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Mendocino County Brewpub Guide

Mendocino Brewing Company
13351 South Hwy. 101, Hopland
744-1361

Hours: Tavern open Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight; and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 am. Dinners served Sunday-Thursday until 9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday to 8 p.m.
Credit Cards: VISA, MasterCard; no minimum
Parking: Ample

Beer
EIGHT RECIPES ROTATE. Always at least four handcrafted ales are on tap, plus four fine seasonal brews. Four-ounce samplers are 75 cents each; a taster set runs $3 (a 10-oz. mug is $2; pints are $2.90; a 60-oz. pitcher sells for $8).

These are some of the best-known handmade beers in the North Bay owing to the company's wide distribution to regional groceries, restaurants, and multi-tap pubs. The Mendocino Brewing Co., founded in 1983, was the first microbrewery in California after Prohibition. The founders--Michael Laybourn, Norman Franks, and John Scahill--were partners at the now-defunct New Albion Brewing Co. of Sonoma, and saw a good thing in the making when the state Legislature legalized the retail sale of beer at breweries with attached restaurants (i.e., brewpubs). The New Albion's equipment and yeast culture became a part of the Mendocino Brewing Co., so there's a little bit of Sonoma in each drop.

The Red Tail Ale--a pale, full-bodied amber beer brewed in the traditional Old World style and boasting a fruity nose--is the flagship of the company. The Blue Heron Pale Ale started as a seasonal, golden ale that became a year-round favorite. It has a clean, fresh, hoppy taste that especially complements spicy foods. Other year-round ales include the Black Hawk Stout--rich and malty with a dry-Irish finish--and the Peregrine Pale Ale, a light-bodied blonde brew with a trace of hazelnuts.

Seasonal: Four in number, including the excellent full-bodied Eye of the Hawk Select Ale. And how can you resist a blend called the Frolic Shipwreck Ale, an earthy Scottish brew?

Brewmaster: Don Barkley.

Take-out/Keg Availability: None.

Food
QUINTESSENTIAL PUB FARE: fresh, simple, and low-cost. Specialties include home-style cooking, spicy beer sausages, two-fisted hamburgers, the infamous Red Tail chili, oyster shots with fresh ales, and vegetarian dishes. The brewery black bean nachos ($5.95) are a zesty starter packed with black beans, chilies, and cheddar and jack cheeses melted over tortilla chips with salsa, sour cream, and guacamole. There are a wide variety of soups, chilies, sandwiches (including a delicious herbed cream cheese and veggie sandwich at $5.25), pizzas, and salads. The menu's main events are a selection of sandwich items served with homemade potato salad and Red Tail barbecued beans. Recommended: the grilled rib-eye steak ($6.75) marinated in Black Hawk Stout and served with sautéed peppers and onions on a French roll.

Service
FRIENDLY AND ATTENTIVE. These folks take obvious pride in everything they do.

Ambiance
THINK OF Cheers with handcrafted beers and a laid-back, unpretentious, North Coast-hippie hideaway feel. Sidle up to the roomy bar with the locals or kick back with a cold pint under a sprawling grape arbor in the shaded beer garden, where you can tap your toes to a bluegrass band on Sunday afternoons (weather permitting)--the perfect way to smooth out the edge after a strenuous North Coast trek. Unhurried. Unhassled. Also, top Bay Area blues acts--including Roy Rogers, Norton Buffalo, and Little Charlie and the Night Cats--perform every Saturday night (cover charge varies); open-mike night every other Friday night. A welcome way station on the road of life. There is a large sandbox here to occupy the kids in the beer-garden area, and kid-friendly menu items (including quesadillas, burgers, and turkey sandwiches) are available. The staff is always accommodating.

Din: Comfortable. Quiet.

Restrooms: Clean, tidy.

Non-drinkers: Mineral waters. Sodas. Juice drinks. Great outdoors; great music.

Fizz
WARM, FRIENDLY PLACE with lusty, cold brews and tasty, inexpensive food. Who could ask for more from a brew pub?

Flat
AIN'T complainin'.
--G.C.

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From the Oct. 16-22, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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