“Can I get you a beer?” Six words that strike terror in my heart.
Barley and Hops owner Noah Bolmer stands behind his small Occidental bar with a pilsner glass and a hand poised at the tap. I start to sweat. I’m a beer-ophobe ruined by too many keg stands and quarter beer nights. A worried look gives me away. Along with the gagging sounds.
“I haven’t met a person yet that I couldn’t find a beer for,” he says, sliding caustic-looking glass of deep-brown beer my way.
Converting Wine Country beer haters like me is nothing new for Bolmer and his wife Mirjam. The couple recently gave up 9 to 5 drudgery to serve up craft brews and pub grub in a bar that’s ten minutes from nowhere.
It’s of the few watering holes within a 20-mile radius between Sebastopol and Bodega Bay, making it about 85 percent locals on any given night – friends and neighbors catching up over a beer and wings at a quintessentially neighborhood bar. What makes it destination-worthy, however, is…well…pretty much everything.
Bolmer’s got an extensive menu of tasty brews – everything from Moonlight Brewery’s Death and Taxes to a British double chocolate stout, Bear Republic’s Hop Rod Rye Ale, Maui Coconut Porter, Moyland’s Irish Red and a selection of “vault” bottles from Belgium, DogFish Head in Delaware and elsewhere (the most expensive is $15.75 and most are under $10).
Paired with the beers is a menu of solid pub classics: Fish and chips, burgers, onion rings, hand-cut fries and their classic Cottage Pie with ground beef, porter and mashed potatoes. Noah insisted on the food being as good as the beer. “If it isn’t homemade, you’re at the wrong place,” he says.
Chimay Pretzel Chicken ($12), a chicken breast rolled in pretzels and topped with a creamy beer sauce deliver on the promise. Fish and Chips ($9.50) are two massive chunks of battered red snapper with plenty of crunch. The menu changes up frequently, however, and a winter dish of Sonoma Sausage bathed in butter, brandy and mustard cream sauce ($6) with sauerkraut is as comforting as a warm hug on a cold night. (See the menu)
Don’t miss the Guinness Mousse ($6) made with porter and dark chocolate, capped with a creamy head of white chocolate ganache and Mirjam’s freshly baked pretzels with stone ground mustard. Noah’s sure to find a beer to pair up nicely with whatever you’re craving.
Barley and Hops, 3688 Bohemian Hwy, Occidental, 707.874.9037.