The charm of McKinleyville has long been its small, cow-town vibe. I have always been proud to tout hailing from the tiny town lovingly referred to as "Oklahoma by the Sea," with the motto, "Where horses have the right-of-way." McKinleyville has been in need of a new watering hole for some time — even though we all adore Six Rivers Brewery and Central Station, the limited places to party in such a small town increases the likelihood of running into your ex. (Ask me how I know this.)

Enter: Bigfoot Taproom. The dream for the place was born from the minds and hearts of Lisa Jennings, Ray Noggle and Neil Cheatum, who met while working at Mad River Brewing Co. The trio began to wonder how they could open their own business highlighting the wonderful local breweries we have in Humboldt, as well as introducing brews from around the Pacific Northwest. All three owners live in McKinleyville and have witnessed the growing need for fun new hangouts in the area, and so it was an easy decision to build the business in their own town.

click to enlarge Ray Noggle, Neil Cheatum and Lisa Jennings behind the bar. - PHOTO BY RYAN MCGAUGHEY
  • Photo by Ryan McGaughey
  • Ray Noggle, Neil Cheatum and Lisa Jennings behind the bar.

And build it they did — tables and all. They found the perfect spot in an empty lot right on Central Avenue and were able to build the new structure from scratch. Though this is a huge undertaking (with occasional moments of panic, according to Jennings) they found it allowed them to use their knowledge from years of working in the industry to build their dream bar with a large indoor seating area, a massive walk-in refrigerator for all the kegs they have tapped, a 4,000-square-foot, south-facing beer garden and room for food trucks. Jennings says they set out to make a space that was really "purposeful and organized." But that's not to say it's lacking aesthetics.

Though the space has an industrial feel, the many windows, wood bar and tables, as well as the impressive collection of plants make the tasting room feel open and welcoming. Jennings says in designing the space, she wanted it to "feel like you were outside even though you were inside," and created a jungle of houseplants that she started at home and continues to propagate at work.

  • Photo by Ryan McGaughey

Bigfoot Taproom officially opened its doors on New Year's Eve of 2019 and had only 10 weeks of regular operations before closing its doors because of COVID. Like everyone else, they did their best to adapt and offer to-go sales but ultimately opted to close outright when the stuttering start-stop, close-open pattern became too unpredictable. Closing for almost a full six months could have been disastrous for such a new business but fortunately the owners had some very "awesome" lenders in the Small Business Development Center and ReProp Financial whose flexibility helped Bigfoot Taproom to come out on the other side and reopen with a flourish.

Bigfoot Taproom is now open seven days a week with Happy Hour all day on Mondays. It has 32 beers on tap, including some consistent staples and many rotating taps so there is always something new to try. They feature local breweries like Gyppo Ale Mill, Mad River Brewing Co., Six Rivers Brewery, Redwood Curtain Brewery, Northspur Brewing Co. and Trinity County Brewing Co., as well as ciders from Humboldt Cider Co. and wines from Trinity River Vineyards. (See the updated list of offerings online.) If 32 taps aren't enough, Bigfoot also offers cans and tallboys for sale (yes, dear Millennial, they have hard seltzers like White Claw, too) with an easy-to-remember pricing system of $10 flat for all six-packs, including tax.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY RYAN MCGAUGHEY
  • Photo by Ryan McGaughey

In addition to all of the wonderful brews, the taproom also hosts food trucks Tuesday through Saturday. Check the schedule for "tap takeovers" every three weeks or so, when a brewery from out of the area sends a representative to pour its beers. Community events are on the calendar, too, like fundraisers for Norcal Pet Rescue, artisan fairs, Oktoberfest and McKinleyville's Corks, Forks and Kegs event. There's always cornhole in the beer garden and the taproom is pet friendly (the staff even has treats for your pups). Pro tip: Jennings says the joint is spacious enough that there's likely plenty of elbow room even if the parking lot appears full.

My fellow McKinleyvillians and the rest of Humboldt County are already enjoying one more place to kick back in Mack Town, and there's room for more. You will surely catch me there enjoying new brews. Do you hear that, exes? This is my spot.

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Erin Young

Erin Young

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