When Sheryl and I moved to Santa Rosa, we were excited to be living in California, but we were also excited to explore the local craft beer scene. As you know, we travel far and wide to find delicious locally brewed craft beer. We had access to a lot of great beer in SW Florida, but now we have access to well established breweries like Russian River Brewing Company, Bear Republic Brewing Company and Lagunitas Brewing Company. There are also a lot of small breweries in town like Cooperage Brewing Company, Plow Brewing Company and Fogbelt Brewing Company. In an effort to visit them all, we discovered Parliament Brewing Company in Rohnert Park, California.
One night we drove down, grabbed a seat at the bar, and ordered a flight. We had a good conversation with the bartender, and ended up meeting Justin Bosch, the brewmaster. We talked for a bit and I mentioned my blog. A few days later we were talking via email and he agreed to an interview. We headed back down on a day they were closed, but Justin was brewing. We spent time together, learned more about the brewery, his beers, his education and his plans for expansion. Did you know a group of owls is called a “parliament?” Justin talks about that, too! This was a fun interview and I enjoyed seeing Justin in his element. It is my pleasure to introduce you to Justin Bosch. Cheers!
Give me an overview of Parliament Brewing Company. Where is it located and what kind of beers are you brewing?
Parliament Brewing Company exists so that we can brew beers that we love and share them with our neighbors. We love the usual hoppy suspects, but we’re most excited about what we want to see better represented. Mixed culture saisons, wine barrel aging, and more blending. One of my favorite beers is our American brown ale, which hits so many fun notes: malty, toasty, cola, earthy, and mint, but still with a dry finish that makes the hops pop.
Do you offer flights or just full pours?
We offer full pours, 5 oz pours, and flights (any four 2 oz pours).
I am obsessed with Untappd. Do you use Untappd?
We do. As beer drinkers, we like that it helps us remember our impressions, including what beers we were drinking adjacently to others. As brewers, we like that it invites honest feedback and keeps people excited about what we’re doing.
Tell me about some of the beers you have on tap. I really enjoyed Gose Uh? And Solitary Owl Series: Citra.
Thank you. The gose was a fun one. While fruited kettle sours are lovely – and we now have one in play again – a plain old gose lets us seek balance across a lot of different flavors. That’s really what drives all of our beers – balance. One of the best measures of balance is whether you want another sip when you set your glass down. Alcohol, bitterness, and sweetness in particular offer obstacles in the way of achieving balance, so we have a lot of fun finding it at all different levels and in all different styles.
Right now, we are adding a new IPA with citra and Idaho 7. We’re also about to add the third iteration in our hop chronicles series, which is driven by an experimental approach to water chemistry, hop combinations, and fermentation.
Speaking of owls, what’s the story there? They are in your logo and I’m pretty sure I saw some photos on my way the restroom the last time I was here.
You did. They’re everywhere. A parliament is a group of owls. We connected with that name because it conveys community, contemplation, and fun. Beer brings us together. Beer brewing is pretty serious stuff, but beer drinking should be fun.
Do you really have a friend from Vermont?
Unfortunately, Mike moved to Massachusetts while the beer was on tap. but I refuse to change the name to that multisyllabic mess. Mike is a good friend from beer school who ended up at a startup brewery in VT. He’s a really bright and funny guy who kindly visited us and helped brew that beer.
Are you planning to release more beers in the Solitary Owl Series? With the amount of hops out there, you could have some fun with that series.
Absolutely. We’re in love with the idea of series. It creates continuity and gives people a stake in what we’re doing long term. With all of the great hop breeding, we have so many more hops that can carry the whole show.
Are you planning to bottle or can anytime soon?
We plan to can when we are doing about 3x the volume we are now. That means we aim to can by roughly late summer. We will also bottle some of our barrel aged beers as they become ready.
Where do you come up with ideas for a new beer? Do you just Google recipes or are you out there trying to create your own masterpiece?
I’m constantly impressed and inspired by what I try from other breweries. Seeing what other people do sparks my creativity. I am also constantly assessing our beer and asking how we can make it better. As brewers, we have so many opportunities to improve our beer. Water, malt, hops, and yeast alone provide unimaginable opportunity, and that’s before we even touch on adjuncts, barrel aging, carbonation, serving temperature, glassware, and everything else.
Are you planning to add food in the future, or is beer your main focus?
I would love to be able to serve food, but our goal is to focus on beer. We are working with Rohnert Park to be able to host food trucks. We currently welcome any outside food.
Are your beers being distributed anywhere else, or do we have to come to the brewery to drink them?
It’s all at the brewery for now. This lets us ensure you’re drinking the best version of our beer.
Your water station is really cool… I’ve never seen both still and carbonated water as an option before. Who came up with that idea? I love it!
Carbonated water is really refreshing. It really doesn’t take a lot of CO2 to make water sparkle, and we have a lot of CO2. As our whole approach right now is to bring people into our tap room, this was one of the ways we sought to create a really distinctive, comfortable experience.
What are some of your favorite breweries in Sonoma County?
We have a really awesome beer culture in Sonoma County. We’re very lucky to be joining this community and to have an audience that’s already knowledgeable and excited about craft beer. We owe a lot of that to some of the earlier players like Russian River and Third Street Ale Works, and we owe a lot to all of the other breweries for continuing to put out excellent beer. In 2019 Sonoma County, consumers are looking for craft beer. In another market, we’d have to expend more energy introducing ourselves and arguing why we’re a worthy alternative to macro beers.
Is the brewery dog friendly?
Absolutely. We love dogs.
The last time we were in we had a great time. But that isn’t always the case. How do you handle negative reviews whether on the experience or on the beer? Would be hard not to take that stuff personal.
Beer is the reason we’re here, but ultimately it’s about creating a great experience for people. Both our product and our service are our top priorities. We feel fortunate that social media helps us learn both about what we’re doing well and where we can improve. Every criticism is an opportunity to be better. Since opening, based on feedback, we have added acoustic dampening panels, allowed kids, begun offering tastes, and added flights. While we have to remember that all of our decisions – including in how we conceive and create beer – came from careful consideration, we learn so much from the people who visit us. It is about making them happy. We aim always to remain humble and open-minded.
Who taught you how to brew? Did you have a mentor or did you just figure it out along the way?
As it did for many others, it all started for me with a homebrew kit. I began by tinkering with existing recipes, brewing with friends on weekends. As I realized now much freedom there was to influence the beer at so many stages, I became obsessed, involuntarily trading sleep for time spent imagining better beer. In 2014, I did the Master Brewers Certificate Program at University of California, Davis. Since then, I’ve enjoyed the counsel of many friends in the industry locally and nationally.
Have you ever been to the Great American Beer Festival?
Have you ever made a mistake while brewing? If so, do you just dump the beer, or are you able to save it and create something else?
We will never serve a beer we don’t enjoy. While we absolutely make mistakes, mistakes range from insignificant to ruinous.. Some of the best and most famous beers were born from mistakes (Arrogant Bastard Ale being a good example). Beer itself arguably resulted from the mistake of letting grain spoil. Some mistakes barely register; others might shift ABV up or down a few tenths of a point. Few mistakes are so catastrophic that a beer has no place in our lineup. If at the end of the process we have a beer we can stand behind, we’ll happily offer it to you. If we do not, we would not trade our reputation for a small volume of beer. It’s just not worth it.
What’s next for Justin Bosch?
I am so grateful, excited, and humbled every day. Right now, we have so much to do to make this space, this beer, and this experience the best they can be.
Thank you for doing this. In all of the interviews I do, I always give the artist the last word. Go.
While beer is the reason we’re here, the friendships we’ve already made with so many people have made this worthwhile. It is such an honor to share our beer with so many people. Beer really is about community for us. Working as a family has brought us closer, and serving our neighbors has introduced us to so many other beer lovers. We are so honored to have this chance, and we will always strive to earn the trust and patronage of our guests.
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