I like fresh beer. I remember getting my first taste of a real one at a nameless pub in East Acton, London 1979. Before then, Heineken Dark was the top of the market for me. A buddy and I were camping at “Tent City” for a pound a day gearing up to explore with Let’s Go Europe and a Eurail Pass. I loved the maltyness of that first CAMRA pint, my first “real” ale.
Several years later I rediscovered the hoppy, full bodied taste of Red Tail Ale at the Mendocino Brewery in Hopland. The freshness of the beer was striking. That brewing equipment should be in a museum somewhere - a little 7 barrel of cobbled dairy and soda vessels, painted blue. I later leaned that the system originated in the already defunct New Albion Brewing, America’s first modern Micro Brewery established in 1979 in Sonoma, CA, the town where I live today. Craft brewing still had shaky legs in those days.
A couple of long weekends at Hopland Brewing in 1984 left my head spinning. How cool are brewpubs? Make great beer and serve it fresh. Sell it across the bar. Love the Beer gardens! What about finding tasty food to match the beers?
With amazing guidance and support from friends and family, and especially my Godfather Robert Carrau, I did a little research, wrote a business plan and raised some money. Then it was time to find a brewer. At this point I only knew how to drink my beer. An investor asked me if I knew Dan Gordon? Dan had gone to Germany as an exchange student from Cal and discovered something amazing; a person could get a degree in beer making, brewery-engineering, and yeast studies at The Technical University of Munich at Weihenstephan. I quickly learned Dan knew more about the beer world than anyone I had ever met – still does. Needless to say – I got lucky meeting Dan. Gordon Biersch was born.
In 1987 Dan and I found the old Bijou Theater in Palo Alto for our first location, that’s a funny story for another time. Our new neighbors were a little surprised to hear we planned to brew beer there, but all went well, and soon we added brewery-restaurants in San Jose and San Francisco. Another in Pasadena, then the first brewpub in Hawaii on the waterfront in Honolulu Harbor followed. Long story short, in 1997, with new investors on board we built a major brewing facility in San Jose, where all of our Gordon Biersch keg and bottled beers originate to this day. We added restaurants in Seattle, San Diego, Phoenix and Las Vegas.
Dan and I eventually sold our interest in the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant Group. I moved to Sonoma in 2000 – a great California town if there ever was one. Looking forward I can safely state that the quality, consistency and diversity of craft brewing is at an all time high around here. Hopmonk Tavern was built in Sebastopol and now Sonoma to set the stage for these amazing beers.
Thanks for the visit – we hope to see you again and again.