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Olde Sonoma changes with brews

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There is a plan floating around these days, proffered by the County of Sonoma, for an important facelift to the Springs area. The central corridor of the Springs, which parallels Highway 12, is slated for some big-time changes in the coming years. Community meetings are being held. Upon approval, monies will be spent to improve the slender strip running from Verano Avenue north to Depot Road.

About one third of the way up that corridor is the Fiesta Plaza Shopping Center, home of the Sonoma 9 Cinemas, several local shops and Old Sonoma Public House.

In 2010, Coley and Jo Thinnes took over a space that had been a Dollar Store and More, and a jewelry store called Una Joyeria before that. The space was remodeled completely. A sink and counter unit were purchased from a bar in Shelter Cove and carefully installed. A walk-in refrigerator, that has since been dubbed “Christopher Walk-In,” was installed. A beer tap system was brought in.

They added a familiar looking leather sofa purchased and brought over from the old Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack. It was moved into the pool room. Some dart boards, mirrors and other wall decorations were added. And Olde Sonoma Public House was finally opened for business.

Eight years later, Olde Sonoma Public House is still serving up delicious and hard-to-find brews from all over the beer world.

“People come here looking for specialty beers, something they can’t get anywhere else,” said Coley Thinnes.

Coley Thinnes‘s beer-making career began in the early days of Lagunitas Brewery. He was on the brew team at the original Ross Street location in Petaluma for eight years. Later, he was part of the crew that brewed the first batches at its current location on McDowell Boulevard. Coley helped create interesting and unique brews, including the yummy Brown Shugga.

“I learned about the art of brewing beer during my days at Lagunitas,” the thin and wiry Coley said.

One hoppy day, Coley was giving a tour of the facility to a group of teachers. A gal named Jo caught his eye, and two lives were changed. Jo and Coley were married in 2006. They live in Boyes Hot Springs, very near their pub.

Jo is an English teacher at Casa Grande High School in Petaluma. She spends her free time at the pub with the other seven employees.

After marriage and Lagunitas, Coley ran production at Iron Springs Brewery, in Fairfax. While there, he created Sless’ Oatmeal Stout, named after the excellent Marin County guitarist Barry Sless. Coley won a gold medal at the World Beer Cup with that creation.

While dreaming of opening Olde Sonoma, Coley and Jo decided to offer something unique. They envisioned a friendly place to gather. Their motto is, “Come for the beer, stay for the people.”

Christopher Walk-In chills down 32 beers in kegs and on tap and another 50 or so in bottles or cans. Olde Sonoma also offers non-alcoholic beverages. From Europe, beer lovers can sample beers from England, Ireland, Germany and Belgium. From south of the border, Mexico is represented with a couple selections.

The pride of the big chalk board is the selection of beers from Northern California. Old favorites such as Bear Republic, Lost Coast and even Pabst Blue Ribbon are available. New, mouth-watering offerings include Dogfish Head and 101 North Brewing Company.

For those who just can’t let go of the Wine Country idea, a small but thoughtfully curated wine list is offered.

Barkeep Casey Tatarian told of the day their first shipment of Russian River Brewing Company’s heavily-hyped Pliny the Younger was delivered.

“We were given one five gallon keg,” said Tatarian. “It was gone in 12 minutes.”

While there is no hot food offered at Old Sonoma, the Mexican eatery directly next door, Taqueria Sonoma, will deliver anything on its menu. Just sit in the sunshine outside, or inside the pub itself, and the staff of Taqueria Sonoma will bring it right to you. In fact, food from any commercial kitchen can be brought in and enjoyed at Olde Sonoma.

The Thinnes had hoped to offer live music regularly for their patrons. They did for a few years, but that program is on haitus. Soon, they plan to offer karaoke every other Thursday.

Olde Sonoma is open daily from 11 a.m. to midnight. Seating is indoors and outdoors, and four TVs, usually showing sporting events, are trained toward the watchful eyes of patrons.

Of his role as owner of Olde Sonoma, Coley Thinnes said: “I love it. I wake up excited, thinking about the new beers we’re going to hook up. I am excited to go to work.”

Let’s hope that the county leaves the Olde Sonoma Public House alone. People love it just the way it is.