Sonoma County is experiencing a spate of craft brewery and taproom openings, despite already producing some of the most sought-after beers in the country.
Old Caz Beer opened on June 1 along State Farm Drive in Rohnert Park, a small brewery housed in a warehouse area poised to grow with the city’s planned development near the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit station. It was quickly followed by No Quarter Brewing Co. in Windsor on Lakewood Drive.
The two will be joined later this summer by Parliament Brewing Co. on the west side of Rohnert Park, a family-operated brewery aiming to be a neighborhood pub for the growing residential area near the Costco store. An apartment and hotel complex is being built nearby, which should offer more potential customers.
“We want to be a neighborhood destination for people. We want to create space to walk to and to have beer,” co-owner Justin Bosch said. “We see it as community space.”
The new brewers are entering the craft beer sector in a county that has about 30 breweries. The most anticipated taproom opening this summer will be the Seismic Brewing Co. brewpub in The Barlow in Sebastopol. The Santa Rosa brewery is owned by Christopher Jackson of the Jackson wine family. He and his team are readying a taproom, with sustainably sourced materials that will have the internationally recognized green building Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design distinction, or LEED certification.
“As long as people produce good beer, there is plenty of room in the industry,” said Robert Watkins, a partner in the Flagship Taproom in Cotati.
Flagship intends to open a second location this summer at the spot in downtown Santa Rosa that previously housed Sprenger’s Restaurant & Tap Room that closed last year.
Although beer sales are slowing nationwide, the taproom and brewery openings locally reflect a bullishness in the regional craft sector. New breweries are focusing on attracting loyal and local customers and making sure they have a fresh rotation of beers to keep them coming back.
While Jackson has the financial means to design, furnish and operate his taproom, the others have taken different paths. At Parliament, Bosch recruited his brother and father to help operate the brewery, after honing his craft by working for the Schlafly brand in St. Louis. A good friend pledged $100,000 that helped spur his idea to get a brewery off the ground and attract other investors.
The 10-barrel Rohnert Park brewery will feature hoppy beers such as India pale ales that are prevalent in the area, as well as others such as saisons that are not, Bosch said.
At Old Caz, partners Tom Edwards and Bryan Rengel opened their 35-person taproom by being frugal, spending about $200,000 in startup costs. To save money, Old Caz brews its beer at Barrel Brothers Brewing Co. in Windsor and then takes it back to Rohnert Park to ferment. Other budget-friendly moves included taking over a building that had been used by Sonoma Distilling Co. — which meant spending less money on a drainage system.
“We started this on absolute shoestring budget,” said Edwards, who previously brewed at Bear Republic Brewing Co. in Cloverdale. “We structured our business to grow in different steps.”