It’s a warm evening in the agricultural/industrial flats of western Santa Rosa.
A looming Taylor Mountain glows a tawny brown in the fading sun to the east. There’s a Warriors game on (sorry, sore subject) behind the bar at HenHouse Brewing Company’s new taproom, with the sound turned down and a groovy Pandora station turned up. Groups of two and four pull into the parking lot and head inside for a freshly pulled pint from the wall of 10 bristling taps.
Beers in hand, patrons trickle outside and sidle up to the tomato-colored Red Horse Pizza truck, only this pizza truck is made from a horse trailer. Hence the name. The mobile pie shop has made HenHouse a regular stop on weekends, and it’s a perfect match.
HenHouse opened its taproom in March in a massive industrial space that was supposed to house Amy’s before they decided to open their Rohnert Park drive-through restaurant. Part of the Quonset-hut-like building is occupied by the good folks at Wildbrine, makers of great sauerkraut. (When is ‘kraut going to turn up as a bar snack or as a beer flavor? I’m guessing it’s only I matter of time.)
For me, HenHouse’s flagship beer is its oyster stout. I’m on a personal mission to extol the virtues of non-IPA beers, and this refreshing, light but full-bodied beer (a wee 5.4 alcohol by volume) is as good a counter-argument as any against IPA hegemony. And it’s made with oysters. I don’t know why it works but it does.
HenHouse’s saison comes
in a close second. Crisp, balanced and eminently drinkable at
5.5 percent ABV. It’s brewed with black pepper and coriander, but it’s barely detectable at the back of the throat. This is your summer beer right here.
But if it’s a hoppy beer you must have, HenHouse will treat you right. Chemtrails is a new brew that weighs in at 7.7 percent ABV and is powered by a trio of hops: Cascade, Chinook and crystal. It’s delicious.
All that beer is bound to make you hungry, so stroll outside and get a pie. For me, pizza lives or dies on the quality of its dough, and Red Horse’s tangy sourdough recipe is the perfect foil for beer. While no one is going to call eating and drinking fermented grains low-carb, Red Horse’s crust is thin and light enough that one slice of pizza is more of a hearty snack than a full meal.
While they make the excellent dough, Red Horse relies on a who’s who of local purveyors for everything else. Sausage come from Petaluma’s Thistle Meats and greens from Sebastopol’s Laguna Farms. Tomatoes are plucked by Soda Rock Farms in Healdsburg. The cheese is sourced from Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. (mozzarella) and Redwood Hill Farm and Creamery (goat).
A basic margarita pie goes for $12. The delicious mushroom and sausage pizza is $15. I like ordering a fistful of arugula on top of mine for $2. It’s like a pizza and salad in one.
HenHouse and Red Horse were made for each other: delicious small-batch beers and artisanal sourdough crust pizza topped with locally sourced vegetables, cheese and meat all in one location. What more do you want? How about another beer.
HenHouse Brewing Company,
322 Bellevue Ave., Santa Rosa.