If I hadn't lost the long-hair look last year, I'd have got even more of a kick out of one of Trade Brewing's few items of wall decor—that old sign that says, "Hippies use side door."
I did, in fact, find my way to the side door from one of the backstreets of old Napa. It's just one block off from new Napa.
Good thing, too, because I might have seen the closed sign and moved on if I'd parked by the front on busy First Street. Trade Brewing recently marked its first year open, but it's new to me. I must have driven by a dozen times since then and missed it entirely. Sunk below street grade, wedged in a corner by the railroad tracks, Trade occupies a humble little dwelling that formerly housed a dry cleaner, and sat vacant, I'm told by the bartender, who waves me in cheerily to peruse the beer board while she sets up tables for the afternoon crowd.
The crowd is mostly locals, I'm also told, plus tourists on their way to the Oxbow Market, but none of them crowd in for the hour that I'm there. They're missing out. Trade suds are crisp and on-style. Hatchet IPA is fruity, floral, blonde and dry; Pile Driver double IPA whispers, rather than rasps, about caramel malts and balanced hops; Ten Penny American brown ale is roasty enough with coffee aromas to almost wake me out of this beery reverie. A window-rattling toot from the Napa Valley Wine Train finishes that job.
There's a rich, dry Irish–style stout called Eighty Acre, and a saison-style semi-sour, I believe called What the Funk, that has a boozy vibe despite being aged in Sauvignon Blanc barrels—all contract-brewed at Mare Island Brewing Co. Should the low-key concept work out, a true brew pub at another location may be considered by the owners, who also run the popular Jax Diner down the street.
Pints are $6.47, and a sample of five, five-ounce pours is a reasonable $12, presented on a heavy wooden tray. As of press time, Trade appears to be one of the few roasted shishito-free zones available to North Bay brew fans, so hurry up and grab some Goldfish crackers for free, or order a fairly straightforward (needs more sauerkraut, if there was sauerkraut) but fairly tasty New Yorker ($12), a Reuben-style panini served with a side of potato chips. There's artisan charcuterie and cheese, and, yes, green salads, too—you know, hippie food.
Trade Brewing, 731 First St. Napa. Weekdays, 2–9pm; weekends, noon–9pm (last call, 8:45pm). 707.492.8223.