The Barlow is Back in Business!

Earlier this year, Bohemian editor Tom Gogola asked us contributors to pitch ideas for the paper’s annual ‘Best Of’ issue. In March, three of the four ‘Best Of’ blurbs I submitted made the paper. But what about the fourth, the Best Place to Get Your Daily Serving of Fruit While Drinking Beer? Did North Bay residents suddenly hate the divine combination of malt, hops, and fruit flavors? Fortunately, we in the North Bay still love our artisanal, fruity beer. But sadly, the brewery I profiled, Crooked Goat Brewing (120 Morris St #120, Sebastopol), had just been flooded along with so many other shops and restaurants in the Barlow. 

I kept my eyes on the brewery’s website, which, after the historic flooding, featured an image of a worker kayaking through floodwaters near the brewery’s entrance. In the first few days after the flood, it was hard to tell when, or if, the brewery and surrounding businesses would reopen.

The ‘all clear’ signal came in early April when the brewery proclaimed on its website that “We have made it through the flood and have reopened.” I knew it was time to revisit the Barlow and see how local businesses were recovering.

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon with partly cloudy skies and a light breeze. Near Sushi Kosho – one of the few businesses still renovating from the flood – a Cat Stevens cover band played classic hits for an attentive audience sitting on a grass lawn. I was happy to discover that Crooked Goat Brewing was stuffed to the brim with regular and first-time customers celebrating the grand reopening. And yes, I can say with confidence that Crooked Goat is still the best place to get your daily serving of fruit while drinking beer.  

After sipping one of the brewery’s signature Grapefruit Ibex IPAs – don’t forget to take home a 32 oz. can of your favorite brew -- I decided to pump some more money back into the local economy by trying a beer at another Barlow brewery. At Woodfour Brewing Company (6780 Depot St.), I found a slightly less crowded atmosphere, beautiful hardwood tables, and a menu that made me regret already having lunch. And to my delight, I discovered that Woodfour boasts four sour beers. Enjoying the pleasant weather on the patio, I sipped a Blackberry Brett Mother, a beer that combines both my favorite fruit and best strain of sour-inducing brewers’ bacteria. The purple beer was a delightfully tart punch in the mouth, the kind of sour experience that makes your jaw clench with every sip. 

Woodfour Brewing Company, like many Barlow businesses at slightly higher elevations, escaped flood damage. Even so, they, like their flooded neighbors, took an economic hit because of the spring storms. However, watching the crowds, some of which had come as far away as San Francisco, I felt reassured that the Barlow will pull through just fine. 

So, dear readers, make plans to head up to the Barlow this spring to chow down on great food, sip excellent adult beverages, and listen to classic tunes. Your perfect Saturday afternoon is just a drive to Sebastopol away.