On a Friday afternoon, BeerCraft is arguably one of the more popular places to be in Rohnert Park.
Patrons pour into the store, located at 5704 Commerce Boulevard, grab a basket and head straight to the large refrigerator cases against the wall.
The selection is not for the faint of heart—more than 200 types of craft beer are available, each case prettier than the next. (If you haven’t noticed, microbrewed beer has some awesome art.)
The store opened last August and since then has been doing brisk business, riding the suds-filled wave of craft beer mania that has hit the Bay Area and many parts of the country over the past few years.
The beer industry is still dominated by giants Anheuser Busch and Miller Coors, with craft beer making up just 6 percent of domestic sales. But producers that make under 6 million barrels a year and are independently owned--the general definition of craft beer--are helping give the establishment a run for its money.
BeerCraft is owned by brothers JT and Matt Fenn, North Bay natives who have long appreciated a good brew.
“I was working in Internet sales and marketing, but the one constant in my life was always beer,” said JT Fenn, 41. “Once we discovered good beer, we just started chasing it. It’s like once you go craft, it’s hard to go back.”
The brothers have big plans for their store, including installing a tasting room and setting up an online store. They also want to install a large screen television and hold tele-conferences with brewers that are open to the public and sell beer-brewing kits.
“Some people think of Coors or Budweiser when they hear the word “beer,” but there is something out there everyone can enjoy,” JT said.
The Fenn brothers view their business as something of a patriotic act, selling mostly American-made beer.
“America is in a recession and it’s also putting out some of the best beer in the world,” JT said.
Once a month JT goes on a beer-hunting expedition throughout the state, visiting breweries and coming back with cases of what he considers the best of the best.
On a recent beer road trip, Fenn snags cases of Just Outstanding IPA, from Kern River Brewing, an aromatic beer with balanced hoppy floral notes that has received top grades from connoisseurs, including BeerAdvocate.com.
Other beers procured on the trip are Point the Way, an IPA by Los Angeles-based Golden Road Brewery as well as selections from Tap It in San Luis Obispo, Island Brewing in Carpinteria and Bootleggers in Fullerton.
“Half the beers here people wouldn’t be able to find anywhere in the area,” JT boasts.
To encourage customers to broaden their horizons when sampling beer, the store offers regular 50 percent off sales via its Facebook page, a marketing technique that has worked well for the fledgling business.
There are also the popular BeerCraft T-shirts featuring a gorilla holding a pint. In fact, during my short visit, numerous customers come in wearing them, looking like a band of brothers united by their fierce loyalty to microbrews.
JT concurs with my assessment.
“Beer is fairly recession proof,” he says. “People in the North Bay love their beer.”