As Sonoma County’s newest outdoor dining venue, Brewsters Beer Garden has exploded into Petaluma’s consciousness as more than simply a pleasant place to eat. Exactly as planned, Brewsters has quickly become the go-to destination for those looking to relax, visit with friends and family, and enjoy a great selection of local beer, wine, and cocktails, alongside a top-notch menu of southern-inspired, but locally driven cuisine.
Beer gardens first appeared in Munich, the capital of the German state of Bavaria, in the 1800’s. Due to frequent fires during the brewing process, German law had limited brewing to just the cooler months. To keep their stock of beer cool throughout the summer months, breweries took to digging underground beer cellars, and planting densely canopied chestnut trees over the cellars in order to aid with temperature control. Naturally, these cool areas on the brewers’ grounds became a popular spot for summer visitors to sample the brewery’s wares, and thus the beer garden was born.
However, unlike your average restaurant patio, a beer garden is more communal in nature, and is meant for lounging, relaxing, and visiting with your neighbors. Tables are usually shared, families are encouraged, and entertainment typically includes music and games. The entire experience of a true beer garden can be summed up best by the German word Gemütlichkeit, which Wikipedia describes as “a space or state of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer. Other qualities include coziness, peace of mind, belonging, well-being, and social acceptance.”
Upon first arriving at Brewsters it is clear that co-owners Mike Goebel and Chris Beerman know their Gemütlichkeit. From the moment they started planning and designing Brewsters, their focus was on creating a space that would last the test of time, while paying due respect to the spirit of Petaluma, which is all about family, friends, good food and drink, and community involvement.
As always, I try to reach out to non-natives when they venture into Petaluma, partially out of curiosity, and partially in an attempt to help them acclimate and assimilate into our truly unique town.
An initial encouraging indicator were the signs that lined Brewsters’ street-side fence, even before they broke ground. Brewsters was eliciting local help in designing and building their space, turning to the well-respected firms of MAD Architects, Steven J Lafranchi & Assoc (engineering) and Diego Quality Construction.
Furthermore, I found out that Goebel is married to a Diego, making him a de facto local. I also met with co-owner/chef Beerman at his popular San Francisco restaurant late last year and learned that he is no ordinary chef, and he was not planning to be part of any ordinary restaurant project. He strives for perfection, while keeping his menu comfy and approachable. I sampled several of his dishes, from fried chicken to ramen noodles and all were flavorful and filling. And his inclusion of an excellent port on his wine menu certainly put a twinkle in my eye.
Chris Beerman started working in restaurants as an early teen in his home state of North Carolina. His grandfather owned fried chicken restaurants, which clearly had its influence on Beerman as his is some of the best fried chicken I have tasted. Eventually, Beerman attended Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he studied culinary arts. As a skater, surfer and snowboarder, Beerman was drawn towards the West after school, where he spent six years honing his cooking skills in Boulder, and Breckenridge, Colorado, before moving with a large group of friends to San Francisco. He worked at several restaurants, most notably Boulevard from 2006 to 2010, before branching out on his own, first with a neighborhood inspired bento box pop-up, followed by his wildly successful Citizen’s Band restaurant.