staying on the main highway. These giant trees were unbelievable, and staggering at times to stand next to. We camped at Humbolt-Redwoods State Park with giant Redwoods in our campsite. On one of these trees was the remains of an insect. All that remained of what I think was a bee was it's exoskeleton, and I grabbed this cool picture of it.

Bee Macro shot

More to come!

1 comment:

helen said...

Nice Blog Birrell. Moylan's brewery looked so inviting. My husband and I love trying good ales and because we both work long hours we tend to buy ours online from sites like thedrinkshop
Shame we dont have a brewery like Moylans next door hehe.