by Tanya Henry
There are no large flat-screen TVs at Novato’s Baeltane Brewing pub and tasting room. “We want people to talk to each other,” explains Cathy Portje, who along with her partner and brewer Alan Atha own and operate their two-and-a-half-year-old neighborhood brewery in Bel Marin Keys.
A Celtic theme runs through the small, inviting storefront, where a few chunky wooden tables, a four-seat bar and outdoor patio can seat up to 30 people. Twelve gleaming tap handles emblazoned with the brewery’s distinctive name leave no question that this is a beer lover’s haven, and everything from the lettering on their labels, to their outdoor sign gives a nod to the couple’s love for all things Gaelic.
“I think each one of our beers has its own personality,” says Portje, deciphering their tagline, “A Tale in Every Glass.” The couple focuses on Belgian-style ales, including their most popular brew, Citroen Farmhouse, a perfect hot weather beer with tangy citrus notes and wheat overtones. Their golden-hued Luminesce Tripel has an alcohol content of 10 percent and offers a potent, malty experience that is expected from this style of Belgian beer. Given our love of IPAs in this region, it’s not surprising that Baeltane’s Rumpelstiltskin Double IPA is one of their best sellers.
As far as breweries go, Baeltane is small. They have a three-barrel system with a 23-barrel fermentation capacity. But size is relative—it wasn’t that long ago that Portje and Atha were making beer out of their home. After entering a number of competitions—and specifically one during San Francisco Beer Week—they received so much positive feedback that they decided to step it up from their garage to a professional operation.
While Atha is busy with new recipes and brewing, Portje runs the tasting room and financial side of the business. She hasn’t quit her day job as a medical social worker in Walnut Creek, but it likely won’t be long before the word gets out about these tasty Lowcountry-style brews right here in our own backyard.
Baeltane Brewing & Tasting Room, 401-B Bel Marin Keys Blvd., Novato; 415/883-2040; baeltranebrewing.com.