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DINING

Beer country

Wine takes a back seat to Sonoma's sudsier offerings

Photo: Aldrin Capulong, License: N/A

Aldrin Capulong


Sonoma Draught House

100 S. Eola Drive
407-730-3400
$$

Sonoma” and “beer” seem about as mismatched a geo-libationary pair as “Bordeaux” and “Dr. Pepper,” but at the newly christened Sonoma Draught House in the Sanctuary condo in Eola Square, the suds nonetheless flow amid an ultra-lounge-meets-Ahwahnee-Lodge motif. Seems like the Beacon Hill Group, the folks that ran the upmarket Beacon Lounge in this very space when the Sanctuary first opened, are exercising Plan B – out with puma- and cougar-friendly sangrias, heirloom tomatoes and chèvre tarts, and in with pizza, beer and wings. The taproom concept is in keeping with the new direction the South Eola dining scene is taking, and provides a counterpoint to Mucho Tequila and Tacos across the cobblestone street. But the downscaling doesn’t equate to the Draught House being a gathering ground for boors, bumpkins and bruisers. Why, the Brit spelling of the word “draft” alone is enough to repel undesirables, but for all its attempts at surface sophistication, the Sonoma Draught House is wonderfully laid-back and unpretentious – qualities reflected in the wait staff, who were gracious and accommodating.

The enormous floor-to-ceiling photo-mural of a hard-partying sexagenarian with a wine bottle in one hand and a cigarette in the other was an amusing sight to behold. While it seemed she was feeling no pain, we did our best to stave off the uncomfortable pangs in our respective glutei from sitting on the stylish, yet impractical, metal stools while downing a plate of “Sonoma’s Own” wings ($8.95) under the light of a chandelier fashioned from wine bottles. The wings, plump and herbaceously aromatic with the scent of rosemary, oregano, basil and thyme, were singularly good. Along with a tower of beer-battered onion rings ($6.95) and a pint, the wings (available in five-spice and sweet-and-spicy versions as well) made a meal fit for the most discerning armchair quarterback. There are 49 brews available on tap and just as many available by the bottle, with a smaller selection of wines – even a few from Sonoma County.

Itching to sample one of their “Cast Iron” burgers, we were disappointed to learn that the exhaust fans in the kitchen weren’t operational and, as a result, any attempt to cook a burger would’ve resulted in a smoke-filled restaurant. So we went healthy, opting for a pressed multigrain sandwich with smoked turkey, arugula, plum tomato and Swiss cheese moistened with a light cranberry aioli ($8.95). It was a fine sandwich, nothing particularly special, but it tasted just a little too … healthy. Accompanying waffle fries were ho-hum, so we set our sights on their specialty “Stone Fire” pizza. In addition to being made with Grande mozzarella, the thin-crust pies, like the grilled spring vegetable pizza ($12.95), had the requisite wood-fired essence and were reminiscent of the well-done flatbreads at Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza. The slices passed muster the following day as well. Bar desserts don’t typically pass muster, but we polished off a fat puck of the altogether satisfying peanut butter explosion ($7).

The wraparound patio, one of the more inviting alfresco hangs in the city, is as popular as it was during the Beacon Lounge days. If patrons fill the seats inside as well, the Sonoma Draught House will be the shining light the Beacon Hill Group has sought for so long.

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