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The Powerhouse lies near the center of town in Sebastapol but between two one-way streets, so some attention to navigation is required to locate the building and its free parking. A completely "non-smoking establishment", cigarette smoking is tolerated on the outdoor back deck. The interior consists of one large open room where wood and black steel beams span the width of the building while angled supports buttress the roof 25 feet above. Heating and cooling ducts blend into the overhead background as glass-domed incandescent lamps supplement the natural light entering from the abundant widows. Speakers above the centered bar area provide Jazz music at comfortable levels for listening and conversation. Jazz is also the theme of the framed prints that decorate the walls, joined by hanging Mardi Gras and voodoo banners. The light wood tables and chairs rest on gray concrete floors surrounded by light yellow walls. Bench seats accommodate high density crowds in the dining area.

Beyond the medium-sized bar lies more seating, an outdoor patio, and most importantly, the brewhouse. Cramped in the floor space of 15 by 20 feet, the only way to grow was up and that's what the brewery has done. The seven-barrel John Cross (CDC) system features gas heat and Clean-In-Place (CIP) fittings on all vessels, both fixed and portable. Six seven-barrel Grundy tanks complement the stainless steel brew vessels. The fermenters started life as normal Grundys but cleaver welding by a local company has extended their capacity and their height while augmenting them with positive temperature control via glycol jacketed cooling. Last year's production was 350 barrels and this year's should be about double that, with the current brewing regimen of two to three brews per week. The brewer juggles two yeast strains to produce his six different beers. Being blessed with city water similar to that found in Edinburgh means no water treatment is required. Hardly a model of automation, single sacks of grain must be lugged around by hand to fill the mash tun and later, tedious plate filtering is employed to clarify the beers. The brewery currently self-distributes to 12 local draught accounts, thanks to a new on-site keg storage area.

The "breathing-friendly" environment means it's easy for flavors to come across and the food menu shows off the lineup. Appetizers are $3 to $7, dominated by beer-battered fare such as the glowing High Voltage Wings. Salads range from $4 to $7; Sandwiches $6 to $7; Bowls and Plates $4 to $9, including Red Beans & Rice, and Fish & Chips. Pastas such as Smoked Salmon run $10 to $12, with daily dinner specials. The restaurant seats 164, with space for another 81 throughout the brewpub. The great French bread and fresh ingredients make soups and sandwiches a popular choice with the busy lunch crowd.

The Blonde Ale (5.3% ABV) is a clean gold color with a nice smooth body to accompany a flavor of subtle malt and lingering hops. The Wheat (5.0%) is an American-style wheat, straw colored, it is well-carbonated with a light body and a crisp and tangy flavor saturated by pleasant hops from start to finish. The ESB (5.4%) is a dark gold color, medium-bodied, and with a pronounced hop flavor and aftertaste. The IPA (6.2%) is a dark amber with a nice hop-over-malt flavor matched well with the medium body. The Porter (5.6%) offers a lasting dark, creamy head with a medium body, full mouthfeel, sharp dry malty flavor and a very dry clean finish. The Powerhouse Ale (8%) is labeled a "Winter Warmer". The dark amber color and creamy head attempt to conceal the fruity, estery aromas and the smooth malty flavor of this medium-bodied, slightly sweet but very impressive ale.

This ex-streetcar power house is a welcome addition to the sleepy town of Sebastapol. The interior is wheelchair accessible and the prices fairly agreeable: $3 a pint, $10 a pitcher, $1.25 for 12 ounces, $0.50 for 4 ounces, and $2.50 for samplers. Hours are Noon to 10 pm Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Noon to 11 pm Thursdays, Noon to 12 am Fridays and Saturdays, and 10:30 to 10 pm Sundays. Stop by for the food, beer and music and take home a tie-dyed T-shirt. You may even see a bagpipe band march through.

268 Petaluma Ave.
Sebastapol, CA

Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - August, 1997

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