Ukiah, California. Two hours north of San Francisco in Mendocino County, where over 30% of its wine grape crop is grown organically, Ukiah Brewing Co. & Restaurant has become the first Brewpub and only the second restaurant in the United States to be certified organic. The California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) officially granted the family-owned small business their certification in July 2001. The brewpub joins Nora’s Restaurant in Washington, DC as the only other certified eatery in the country.
“It’s great to be recognized for some-thing that more people should be doing: paying attention to their food sources and supporting local small farmers and suppli-ers,” says Els Cooperrider, who owns the company along with her husband Allen. Cooperrider isn’t sure whether running the business or finding organic suppliers has been more difficult: “We’ve been in business for only one year, but we were out searching for organic suppliers long before we opened the doors. There just aren’t very many organic producers with enough quantity to supply food service operations.”
Her son Bret is the brewmaster, and all of his beers are organic, as well. “Finding organic ingredients to make beer was not easy, but in the last couple of years organic malts and hops have become more available,” he says.
Since the entire facility is certified organic, all of the ingredients used in the restaurant and brewery must be grown and produced on certified organic farms without the use of artificial or toxic chemicals. A long list of pesticides, food additives, and artificial preservatives is prohibited. Even cleaning and sanitization procedures must be monitored and enforced.
But a certified organic restaurant doesn’t just serve tofu burgers and sprouts. “People have the erroneous idea that organic food is bland, boring and vegetarian, and that’s just not true,” Cooperrider says. One of the most popular items on the menu is corned beef made without nitrites or other additives. They also serve plenty of pot roast, sausages, pizza and cream pies alongside organic green salads and pastas. Pub fare starts at $4.50 per plate and dinner entrees go up to $18.00. There’s a list of organically grown wines as well.
The Cooperriders roots go back over 40 years in Mendocino County, where Els’ father started a vineyard while her mother taught school in Ukiah. Els and husband Allen both worked as biologists across the West before returning to the county in 1990, a year before the California Organic Food Act passed and ten years before the USDA released their organic standards.
Ukiah Brewing Co. & Restaurant is located at 102 South State Street in Ukiah, just off Highway 101. Meals and brews are served seven days a week and live music often fills the space on Friday and Saturday nights. Telephone: (707) 468-5898.