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June 24, 2022

Fogbelt Station nears completion at depot

New Depot District attraction anticipates SMART

Healdsburg’s very own Depot District will soon have another attraction. And even if it’s several years until SMART comes to town, a new business will open on Hudson Street after many delays. Come July, expect the brews to flow and food to come out of the kitchen at Fogbelt Station, a Healdsburg beer garden along the tracks between Old Roma Station and the Healdsburg Depot.

Paul Hawley and Remy Martin established Fogbelt Brewery in 2013 after several years in the wine business—appropriately, as Paul’s father is John Hawley, whose own tasting room is downtown, and Remy’s dad is Dennis Martin, longtime winemaker at Fetzer. Both are also Healdsburg High graduates, and they worked a season together as wine interns at Kim Crawford in New Zealand in 2004.

“We were working the night shift, and we’d get off work about 7am and want a beer,” said Hawley at the Hudson Street location in its final stages of prepping for business. But even in New Zealand, 7am is an awkward time to go get a bottle of beer, so the two turned their talents to home brewing.

When they got back to California, Martin joined the master brewing program at UC Davis, and Hawley became more involved in his father’s wine business. A UCSC film school graduate, he co-wrote and co-directed (with Ross Clendenon) a parody of the millennial winery phenomenon, Corked (2009)—a quite funny mockumentary, post-Sideways and Bottleshock. It premiered at the Raven Theater and had a run on Netflix, and is currently available on YouTube.

But the force of beer is strong in these two, and soon they were throwing their talents into the art of brewing. With Martin’s expertise and Hawley’s business skills, they were able to open Fogbelt Brewing in Santa Rosa in early 2014, on Cleveland Avenue—where it’s still going strong.

When we visited the construction zone of the new Fogbelt Station in early June, Hawley was joined by the assistant brewer, JP Balatti, and soon-to-be chef Jose Miguel Smith. 

“Remy taught me to keep a very well-rounded board,” said Balatti. “Light beers, dark beers, IPAs, stouts, lagers. We barrel-aged some beers—sours are barrel-aged in wine barrels, and stouts are aged in spirits barrels.”

There’ll also be a kitchen serving beer-compatible food, with a different menu than what’s available in Santa Rosa. They’ll be no indoor dining, however—the bar and taps are outside on the Hudson Street side, where several tables will be set up beneath a large wood pergola. Additional seating will be on the track side of the red Great Northern Railway caboose, which adds to the “station” atmosphere of what will be Healdsburg’s newest beer garden. The two buildings overlook the Foss Creek Footpath that runs to the heart of Healdsburg.

That caboose has a story of its own, of course. Eric Ziedrich, former mayor and since 1985 owner and CEO of Healdsburg Lumber Co., picked up property along the defunct Northern Pacific railroad tracks in 2002, including what’s become a wine tourist magnet, Old Roman Station. “I purchased the Old Roma facility specifically to acquire this smaller section to use for the unloading of incoming truck freight and overflow inventory storage,” Ziedrich told the Healdsburg Tribune last week. 

But the historic railway bridge over the Russian River has yet to be rebuilt—it’s the major obstacle to SMART coming to town—and Ziedrich is in the process of moving  the whole operation to the south side of the bridge, down Healdsburg Avenue. All along, though, he held to a depot or railway theme for the commercial location. Finding an authentic caboose seemed like a good way to communicate that idea, but it wasn’t easy.  

Finally Chris Baldo of Willits, a connection in the lumber industry, “offered to sell a surplus caboose that he was storing in Willits,” said Ziedrich. In 2015, it was shipped to Healdsburg, where restoration contractor Clifford Grutze rebuilt it, adding a metal roof and rebuilding what he could not restore as he worked from photographs of the old Great Northern Railway cars. That rail never ran though Healdsburg, though—it primarily serviced the northern states from Minneapolis to Seattle. Grutze even installed 40 feet of track to give the caboose a place to rest, a task he swears he’ll never take on again.

The trackside location grew a custom second building constructed of container panels and an overhead pergola designed by local architect Mike Lindstrom, finished by Dale Construction. Ziedrich first considered turning the site into a coffee house for Healdsburg Lumber customers and staff, but he soon recognized morning lattes would not pay the bills. As he told us, “We connected with Paul Hawley and Remy Martin a number of years ago, as they were interested in expanding their operation into Healdsburg, and they signed a lease prior to Covid becoming part of our vocabulary.”

Now Fogbelt Station nears reality. Final health inspections of the kitchen are scheduled for later this month, and though Hawley wouldn’t put a firm date on it, the beer garden should open soon, perhaps sometime around Independence Day. That signature caboose? It’ll probably just be used for storage, but it’s going to be hard to keep the train enthusiasts out. 

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