Once Upon a Brew Pub: Moylan’s Brewery and Restaurant

In the rolling hills of Marin County lies the small city of Novato, home of Moylan’s Brewery and Restaurant. Brendan Moylan, the co founder of Marin Brewing Company in Larkspur, CA opened the brewery in 1995. Brendan started home extension brewing after college and attended extension brewing classes at UC Davis.

Denise Jones is the brew master and in charge of all brewing operations at Moylan’s. (Yes ladies, there are professional woman brewers) To find more information on women and brewing look up Pink Boots Society.

As you enter Moylan’s there is a beautiful 57 ft long bar on the right. Several tap stations are spaced along the bar’s length. The dining area is on the left separated from the bar by a half wall. I like to sit at the bar, with some seats having a view of the brewery. Another advantage of sitting there is that someone will always want to talk beer, and you can question the bartenders. After all, that is why I’m there. They had 16 beers on tap, from which I selected 6. The samples were $1.75 each.  I like that I was able to choose my own, as not all pubs offer this option. This allows me to spread out the beer styles to get a better overall impression.

Hopgarden Pils – Both the hop and malt aroma were very light. This is a pale yellow beer with a low hop bitterness, light bodied, crisp, refreshing with a medium dry finish. This would be a great beer on a hot summer day around the BBQ.  ABV 4.5%, IBU’s 14.

ESB – Moylan’s version of an Extra Special Bitter. Relax, that does not mean it’s a hoppy bitter beer. It is an English pale ale. Golden in color, both the hop and malt aromas were moderate, and neither dominated. It was well balanced with a medium mouth feel. A session beer, you could have several while watching rugby, baseball, or a football game.

I also tried this beer cask-conditioned. It was not CO2 carbonated, but served from a beer engine instead. The engine is a pump that draws the beer through a nozzle and adds air. A cask-conditioned beer is much smoother, but the draw back is a shorter shelf life. I like to have cask-conditioned beers when they are offered.  If you get a chance, sample one side by side with a normal draft. I don’t think you will be disappointed. ABV 5.2%, IBU’S 28.

Tipperary Pale Ale – This was another version of a pale ale with a higher IBU.  It was named in tribute to “County Tipperary”, Brendan’s father’s homeland.  There was stronger hop and malt aroma than the ESB.  The color was a medium copper.  The hop bitterness and malt flavor were both moderate and well balanced. A slight astringency from the hops was noticed. ABV 5%, IBU’s 36.

Orange and Black Congrats Ale – This beer was released on March 31st at the start of the regular baseball season to honor the San Francisco Giants World Series victory last year.  California grown oranges were used. This is an American Black Ale, very dark with ruby highlights. The aroma was very pleasant, with chocolate notes from the roasted malts.  A hint of orange could also be detected. Low hop aroma.  I really liked this beer. You could taste chocolate along with a hint of orange. There was very little bitterness from the roasted malt or hops. Medium to full mouth feel. Well balanced.  I wish I could find a couple of bottles locally, as this one would age well. ABV 5%, IBU’s 28.

Moylan’s Kiltlifter Scotch Ale – This has to be my favorite offering from Moylan’s. Kiltlifter is a great example of a Scottish Strong (wee heavy) Ale. Pronounced malt aroma, low hops. Hops do not grow well in Scotland and had to be imported from England at high cost.  So the Scots developed styles that did not use a lot of hops or used different bittering plants and herbs. Kiltlifter is rich and full-bodied with just enough hops to balance the malt sweetness. The 8% ABV gives this beer a very pleasing alcohol warmth. I was talking beer with the man sitting next to me in town on business from Texas. He asked what I would recommend. I suggested Kiltlifter, and he ended up having 3 glasses. ABV 8%, IBU’s 25.

Hopsickle Imperial IPA – Aggressive hop aroma. Your nose is bombarded with piney, floral, citrus and grapefruit.  With this much hop aroma, little or no malt was discernable.  Hops bitterness dominates – a hopheads delight. In reality, IBU’s over 95 –100 can no longer be noticed by most people.  The taste buds are just overwhelmed. The ABV at 9.2% added a nice alcohol warmth. ABV 9.2 %, IBU’s 100 +.

Hop Craic Imperial IPA – Think hopsickle on steroids. Higher alcohol, hop aroma and hop bitterness.  The hop aroma literally explodes in your nose. Resinous oils from the lupulus cultivar were added to increase hop bitterness and aroma. This is one for the serious hop head.  Make it the last beer of the night, as it will just destroy your taste buds. A caveat to all you hop heads, Moylan’s does not offer this one in bottles. ABV 10.4%, IBU’s 100 +.

Moylan’s does have a fairly nice menu. I had their chili stuffed with chicken. This was not battered like a Chili Relleno. The meal was served with black beans, rice and topped with a lime guacamole. It was a healthy portion and full of flavor.

Most of the beers I described can be found in local markets, just shop around.

Moylan’s Brewery and Restaurant
15 Rowland Way
Novato, CA. 94945
(415) 898-4677

Click here to read Don William’s previous Once Upon a Brew Pub columns

Don Williams has been a home brewer since 2002. He is a recognized BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) judge, and has taught brewing classes. Don’s job requires extensive travel, and he enjoys visiting brew pubs in various parts of the country. He and his wife live in Cottonwood, CA.

Don Williams
Don Williams has been a home brewer since 2002. He is a recognized BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) judge, and has taught brewing classes. Don enjoys visiting brew pubs in various parts of the country. He and his wife live in Kalispell, Montana.
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13 Responses

  1. Avatar Jeff Wilson says:

    MMMMMM Kiltlifter one of my top 10 favorite beers. Had a keg at my wedding needless to say we had a good time.

  2. Your nose is bombarded with piney, floral, citrus and grapefruit.


    Think hopsickle on steroids.


    The hop aroma literally explodes in your nose. Resinous oils from the lupulus cultivar were added to increase hop bitterness and aroma. This is one for the serious hop head. Make it the last beer of the night, as it will just destroy your taste buds

    Don, I love the way you teach us about beer. I am learning so much. Thank you!

  3. Avatar LovestoEat says:

    WOW! great to hear others have enjoyed Moylan's as much as we did.

    and yes, their food is pretty damn good as well as all their drinks.

    like you, my choice is always an icy cold Kiltlifter.

    it certainly would be wonderful if they were to open an establishment here in Redding! hint, hint.

  4. Jennifer Jewell Jennifer Jewell says:

    I love this article, I love beer – I will have to try this out! I am very interested in growing hops – do you grow your own, Don?

    • don williams don williams says:


      I gave it a try, but no joy. I'm just gone to much and can't keep an eye on them. Give it a shot. It's too late in the year this year. The rhizomes need to be planted March – April, and they require a fair amount of space and can grow 30 feet tall.

  5. Avatar AJ says:

    DANG . . D-D-DH-DANG . . . . I WISH I liked beer. I've tried on more than one occasion , . . . but I just can't STAND the taste. It's probably the ONLY fattening thing in the world I DON'T like . . . guess I should just leave well enough alone. But y'all make it sould so inviting. And I love the feel of brew pubs. One of my fvorite is Buffalo Bill's in Hayward. GREAT FOOD!!!

    • don williams don williams says:


      I'm sure there's hope for you yet. With as many styles of beer out there you should be able to find a couple you like.

    • I wasn't a fan of beer until I visited the Czech Republic, where good beer is a source of national pride – and beer can be less expensive to order in a restaurant than water.

      Now, I order beer in restaurants when I'm not sure about the wine (I do the same thing with hot tea rather than coffee … because tea is consistent, and restaurant coffee often isn't).

      Lately, I love Lost Coast Brewery's Tangerine Wheat Beer, a beer I heard a guy recently describe as a "gateway" beer for people – mainly women – who are learning to like beer. 🙂

  6. Avatar Gary says:

    We lived in Novato for a few years in the early 1980's, and it was much different than it is these days. Our highlight when living there was seeing Huey Lewis and the News band members at the local pizza joint. They did have a great tennis and swim club, which our family enjoyed and a few good restaurants. The best part was that it was only about 20-minutes to San Francisco.

    Donnie, there is a six-pack of Lost Coast Tangerine Beer on our garage refrigerator right now. If you like that, I recommend you give one of my favorites a try – – – Blue Moon.

  7. Thanks Don for all the kind words.

    415-328-7043 Next time your coming to Moylan's

    let me know and we will have a beer together.



    • don williams don williams says:


      I'll do that. I'm not sure when I'll get out that way again, but I will give you a call.

      na zdravje