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Brews Cruising (California Edition): The Yogi Berra Conundrum

A decision between these two Russian River sours may not be as tough as
figuring out where else to go for craft beer in Santa Rosa
Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post on one of craft beer's long time stalwarts in Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, California. One thing I noted then is that the throng of locals and out-of-towners that make getting into the brewpub a bit of a challenge, and this was no different on a my return to the brewery to pick up a couple bottles of their sour brews.

Thankfully for someone in my position, a second line strictly dedicated for bottle sales on particularly busy days makes things go a lot faster. For those dining in on these days, however, even an arrival a half-hour before opening is no guarantee that you'll get inside in short order. From where the picture was taken below, the waiting time was close to an hour.

This phenomenon may be eased a bit with Russian River's planned 15-acre brewpub facility in nearby Windsor (the current schedule slates an opening of Summer 2018, per this craftbeer.com article.) But until then, one may ponder the old Yogi Berra conundrum when seeing this queue.  Berra, long-time Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees and master of contorting the English language into a confusing understandability, is often credited with saying, ""Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

So where does one go for craft beer in Santa Rosa other than Russian River? My spouse and I had been to downtown neighbor Third Street Aleworks previously and found it a decent enough place, but I was itching to try something new. Based on a tip from a Cleveland area ex-pat now enjoying the Sonoma County life craft beer loving friend, Cooperage Brewing was the place I needed to visit.

Opened in the summer of 2015 by husband/wife team Tyler and Stephanie Smith in the northern reaches of the city, Cooperage looked almost positively abandoned in comparison to its downtown brethren, and sported a plain-spoken exterior not unlike the breweries I had visited a few days prior in Sacramento. Despite the sandwich board sign outside, I drove by twice before convincing myself that the brewery was indeed open for business.

Inside, the place pretty much fit the quiet, lazy Sunday mood pretty well (save for a fairly energetic foozball game off in the far corner; a couple of dartboards also provide another gaming option) with just a few early wanderers within. As the day progressed, a few more folks straggled in, but that same relaxed vibe remained throughout my stay.  The bartender this day also did her best to keep that vibe going, causally chatting up both me and my seat mate next to me at the bar.

While the high ceilings remind you that you're really within a warehouse, Cooperage does a pretty good job of making the interior fairly comforting, with a plenty of splashes of wood and one wall dedicated to a large mural and numerous art pieces from local artists.

While Smith considers his specialty to be barrel-aged sour and lambic beers, those were still not ready for prime time during my visit. Cooperage holds the beer fort down in the meantime with a wide variety of beers, including a few Belgians and a series of wittily named Pale Ales (Ol' Curty Bastard and Everybody Curts were available on tap) made in honor of Curt, one of the brewery's bartenders.

Let's just say my flight of four beers was a pretty nice way to sip through an early weekend afternoon, after a decent but nothing spectacular Belgian Wit (Cooperage's Brony brew, My Wittle Ponies), the final three were all pretty solid affairs, from their Dawn Rising Belgian Strong to the previously mentioned Ol' Curty Bastard (pleasantly hoppy and malty with a hint of grapefruit) to another enjoyable session ale in their Party Water. If nothing else, it was definitely incentive to drop by in the future, preferably with the spouse and/or friends in tow.

Cooperage Brewing
981 Airway Ct. (Google Maps)
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
(707) 293-9787
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