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Previous Pint Pleasures - June 29, 2013

guinness eileen

The Hopmonk Tavern, 230 Petaluma Avenue, Sebastopol, California

guinness eileen

The Russian River Brewing Company, 745 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa, California

I start this month's review on a note of sadness. My close friend Trevor, with whom I've had many pints and explored many new pubs, passed away last month. He has been mentioned countless times throughout the years in Pint Pleasures, and we are all missing him very much. I like to think he is still tasting fascinating new pints in a parallel universe -- all the more reason for me to forge on seeking pint pleasures in this one. Cheers to Trevor, who will never be forgotten.

Last month I visited family in Southern California. While I was there I flew up to the Bay Area for a few days to take a brewpub tour with my friend Mistah Rick. On one of the days we drove up to Sonoma County to experience what the beer is like in wine country. We stopped for lunch in the town of Sebastopol. Incorporated in 1902 Sebastopol, which was originally known for its Gravenstein apple production, was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake but was soon rebuilt and the area surrounding became a successful hop-growing area. Today it's the home of a number of celebrities including Jerry Garcia and Tom Waits.

We pulled into the carpark of the Hopmonk Tavern and parked by a sign that displayed the image of three hops cones. Inside we found a roomy pub with 1960s style furniture, the mood further set with the sound of honkytonk country music. Out back there were two decks and some tables on the ground below. We sat inside in a curved orange booth, possibly naugahide, that had a distinct Googie feel to it. The walls were decorated with giant pictures of beer bottles and cans, and a lovely relaxing breeze blew through the large open doors.

The Bombay By Boat on the handpump had just run out, so we had a taste of the new selection, Twist of Fate (5.6% ABV, Moonlight Brewing Company, Fulton, California). This was quite bitter but a bit too malty for what I wanted, so we went for a couple of pints to share. The first one, Drake's IPA (7.0% ABV, Drake's Brewing, San Leandro, California) was gorgeous with that Pacific Northwest hops z-z-zing. This is a lovely brew with a smooth texture and a friendly character. The other pint was Sculpin' IPA (7.0% AB, Ballast Point Brewing Company, San Diego, California). It was difficult for me to say anything but "WHOOO...oohooohoohoohoo!" I had to remind myself to start breathing again. This wonderful brew has a tropical fruit character in a wonderful setting. Rick would like it to be his breakfast juice, whereas I, now being a Brit, would like it as one of my 5 A Day.

For lunch we shared two sharer plates: Southwest samosas with black beans, corn, and pumpkin seeds and roasted pepper with cilantro chutney; and macaroni and cheese made with local cheeses. (We probably passed the very cows who produced it on the drive here). Both were very good, and the barmaid was friendly.

The Hopmonk opened in 2008 in what was originally a substation for the Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railway, which carried both freight and passengers between the two cities back in the early 1900s. In 1990 the building received a Historical Landmark designation. The adjoining Abbey hosts live music.

From Sebastopol we drove northeast up Highway 12 to Santa Rosa where we stopped in at the Russian River Brewing Company. Originally owned by Korbel Champagne Cellars in nearby Guerneville, the first brewery was situated near the Russian River amidst vineyards and redwood trees. In 2003 the brewery's brand was passed over to the brewmaster, Vinnie Cilurzo, and his wife Natalie. Vinnie learned to grow and brew "wet" hops, and he built a second brewery in Healdsburg next to the Lake Sonoma Winery, where he experimented with beer in wine barrels. The next year Vinnie and Natalie opened the Santa Rosa brewpub.

It was Happy Hour when we got there and the place was jammed and the beer was only half the price we had expected. We managed to find two seats at the end of the bar where we chatted with a woman from Cleveland who'd lived in Santa Rosa for thirty years. (We talked about beer, as you do.)

I had a pint of Row 2 Hill 56 (5.8% ABV, Russian River Brewing). Brewed with Simcoe hops, a nice zowie chop-chop-a-chopsticks-in-either-hand hops. The beer was named after the gopher that was exiting Hill 56 when the hops were being harvested. Rick had a pint of Hop 2 It (5.8% ABV, Russian River Brewing), brewed with 100% Cascade Cross. It's a pleasant tingly hoppy beer, very obedient like a trained rabbit that performs tricks. We finished our visit by sharing a pint of Blind Pig (6.1% ABV, Russian River Brewing). This is a good solid IPA, a fine, upstanding New World hops IPA. You can trust this beer. I could become a really good friend. Yes, I was really enjoying knowing this beer.

The pub hosts charity-funding events and free live music. The food menu features pizzas which looked quite tasty, and there were quite a few of them flying out of the kitchen.