101 North Brewing Co. of Petaluma closes after seven years

A partner blamed a poor location and increased competition that thwarted its ability to grow outside Sonoma County.|

Petaluma’s 101 North Brewing Co. is closing after seven years in business, ending its struggle to overcome a poor location in Petaluma and break into crowded retail markets outside Sonoma County.

The brewery, known for its flagship Heroine India pale ale and edgy label art on its bottles akin to a heavy-?metal album cover, will have one last celebration on Saturday afternoon before shutting.

“I have a big thank you for Sonoma County. It was the bread and butter of our business,” said John Lilienthal, the brewery’s regional sales manager and partner. “They were super supportive ... it was at least 80 percent of our revenue.”

The brewery was founded in September 2012 by a group of former Bear Republic employees, including brewmaster Joel Johnson.

Positive reviews helped the brand win slots in Safeway, Costco and about 80 local and regional pubs.

However, increased competition from local brewers throughout Northern California made it more difficult for the brewery to place its kegs in taprooms and its bottles on store shelves outside Sonoma County, Lilienthal said. Payments to distributors also increased its operating costs, reducing its profitability.

The brewery faced challenges generating enough revenue to support its six partners who were trying to earn a living from the business - a significantly larger group of founders than most brewery startups, he said.

“There was too many people to live off that small of a pie,” Lilienthal said.

Three years ago, 101 North opened a taproom at its brewery at 1304 Scott St. The location, however, was off North McDowell Boulevard and failed to attract many of the visitors going to nearby Lagunitas Brewing Co. and HenHouse Brewing Co., both located directly on the heavily trafficked corridor.

“We thought the taproom could offset it,” Lilienthal said. “It never did.”

101 North is the second brewery to shut down this year in Sonoma County, following the January closure of 2 Tread Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa Plaza. Still, there are new entrants looking for opportunity in the local brewing sector, which boasts about two dozen beer makers.

The new startups are focusing much more on hyperlocal markets. They include Parliament Brewing Co., which opened a taproom in Rohnert Park earlier this month, and Steele & Hops, which added a brewery in August to its Santa Rosa restaurant.

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223.

Bill Swindell

Business, Beer and Wine, The Press Democrat  

In the North Coast, we are surrounded by hundreds of wineries along with some of the best breweries, cidermakers and distillers. These industries produce an abundance of drinks as well as good stories – and those are what I’m interested in writing. I also keep my eye on our growing cannabis industry and other agricultural crops, which have provided the backbone for our food-and-wine culture for generations.

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