New Bear Republic Brewery in RoPo

Bear Republic

Rohnert Park got a nice addition this year — Bear Republic Brewing! With Lagunitas Brewing a mere 12 minute drive south, the Bear Republic opened (technically in September 2017) with a massive dining hall with outdoor seating overlooking a beautiful lake. The former nightclub/ restaurant is the perfect spot for this Healdsburg based brewery to make a splash.

When I visited the brewery had just opened, I was impressed by the open glass window kitchen concept, and blown away by the sheer volume and capacity the brewery had (the images I took don’t do it justice, there are lots of places to sit!), along with the adult games (cornhole, etc.) I was not prepared for this.

The beer menu was extensive. I love their IPA’s, in fact they rank as some of my favorites, so I made no qualms ordering a double IPA at my 11am business meeting (they understood). I’ll have to go back for more meetings (I felt a tasting flight might have been overkill). Anyways, this place is definitely worth adding to your itinerary, especially if you’re already a fan of their beer, or of Lagunitas.

Check them out at 5000 Roberts Lake Road, Rohnert Park.

Instagram: @bearrepublic

Amy's Fast Food - sign

Amy’s Organic, Vegetarian Fast Food? Yes!

Only in Sonoma County could you find an organic, vegetarian fast food restaurant that excels in satisfying even the most staunch carnivore. Make no mistake, this GMO free restaurant is no half-assed attempt at fast food. It is a legitimate contender to neighboring restaurants and they do it with competitive pricing, inviting atmosphere, healthy options, and a few not-so-healthy treats.

I was slightly tricked my first time here. Having been a resident of Sonoma County for a few years before Amy’s opened, I had known of the Amy’s factory. Amy’s in Rohnert Park has been producing the famous line of organic foods for grocery stores for years (canned goods, frozen things like pizza’s and burritos, and boxed dry grocery). When they opened in the same town, I never put two-and-two together and realized that the food would model that of their organic, vegetarian cuisine.

Amy’s, in fact, is named after the company’s daughter. They built their company on the idea that there was a lack of quick, healthy options to feed their daughter. So my first time in I ordered the burger, fries and milkshake. The burger was delicious but it tasted just different, so I investigated. Oh it was a veggie burger. Again, no worries, it was delicious!

Let’s Talk About the Food

I haven’t eaten everything on the menu, but that’s my goal. I have goals. The chili cheese fries are my guilty pleasure. When I need a meal that will fill me up, the classic burrito (red beans, red rice, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and salsa) is my staple. I have yet to try the oh so tempting Mac ‘N’ Cheese or the organic and vegan pizza’s. The salads are wonderful and so are the milkshakes (yes, they have non-daily shakes). Most recently, I heard someone in line talking about their cinnamon rolls. “Cinnamon Rolls?” I thought. So I tried the gluten free, vegan cinnamon roll, just for fun and it was absolutely the most delicious thing I’ve had in the last month! I am not gluten free or a vegan!

A Sustainable Fast Food Model

Bottom line is Amy’s organic and vegetarian food is delicious. The design of the building reminds me of Radiator Springs from the Disney movie, Cars. What really intrigues me is their business model. The water tower actually stores rainwater, they have a solar array, and the roof top is a living garden. All this good stuff — and the prices are completely on par with other fast food restaurants.

Amy's Drive Thru menu - picture of the front menu

Amy's Drive Thru menu - picture of the back menu

Why you should go: If you’re hungry. Or if you are trying to satisfy that gluten free, vegan, or vegetarian in the group!



Menu Highlights: The Amy (burger), Classic Burrito, Gluten Free & Vegan Cinnamon Roll, Chili Cheese Fries, Milkshakes, Super Salad.


Robert Ferguson Observatory

Coming up on August 11th and 12th is the Perseid meteor shower. I used to watch this shower every year and would bring my friends out to watch in the middle of whatever field was near us. As it rolls around again this year, I’m heading up to my local observatory for a stargazing party! 2016 is said to have the best show in the last 20 years, with roughly 150 shooting stars per hour.

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train town

Sonoma TrainTown Railway

Located just south of the historic Sonoma Square is TrainTown, an amusement park that features a 1:4 scale model railroad that the whole family can ride. It’s a fun place to take the kids in the North Bay!

TrainTown features a 1:4 scale model railway that will take you around the 10 acre park with a destination stop in a little mini western town where you and the kids can walk through mini model schoolhouse, jail, general store, fort, and church. You can also feed goats, chickens and lamas at the stop. It’s all very well kept since it opened in 1968. It’s also still family owned and very much affordable.

TrainTown also has a handful of amusement park rides like their mini rollercoaster, slow moving spinning ride, carousel, circular flying airplane ride, and a ferris wheel. I like the little train depot/garage where they work on the 1:4 model trains. They also have some vintage boxcars that the kids and adults can climb on, a snack bar, and a little gift shop.

The real highlight at Sonoma TrainTown is the ride around the park. I still have memories as a kid going through the tunnels, and seeing all the little hidden stuff they decorate the 10 acre park with.



After TrainTown

Stop downtown afterwards for some ice cream at Sweet Scoops on the square!

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

I have mixed feelings on posting about Armstrong Redwoods. Armstrong feels more like home than many of the places I’ve lived. After spending a few years living out in my uncle’s riverside cabin in the semi-remote town of Guerneville, I explored Armstrong Redwoods often. It became a quiet place of meditation to me, my own zen garden, and it’s also my favorite place in the North Bay to take photos.

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Weaver’s Winter Wonderland

When my friend told me, “Hey, want to come with me to go see some Christmas lights in Rohnert Park?” I thought okay, I like Christmas lights. I did not expect this. This was crazy.

The Weaver Winter Wonderland is a thing here, but this was my first time out to go see it. They’ve won The Great Christmas Light Fight, featured on ABC, along with winning other awards locally.

  • Holiday Weavers Winter Wonderland
  • Holiday Genie Weavers Wonderland
  • Holiday Scene

    It’s spectacular. You actually feel as though you drove to Disneyland, and were walking through Toon Town or Main Street — Minus the huge ticket cost, hotel, parking, crowds (ehh, sorta), etc. So yeah, Disney is a huge part of their theme, but certainly not exclusive, they have characters from just about every Holiday movie, down to the details. We were looking at the Dalmatians on the front lawn and joked how there weren’t 101, but as we looked around it became apparent that there were dogs hidden all over the spread of stuff — so maybe we were wrong.

    I’d say that the 20-30 foot Genie from Aladdin was the pinnacle of the spread, but I can’t say that, there’s just too much well placed characters and subtleties here. Everything works and is balanced and doesn’t have a too crowded feel. I’m starting to sound like an expert on Christmas lights. I’m not, it was just a fun place to check out.

    Grab some hot cocoa and head out to the Weaver Winter Wonderland at 1190 Cielo Cir, Rohnert Park, CA. And check em out on Facebook.

    Best BBQ in Healdsburg: Kinsmoke BBQ

    I’ve been craving some real BBQ lately. And while Northern California has its more then fair share of every ethnic food you can imagine, anyone who’s been to real Barbecue Country can attest we lack a significant BBQ community out here (other than of course the Hamburger Ranch & BBQ up in Cloverdale).

    Kinsmoke delivers in this department. I ordered the brisket on white roll and was not disappointed. They gave me a choice of type of meat cuts (I went with the combo), and ordered the mac and cheese. Kinsmoke also offers chick, fish, and ribs, but I’ll have to come back to sample those. The meat was well seasoned, juicy and the cuts were generous and not overly fatty. The table offered 5 different sauces to compliment the meat. I’m no expert on BBQ, but I have been to Kansas City and tried out a lot of different spots, but I do know that different regions have different styles of BBQ. At Kinsmoke they take a very Californian approach and offer “non-denominational” BBQ.

    The location is conveniently located right on the Healdsburg Square. The atmosphere is that which a BBQ joint should be — old wooden floors, big spacious tables (lots of room to move around here), lots of metal and wood working together, a nice bar in the back with a few good sized TVs. Prices were reasonable as well. Overall very happy with this spot and I’ll be recommending them on my tours for sure.


    Why you should go: Because you like real BBQ. Also great place for Monday Night Football or to watch the game.


    Menu Highlights: Brisket Sandwich, Cajun Dusted Scallops, Pollo Borracho Sandwich, Seared Ahi Salad, Granny Smith Apple & Horseradish Slaw, Pulled Pork Sandwich, St. Louis Style Pork Ribs

    Location: 304 Center Street, Healdsburg Plaza, Healdsburg, CA 95448


    Brisket at Kinsmoke BBQ in Healdsburg

    Picture of a Kokomo sticker on a barrel

    Kokomo Winery

    Picture of a Kokomo sticker on a barrel

    Solid wines across the board. One of my favorite wineries because the wines, value, location, and experience.

    Kokomo Winery, named after the city in Illinois where winemaker Erik Miller is from, is home to an extensive tasting menu where you can get cab with your pinots, but what really makes this winery one of my favorites is the friendly staff, the value, and I love all of their wines. That’s a powerful combo, and it’s in a little village of wineries out in the center of the Dry Creek Valley (Zin country).


    Why you should go: Go for the solid wines and cool staff. Stay to hit up the other family wineries next door.


    Case Production: 4,000 – 5000

    Wines: Muscat Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Grenache, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Late Harvest

    My Favorites: ALL OF THEM, but especially Peter’s Vineyard Pinot Noir

    Location: 4791 Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448


    5 Great Sonoma County Breweries

    Here are five great small breweries to add to your bucket list

    Surrounded by vast grapevines Sonoma County’s brew scene is taking off with a bunch of new breweries popping up all over. It’s great to see, because the Russian River Valley used to be covered in hops long before the grapevines took over. Now all that remains are the old hop kilns, converted into wineries. Like they say in wine country, “It takes a lot of good beer to make great wine,” so the following is my list of the top 5 breweries to check out in Sonoma County. I’m leaving some out like Lagunitas and Russian River Brew Co, people can easily find those. This list is for people who don’t want the massive crowd and long lines. Link to the map

    Cooperage Brewing Company

    Santa Rosa, CA |

    Located in a warehouse in Northwest Santa Rosa, driving in will take you to a hidden spot in the industrial area of Santa Rosa — far away from the downtown area. That’s the beauty of Cooperage, away from the heavy traffic areas. The atmosphere is laid back with locals sitting at the bar after work. The beer is great here, they are rotating taps right now while they’re still new and seeing what people like. Cooperage brews some Belgian Style Sours and Barrel aged beers, focusing on wild and spontaneous fermentations, but they also offer some great hoppy beers and IPA. My favorite was the Makin’ Hoppies (Pale Ale).

    Why Go Here? Go here to get away from the crowd, play some corn hole, and great beer and some great music. Oh and no food as of yet, but there’s some great authentic Mexican food right down the street.

    Fogbelt Brewing Company

    Santa Rosa, CA |

    The newish Fogbelt has some great beers on tap and I like their small tap room, but what really does it for me is their food menu which pairs great with their beers. I particularly like their pretzels and cheese sauce, along with their Double IPA. Fogbelt is tucked just outside the downtown area on the western side of the highway. Fogbelt has plenty of seating indoors and out to eat and drink at. Fogbelt is growing their own hops at their estate and is working with local farmers to bring back hops to Sonoma County. Gotta love it.

    Why Go Here? Bring the ladies, there are two wineries with tastings rooms right next door. Everybody wins!

    St Florian’s Brewery

    Windsor, CA |

    Saint Florian is the patron saint of firefighters, which makes sense it a perfect name for this brewery started by Windsor Fire Captain and his wife, and their small tap room and beers are some of my favorite. 5% of profits go to fire-related and community based organizations. Seating is definitely limited as they have just opened shop, but certainly worth checking out as their beers are great. I really liked the 48/96. You can find them also on tap in many of the local bars and restaurants, and in local grocers.

    Why Go Here?If you’re a firefighter or know someone who is (they have t-shirts and other swag). Or if you just want to drink great brews and to support a fantastic brewery. Oh and they have a really cool looking growler!

    Petaluma Hills

    Petaluma, CA |

    I don’t always drink heavy beers, but when I do it’s usually “Porterluma.” Okay, they make a lot of other beers here, but I like their Porter probably the most. The Triple J is a Belgian style Tripel that is pretty delicious as well. Located accross the street from Lagunitas, Petaluma Hills Brewery takes good advantage of the traffic generated by Lagunitas, but don’t discount their beers because of that. They’re just smart. The tasting room is small but has a great L shaped bar.

    Why Go Here? If you’re headed to Lagunitas, or don’t want to battle the crowds. If you want a cozy place to watch a game with friendly people.

    101 North Brewing Company

    Petaluma, CA |

    Okay, I have to admit I’ve never been to their tasting room before, but I’ve drank so much of their beer that I’d feel remorse if I left them off this list. 101 North is located right next to Petaluma Hills and across the street from Lagunitas. I’m still in love with their Heroine IPA. You can find it on tap at lots of the local bars and restaurants, and in the bottle at local grocers too.

    Why Go Here? If you need a Heroine fix. And if you’re in the area.

    A few other breweries on my radar:

    • HenHouse Brewing (Petaluma)
    • Shady Oak Barrel House (Santa Rosa)
    • Woodfour Brewing Company (Sebastopol)
    • Old Redwood Brewing (Windsor)

    Flo Healdsburg

    Flo in Healdsburg

    I might have a new favorite place to grab a beer in Healdsburg. Flo is a new beer and wine bar just south of the town next to Mill St. Antiques and The New Parish Café. Offering, a good selection of beer and wine for local prices.

    Flo has two tv’s and the inside is small, but they also have a massive patio with umbrellas and plenty of parking. It’s so new that the wedding parties and honeymooners haven’t crashed the party yet. Not that I care too much about that, it’s one of the things that makes Healdsburg’s nightlife fun. But sometimes you just want to grab a beer in a quiet, not so uppity or not too loud, not too divey type of place and Flo might just be that place.

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