As I traipse up and down a strip of Commerce Blvd., the first question I have about Old Caz is not whether the brewery’s namesake is a “who” or a “what,”—it’s a “where?” Where, oh where is Old Caz?
Rohnert Park’s first homegrown microbrewery isn’t easy to find. They’ve temporarily lost the street sign that I’m looking for somewhere in the vicinity of where I last thought I saw it. But I do find a sign of changing times for this light-industrial, former-nowheresville when I have to pop my head into a craft distillery to ask directions to the microbrewery.
Old Caz cofounders Tom Edwards and Bryan Rengel say they’re mostly welcomed by the city, which has big plans to give this part of town a “there.” They’re certainly welcomed by the small crowd in the shoebox taproom, filling up on hazy IPA at barely past 3pm.
“It has to be a crushable beer,” says Rengel, regarding his top concern when showing a beer to new accounts. Their RPX hazy pale ale is crushable enough, while the Free Craig’s hazy IPA takes it up to grapefruit-shandy-level crushability. Edwards, who’s worked as a brewer at Bear Republic Brewing Co., says that the haze comes from lots of oats and wheat, not adjuncts. The hopping style is juicy and low in bitterness.
The two friends met on the Sonoma State University rowing team, and also explored the county by bicycle. That’s where Old Caz comes in. Old Cazadero Road is a little Russian River lane that wends through the woods and is said to offer primo cycling, when it’s not washed away down the hillside.
Cavedale porter is named after a vertiginous Sonoma Valley route that’s best tackled in the cooler seasons. Light on the roast, it’s a mild brown ale—think Lost Coast Downtown Brown or the near-impossible-to-find Pyramid Brewing Snow Cap—well suited to post-ride refreshment in almost any season.
The easy-drinking Upcycle West Coast IPA is a nod to the business model: almost everything here was free on craigslist, or procured on the cheap. Rengel uses a makers’ space to create do-it-yourself signage. And the fallout from some else’s overheated moment in brewing nets them great equipment, with comparatively little investment from friends and family.
Meanwhile, Edwards brews at Fogbelt in Santa Rosa, while they put together a brewery, one step at a time, with hard work and no frills.
“We’ve suffered like dogs,” says Edwards.
“But you can do pretty well on coffee and beer,” adds Rengel.