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How Two College Friends Created a Beloved Sonoma County Brewery [Q&A with Old Caz Beer Founder Bryan Rengel]

Headshot of Bryan Rengel with a photo of beer cans and the text "local business spotlight on Old Caz Brewery"Long before Old Caz Brewery ever brewed its first batch, Bryan Rengel and Tom Edwards were college friends who just loved drinking beer.

In the years that followed, the duo turned passion, dedication, some creativity, and a whole lot of elbow grease into one of Sonoma County’s most renowned local breweries.

Today, Old Caz is celebrating the fourth anniversary of its first taproom and is getting set to open the doors of its second with a brand-new location in SOMO Village.

We spoke with Bryan, the brand’s Co-Founder and Head of Sales, to hear about the Old Caz story, learn about the brand’s brewing philosophy, discover a few of his favorite Old Caz beers, and find out what to expect from their forthcoming taproom. 

SOMO Village: The Old Caz story is a lot of fun. Can you share it with those who aren’t familiar? 

Bryan Rengel: This all started quite a while back. My business partner, Tom, and I went to college just down the road at Sonoma State. We were on the rowing team together and got to know each other pretty well. 

We split ways after college, and Tom got really into home brewing. 

He would tell me, “This is the coolest—we used to just drink the beer, but now I can make it and drink it.” 

He was so passionate about beer that he wanted any job that was close to it. So, he took a graveyard shift mopping floors at the Budweiser plant.

From there, he then went over to Bear Republic, working his way up from cleaning tanks to becoming a brewer there. 

In the meantime, I graduated from Sonoma State and got certified to be an underwater welder. I moved to Louisiana, worked on oil rigs, and was a contractor for the Navy. Work eventually slowed down, so I moved to Alaska, where I was a captain of an underwater gold dredge. 

It was my second summer in Alaska when I got a call from Tom: “Hey, man, we used to joke about starting a brewery. I’ve got a bunch of recipes and I’m putting a business plan together. Do you actually want to do this?”

And I was totally in. 

We went from drinking some of the worst, cheapest beer we could find in college to brewing some of the best beer in Northern California.

The Old Caz brewing philosophy really speaks to the brand and the experience of visiting your taproom. Would you explain it?

Two men looking at beer cans

Bryan Rengel and Tom Edwards

Our brewing philosophy really goes back to our college days. 

When Tom and I were roommates, our house was the party house, and our rule was that whenever we had a party, everyone was invited. 

It’s the same now with Old Caz: we want to make as many different types of beer as we can to bring as many different types of people together as possible. 

So, we have IPAs, pale ales, pilsners, Mexican lager, dark beers, kettle sours, hard seltzers, and non-alcoholic options. 

Our whole philosophy is that we want to brew “super crushable beer.” 

This is a beer that you’d order without necessarily knowing about it, drink it, enjoy it, and then get another one… and then probably a third, too—that’s a super crushable beer.

And then on the non-alcoholic side, we want something more interesting than offering soft drinks as options. 

So, we’ve brought in other options like Kvass—it’s similar to Kombucha, but made from fermented vegetables instead of fermented tea. We have a lime, electrolyte-infused Kvass non-alcoholic option which is really good. So, even if beer isn’t your thing, there are other options—we want everyone to feel welcome and enjoy their time at Old Caz.

We’re excited about your expansion into SOMO Village. What can you tell us about it? 

Our current location is close to SOMO Village, just about a mile or two away. We plan to keep the messy and noisy beer-making here and then have a nice, clean retail and tasting room at SOMO Village. 

We were connected to SOMO Village through some mutual friends and colleagues. I was having a conversation at a pool party and chatting about how SOMO Village could use a taproom because it would bring people in. Then it just grew from there! 

We’re excited to be in a central spot in SOMO Village. Our current taproom is tucked away behind a bunch of auto shops—people keep finding it and know we’re there, but it’s also exciting to be somewhere where there’s a lot of people and a lot going on. 

How will the two taprooms compare? 

Old Caz BreweryThe SOMO Village spot and our original taproom are pretty different—the current location is an old commercial warehouse but the new space is a really cool, modern, and clean development. However, we’ll definitely be bringing our signature DIY, homegrown style and aesthetic into the new space.  

When Tom and I started, we were just two 30-year-old dudes without any money, so we used the “free Craigslist business model.” We got free stuff online, used equipment, pulled things out of dumpsters, and refurbished it to get it all working. 

It’s honestly crazy to think of what we did with so few resources. We started a brewery with $150,000, which is virtually impossible here in Northern California where everything’s so expensive. Typically you’d need at least a million dollars. 

We were really creative through the process—our taproom was a big empty room and Tom and I built everything ourselves. The only new things we bought were TVs, glassware, and barstools. Everything else was scraps or free stuff we found.

We’re currently building the bars and tables for the new SOMO Village spot and are using the exact same leftover hardwood flooring for all the tops to maintain the same style and vibe. 

So, this is the next step in our evolution—if Old Caz was a baby, then we’re growing up and growing into this new location. It’s going to be awesome.  

What are Old Caz’s most iconic and popular beers? 

Our most popular beers are the ones you have to try. 

We’ve got the Free Craigs, a tropical hazy IPA named after the free Craigslist business model. It’s killer—a super crushable, very drinkable beer. 

The other one is our West Coast IPA, the One Way. It’s lighter and doesn’t have a bitter taste like a lot of other IPAs. It has light and citrusy hops. IPAs don’t have to be these bitter bombs they often are—they can be light and crushable and still have the alcohol content. 

The last recommendation is one of our kettle sours—the Lavender Radler is my favorite. It’s a kettle sour infused with roasted lavender lemonade. I’m not a sour beer drinker, but it’s so, so good. It’s really light and just perfect on a warm day or something—it’s perfect.

Stay tuned for Old Caz’s new taproom in SOMO Village, coming Spring 2024. Stay up-to-date with them online via their website and Facebook page. In the meantime, head to Old Caz’s taproom at 5626 State Farm Drive #17 in Rohnert Park to try out any of their amazing brews.

Learn More About SOMO Village

If you’re interested in living in a sustainable community that fuses the best of city living with the country lifestyle and all the amazing things that Sonoma County has to offer, we invite you to visit SOMO Village. To learn more, download our residential project brief or get in touch with us today.

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