Green Scene

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"Green" Dean

Author: Dan Blake
October, 2012 Issue

Dean Biersch, owner of the popular Hopmonk Taverns in Sebastopol, Sonoma and soon to be in Novato, has made “green” beer more than something served on St. Patrick’s Day. Working with Sonoma County’s Heritage Salvage, Biersch uses reclaimed and recycled materials to create warm, friendly hospitality centers for his customers. If his burgeoning Hopmonk Tavern empire is a good indicator, he’s right on the mark.
Biersch recently finished a remodel on his original Sebastopol venue that added a new pergola featuring circa 1860s birch poles, a custom 20-foot bench, a second garden stage, along with beer garden tables and benches, all produced from 100 percent repurposed wood. In addition, brightly colored outdoor chairs and tables produced from recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE) embellish the fire pit zone. Two years ago, his Sonoma site used reclaimed bleacher seats for the bar and tables along with recycled newspapers for art décor. The new Novato enterprise promises further reclaimed surprises.
“When you’re creating a hospitality environment in a historical building, it makes sense to use materials from the same time period,” explains Biersch. “The craft of beer making has a long history and, when the materials used in our buildings have a similar history, they compliment one another. The quality of repurposed material tends to be superior to new products, and there’s the added benefit of making a space literally ‘feel’ older than it is. It’s an added comfort factor for our guests.”
Biersch admits that, as much as he loves repurposed old materials, he also finds himself drawn to materials that reflect current technology. “There are modern technologies that reflect where we are in this present time—especially in lighting, sound and design. The 100 percent recycled products available are absolutely amazing, and I love the juxtaposition between old and new.” Biersch enlisted Loll Design to fabricate chairs and tables to adorn the fire pit zone in Sebastopol. The colorful, durable outdoor furniture is made with superior grade recycled HDPE, a plastic resin used in products like milk jugs and detergent bottles. Loll Design recycled 8,344 milk jugs to make the furniture for Hopmonk’s Sebastopol site.
Michael “Bug” Deakin, founder of Petaluma’s Heritage Salvage worked with Biersch from the inception of Hopmonk and has acted as a mentor in the greening of the taverns. Deakin believes repurposing, reusing and recycling should be a daily part of our sustainable lives, and Biersch is one of his most successful acolytes. “Dean came to me when he started working on Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol,” says Deakin. “The guy just gets it. He understands that using reclaimed building materials is the right thing to do for the planet and his business, and he’s willing to pay extra for it if that’s what it takes.”
When developing a new project, Biersch explains, “One of the first things I’ll do is wander through the three-acre yard at Heritage Salvage with Bug just looking at what he has. When we were building the Sonoma Hopmonk, he had reclaimed bleachers in the yard. It was amazing wood. The bar in Sonoma that we made from that bleacher wood actually has the seat numbers and old graffiti on it along with stiletto high-heel marks from the days when women dressed up for sporting events.” According to Biersch, the bleacher wood gives the Sonoma Hopmonk venue a wonderful “lived in” feel. He’ll also be using bleacher wood for his new Novato Hopmonk Tavern, to be opened later this year.
Once Biersch and Deakin decide on the materials, they next have to figure out how to make them work in the particular venue. In many cases, the onsite craftsmen at Heritage Salvage can construct what Biersch envisions. Other times, Biersch will work with local contractors and subcontractors to lay down reclaimed wood floors or to erect old cedar fences around the beer gardens (as they did in the Sonoma location).
As he readies his third Hopmonk Tavern, Biersch has settled comfortably into a pattern. He looks for a historical building—or simply good, solid structural bones—and seeks to reset or reposition the space by using reclaimed and recycled building materials. He tries to blend history, old materials and newly recycled products into a pleasing environment that makes patrons comfortable. His mission is to serve good food made using fresh local products, delicious craft beer brewed by some of the country’s finest brewers and then finish it off with wonderful live local entertainment. It’s a recipe for responsible, sustainable success. “
Dean Biersch has been intimately involved in the craft beer/brewpub industry for 25 years. He helped create the microbrewing boom with his Gordon Biersch brand when he and partner Dan Gordon opened their first brewery restaurant in downtown Palo Alto in 1988. Almost 20 years later, Biersch opened the first Hopmonk Tavern in a historic building in downtown Sebastopol. Rather than focus on beer production, Hopmonk concentrates on specialty beers from great producers.
Lance Cutler is the publisher/owner of Wine Patrol Press, where he authored The Tequila Lover’s Guide to Mexico and Mezcal. He’s a contributing editor for Wine Business Monthly, where he also writes a monthly column as Jake Lorenzo. In addition to his writing career, Lance has worked as a winemaker in Sonoma County for 30 years.


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