3 Disciples Brewing opens brewpub in downtown Santa Rosa

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A month after one downtown brewpub abruptly closed, another taproom has opened to compete in the ultra-competitive Sonoma County craft beer market.

3 Disciples Brewing Co. started tapping beers over the weekend north of Old Courthouse Square on Mendocino Avenue. The brewpub, adjacent to the Tipsy Taco and Cantina restaurant, has nine of its beers on tap, from the ubiquitous India pale ales to an imperial stout aged in rye whiskey barrels.

“It was gangbusters,” co-owner James Claus said of the opening.

Claus and his partners, Matt Penpraze and Luke Melo, have built their brand over five years through word of mouth at local taprooms throughout the county. The brewery has been operating a small production space in Sebastopol where Claus has refined his beers and earned four medals at last year’s notable local Battle of the Brews competition.

“The big advantage for doing beer festivals is driving traffic to your taproom. We have been kind of missing out on the opportunity,” Claus said. “It only made sense to have a taproom.”

The trio found the vacant space at 501 Mendocino Ave., where they renovated the property with subtle motifs that play on its biblical name, and hope to grow along with efforts to revitalize downtown Santa Rosa. It is a large taproom that can hold 250 guests, allowing for pop-up restaurants offering food and space for bands to perform.

“I think we are in a good spot right now where we can focus on steady growth, and find our place in the market,” Claus said. All three partners have quit their other jobs to focus on the brewpub, and they have been able to pay off the cost of their brewing equipment, he said. They do plan to eventually add a kitchen to serve food.

Their strategy is much different than 2 Tread Brewing Co., which closed last month at the Santa Rosa Plaza. Those brewery owners did not have much connection to the local brewing scene when they opened in September 2017 and spent a lot of money to extensively renovate the former Fresh Choice restaurant site with a microbrewery, kitchen and an outdoor beer garden.

Even with a national slowdown of craft beer sales, new entrants like 3 Disciples are entering the local market which already includes about 30 breweries. Napa vintner Jean-Charles Boisset and two other partners plan to open the Windsor Brewing Co. in Windsor this year. And Seismic Brewing Co. of Santa Rosa will open a brewpub at The Barlow in Sebastopol.

Like Cooperage Brewing Co. and HenHouse Brewing Co., 3 Disciples plans to rotate its beer lineup to have new offerings. “We know that it works,” Claus said.

One particular focus will be on expanding its saison lineup, a lighter pale ale with a lower alcohol level. HenHouse has had success with its saison and Russian River Brewing Co. has started making its own at its new Windsor brewery.

3 Disciples already has one dry-hopped saison beer on tap.

“I would like two to three saisons on all the time,” Claus said. “Our ultimate goal to get cult following for a beer they (customers) love but not a lot of people are making.”

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