.Bocce and Brews – San Rafael’s Ounces Outdoors

By Jane Vick

Bocce and fire pits and dogs. It’s a Northern Californian’s dream beer garden, and it’s open for business. Say hello to Ounces Outdoors, the newest edition to San Rafael’s ever-growing local food scene.

Ounces Outdoors, located at 5800 Northgate Dr, is the dream manifest of Jojo Lawrence and Waz Hewerdine, a Brit and Aussie who have a serious thing for beer, dogs and bocce ball. This outdoor beer garden includes three repurposed shipping containers—one of which is now the bar—furniture designed and built by Hewerdine, Lawrence and team, and a beautiful selection of local beer and cider.

I had a chance to chat with Hewerdine himself last week on the ins and outs of the endeavor, and their plans now that the taps are flowing and the bocce balls are rolling.

Pacific Sun: Firstly, I’d love to know, why bocce ball?

Waz Hewerdine: A big part of the vision for Ounces Outdoors, from the beginning, was experience. More than just a beer. We wanted something to encourage participation and socializing, and bocce hit the spot. You can play with a beer in hand, it’s social and informal, and anyone can play it.

PS: Where does it come from?

WH: It’s attributed to Italy, but I believe it originated somewhere else…I’m not a champion or anything, but it’s communal, it’s social, it’s not serious. That’s what we wanted.

PS: How many beers do you have on tap at the moment?

WH: We have 18 taps, but we don’t have them all kegged yet. We’re focusing on a smaller curated selection. Eleven beers and three ciders. Our beer selection is focusing on small batch local breweries, and we’d like to focus on two or three at a time, bridging enough of their beers in to really show them off. Right now, we have Fog Belt, Adobe Creek, Pond Farm, and for cider, Goat Rock. We’re keeping things very local. Because they’re small breweries, we expect new beers every week. We’ve already rotated since we’ve been open. The whole idea is to keep rotating, both weekly and seasonally. Crushable beers in the summer, heavier porters and stouts in the winter. And as I said, we’re very local-centric.

PS: So who is Waz Hewerdine?

WH: Ha, I’ve been trying to figure that out myself for quite some time! I’m born and bred in Australia, and my background is in tech. I came over to the states 20 years ago and lost directions to the airport, so I’ve never left. Jojo and I met 12 years ago while working together at a small company I’d founded that provided GPS systems to kids and families who participate in geocaching. We’ve been friends since, and it was such a rewarding experience watching these kids run around and participate in something fun as a result of the product we’d built, that we decided we wanted to work on something that was ours, something that could give back to the greater community, rather than something for ourselves. We want to feel that same satisfaction watching kids run around and enjoy what we’ve made when we look out at the community hanging out at Ounces.

PS: How did the process of getting Ounces off the ground go?

WH: It went well, but disjointed. We signed the lease in February of 2020, and we all know what happened then. So it kept us busy for sure. Supply chain issues, rising costs, Covid, everything was extended. But we got there. All the furniture we designed and built ourselves. The biggest challenge was finding the right contractors to work with the shipping containers, because they’re outfitted in a way that not every contractor can handle. Our kitchen, office and bar are all in refurbished shipping containers. We love the idea of repurposing and recycling.

PS: And tell me about the “Home Grown National Park” in the garden?!

WH: Yes, I definitely want to talk about that! So rather than random planting, we really wanted to consciously do something helpful. We found Home Grown National Parks, a nonprofit encouraging people to plant native plants that assist with insect and wildlife health in the area, encouraging pollinators and things like that to thrive. We worked with them, and as a result our main planting area, around our water feature, is listed on the Home Grown National Parks list! There will be a QR code next to the fountain garden, where people can learn all about the different plants and the Home Grown National Parks mission. Our spot features Allen Chickering sage, monkey flower—jellybean, foothill penstemon—margarita bop, California fuchsia and a mix of California wildflowers.

PS: What can we look forward to at Ounces in its first year ?

WH: Just like with the bocce ball courts, we want to bring community and families together and offer them experiences beyond the beer garden. Trivia nights, movie nights, beer and food pairings, planet viewing nights, collaborating with nonprofits in the area—we’re looking to set up a revolving set of opportunities for the community to participate in going forward. Stay on the lookout!

PS: Lastly, is there an amusing anecdote you have to share with me, preferably involving a dog, as they play such a star role in the Ounces Outdoors ethos?

WH: Hmm, an amusing anecdote…well, nothing is coming to mind, but, the truth be known? The most popular member of our crew is Stitch, a mini Aussie shepherd! Most people have definitely met and know Stitch, and they are working on getting to know us as well. He’s definitely a main character at Ounces.
For more information on events and hours, visit www.ouncesoutdoors.com.
Local Breweries on Tap at Ounces

This Santa Rosa Brewery was founded in 2013 by Sonoma County locals Paul Hawley and Remy Martin, and is named after the area along the Northern California coast where the coast redwood trees grow, in a unique ecosystem born from the proximity to the coast known as the fog belt. Their West Slope Hazy IPA and Sapling Crushable Ale are a true testament to their dedication to and love for the craft of brewing beer. www.fogbeltbrewing.com

Based in Marin County, with locations in Novato and Petaluma (which rides that line between Sonoma and Marin County), Adobe Creek has been in operation since March of 2017, producing small batch beers that focus on flavor and incline hop-forward. Their Breakfast Bowl Golden Stout, brewed with specialty Guatemalan coffee beans, Madagascar vanilla beans, cinnamon and lactose is a triumphant journey for the tastebuds. Cereal, with a buzz. www.adobecreekbrewing.com

Pond Farm comes from husband and wife team Stephanie and Trevor Martens and their Devil’s Gulch hazy IPA won a bronze medal at the 2019 Great American Beer Festival. www.pondfarmbrewing.com

The miraculous idea of Paul Hawley and Trevor Zebulon, Goat Rock Cider Company provides a bone dry, naturally carbonated cider made from organic apples and with zero sulfates. Try the Bramble made with organic apples and blackberries, or the Guavicot, made from organic apples, guava and apricots. www.goatrockciders.com


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