Grav South Brew Co. in Cotati to close as a result of losses from COVID-19

The brewery is another notable closure in Sonoma County’s craft beer industry as a result of the economic effects from the COVID-19 pandemic.|

Grav South Brew Co., a Cotati brewpub started by a former firefighter who turned his passion for home brewing into a second career, will close Nov. 13.

The brewery becomes another notable closure in Sonoma County’s craft beer industry as a result of the economic effects from the COVID-19 pandemic. Steele and Hops, the Santa Rosa restaurant and brewery on Mendocino Avenue, closed July 3 after six years in business. In Marin County, Marin Brewing Co. closed in January as a result of lost income from COVID-19.

“We’ve been trying really hard to recover since the pandemic started. At some point, you got to know when to call it a day,” said Greg Rasmussen, who partnered with friend Corinne Barclay to open Grav South in September 2016.

The brewery had a strong lineup of beers as Rasmussen ― who served as a fire captain with the Forestville Fire Department ― had won 150 medals in brewing competitions before going into the business, including winning the competitive Samuel Adams’ LongShot American Homebrew contest in 2015. Before the pandemic, it also served its own food items.

“The beers were really good. I really liked their dark beers, particularly,” said Herlinda Heras, an international beer judge from Sonoma County and host of a beer program on KSRO radio. Heras noted the brewery also helped out the local chapter of the Pink Boots Society, a nonprofit group that supports more women working within the beer industry.

But the pandemic proved to be too much of a challenge, especially at the onset when breweries had to pivot more to to-go packs to be sold at either at their own location or on the shelves of local retailers. Grav South had only a small three-barrel brewing system for production of canned beers and could not keep up with demand.

“If you run out and if you have a shelf spot, they’ll put somebody else in that spot and you will not be able to get back in,” Rasmussen said. “It was competitive.”

Rasmussen also acknowledged that the brewery’s location did not make it easy for customers to find because it was tucked into a small shopping center next to Highway 101 and Highway 116 that could be easily missed by commuters.

“I think our main problem was that people in Cotati, probably 80% of them, didn’t even know we existed,” he said.

Sonoma County is home to more than 20 breweries and regarded as one the best spots in the country to drink beer. But the pandemic has challenged the industry.

For example, Third Street Aleworks in Santa Rosa earlier this year eliminated of its own food operation to focus on opening a new production facility and now has food pop-up Bayou on the Bay providing meals. Moonlight Brewing Co. owner Brian Hunt this spring brought in industry veteran Patrick Rue as a partner to his 30-year-old Santa Rosa brewery to help guide growth for the future.

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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