Look closely at the grilled cheese sandwich served at Old Possum Brewing in Santa Rosa, and you’ll find something of a symbiotic relationship.
It isn’t the bread itself, although in keeping with the brewery’s mission to source ingredients for its compact menu of bar bites, the crispy, golden sourdough slices are baked just down the street at Red Bird Bakery. Grains of another sort—the “spent,” mainly malted and milled barley grains that are left over after the brewing process—find their way into the sandwich by way of the house-cured ham ($3) add-on, or the pulled pork sandwich ($13), or even in the bits of bacon in the house pub salad ($10).
Old Possum partners with a small hog-rearing operation in Windsor called Takenoko Farms. It’s a “food recovery farm,” run with the aim of purchasing no commercially processed feed for the pasture-raised animals; rather, edible byproducts are picked up from local dairies, wineries and breweries that would otherwise be a burden for those businesses to dispose of. The hogs are fed a mainly vegetarian diet, according to Old Possum kitchen manager and brewer Nico Silva.
Closing the loop, Old Possum periodically buys an animal after, having led a comparatively good, non-factory-farmed life up to then, its number is up. That’s when in-house butcher Christian Velasquez gets to work. Silva, who studied in the culinary and brewing programs at SRJC and is taking on more brewing duties from co-founder and restaurateur Sandro Tamburin, describes the ham as sweet and succulent, unlike any he’s eaten.
Tamburin and business partner Dan Shulte opened the taproom adjacent to their brewing business with a vision of something more than the now-traditional, once-new microbrewery “brewpub” concept: a brewery and eatery that’s geared toward sustainability, closing the loop as they brew, refresh and feed (and repeat).
Well, most of the time. Silva allows that it’s difficult to obtain and prepare a whole hog every time you need it. The pork rillette ($10), a pork paté with accompaniment, for example, is off the menu just now. But the intention is to get more on the menu. They are working on a local source for the beef in the Old Possum Philly cheesesteak sandwich ($13).
Beer drinkers on a vegetarian diet might find a hearty falafel sandwich on the slate, which is due to change to the new fall menu soon, according to Silva.
Despite its location on a dead-end street in the Standish Avenue light industrial district of south Santa Rosa—the kind of place that’s anything but high traffic outside of the work week—patrons are nearly elbow to elbow at the bar on a recent Saturday afternoon. And despite all of the above, the aspirational “we feed the animals, and they feed us” ethos, and what may sound like all the trappings of the latest foodie gastropub, it’s a regular beer bar at heart, as well, where college football is playing on two screens, and bacon jalapeño poppers are a big hit—house-made bacon jalapeño poppers, that is.
Old Possum Brewing Co., 357 Sutton Place, Santa Rosa. Open noon–10pm, Thursday–Sunday. 707.303.7177.