In a warehouse off North McDowell Boulevard, 101 North Brewing has been producing IPAs since October and holding Friday afternoon tastings that local beer enthusiasts are already murmuring about.
Nearby, another new company called Petaluma Hills Brewing is ripping out cubicles and replacing them with a production facility and tasting room, set to open by this summer.
And there’s HenHouse Brewing, which leases space on Copeland Street and is getting ready to celebrate its one-year anniversary.
Forget Sonoma County as a destination for fine wine.
Craft beer, complete with the bearded grunge aesthetic and a do-it-yourself vigor, is where it’s at in 2013.
Now some say that Petaluma should capitalize on the trend by creating a brewery district in Northern Petaluma, where many of these businesses are already based.
One of the biggest proponents is Garrett Hill, the owner of x2nSat, a Petaluma-based satellite company. He’s also a veteran of Telecom Alley and says Petaluma can create a new kind of hub that will serve as a destination for both local residents and out of town visitors.
“There is an effect when you put like businesses together where their needs are well understood,” Hill said. “The idea of a hub is that people can cross pollinate with each other by socializing and exchanging ideas. That closeness was what helped Telecom Valley.”
Another advantage of breweries located close to one another is the ability to share vendors, suppliers and even equipment to cut down costs.
“Microbreweries are such a growing business in the competition against Budweiser, Miller and Modelo that they can actually create a very sustainable business with a high quality product and carve out a niche for themselves,” Hill said.
Hill has already discussed his idea with the city and numerous council members and says feedback has been positive.
The breweries, too, seem on board and are inspired by Lagunitas’ meteoric rise over the past decade and a half. Lagunitas is across the street from Petaluma Hills, creating the perfect triad for beer lovers.
“If we could do a pub crawl and get the city’s help on that, it would be perfect,” said John Lilienthal, 43, and one of the owners of 101 North Brewing Company, located on Scott Street.
101 North Brewing Company is owned by three brothers—Joe, Jake and Joel Johnson—and Lilienthal, a friend since grade school and thus a de-facto brother to the Johnsons.
Both Lilienthal and Joel Johnson honed their beer-making chops at Bear Republic Brewery in Healdsburg. It was there that Johnson developed the recipe for Hop Rod Rye and helped perfect the recipe for Racer 5, an American IPA.
Now the boys at North 101 Brewing want to get back to a more traditional IPA with malt characteristics that many feel local beers have gotten away from.
“We’re looking at creating a beer using high-grade hops that is more balanced in character,” says the Joe Johnson, who at 21 is the baby of the Johnson family beer enterprise.
Down the street from North 101, Jeffrey Jay, or JJ as everyone knows him, is busy putting in a small brewery in what was previously the x2nSatellite office. (Hill still owns the building.)
By day, Jay is a technical director for Dreamworks Animation in Redwood City. But in his off hours he is a home brewer with a focus exclusively on ales.
Jay is designing his production facility so that visitors will be able to look into the yeast room and the beer tanks while sipping beer in the tasting room.
“People who come in will be able to see me shoveling grain into the kettle and testing the yeast,” he says. “The goal is to have people experience how beer is made. This will be a production facility first and a tasting room second.”
All beers will have Petaluma inspired names such as Big House, a nod to Casa Grande High School, Old Adobe Stout, Rivertown Brown, Eastside Bitter and Kinahan Ale, in honor of a longtime Petaluma family.
Jay says that interest in craft beer has been growing in recent years, so much that people regularly seek him out at home in order to sample his product.
“There are a lot of people who like to go around, smelling the hops and seeing how beer is made and just talking beer for hours,” he says. “There is a lot of interest in going directly to the source and I want to give that to people.”
Sample 101 North beers at the brewery’s tastings every Friday from 4pm to 6pm. 101 North Brewery beer can also be found at Taps, Beyond the Glory, McNear’s, Speakeasy, Traxx and Tres Hombres. HenHouse beer is available at the Petaluma Market, Taps, Central Market and Ray’s Deli and Tavern. The brewery is also holding a 1-year anniversary February 16 at Taps. Petaluma Hills beer will be available at the tasting room starting this summer.