After a busy day of exploring Sonoma County’s natural wonders, take some time to treat yourself to some Sonoma craft beer.
Microbreweries, brew pubs, taverns, and bars have more than national brands on tap. From locally made golden pale ales to double IPAs, here you’ll find local beers take center stage. Beer tasting is best done in a tavern setting. What better way to enjoy the suds than with some hearty pub grub.
Barley and Hops Tavern, Occidental
The focus is on great beers like local favorites Pliny, and Death and Taxes, plus an array of boutique drafts. Owned by beer-lover Noah Bolmer, Barley and Hops Tavern (3688 Bohemian Highway, Occidental, / 707-874-9037) serves gentrified, from-scratch pub grub and eclectic specialties to go with those suds.
Enjoy tasting dishes like slow-cooked beef Bourguignon, savory German blaukraut and sausage, or ahi over creamy grits. Choose from 13 taps and more than 60 bottles, including a traditional beer engine, and two draft wines.
Dempsey's Restaurant & Brewery, Petaluma
For more than two decades, the locals have celebrated the bold flavors and robust beers of this friendly pub. Dempsey's (50 E. Washington St., Petaluma, 707-765-9694) is Sonoma County’s oldest brewery.
The fans come for signatures like Golden Ale, Mountain Wheat, Irish Ale, and a Red Rooster Ale imbued with notes of caramel and flowers. Food is beer-friendly as well, in staples like messy burgers, pizzas, and pulled pork sandwiches.
Hopmonk Tavern, Sebastopol and Sonoma
The original Sebastopol spot (230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol, 707-829-7300) is housed within a rustic 105-year-old stone and timber tavern complete with a beer garden and live music stage. The Sonoma location (691 Broadway, Sonoma, 707-935-9100) features an acoustic band shell for music, too.
The concept is gloriously uncomplicated: owner and brew guru Dean Biersch (formerly of the Gordon Biersch empire) sends out artisan beers and eclectic menu of beer-recipe foods. Eats are a step up from the ordinary, ranging from curry samosas, to a drop dead succulent Reuben, to fresh-made fish-n-chips. Did we mention beers? Try at least half-a-dozen choices on tap, or select from a Beer Bible boasting more than 75 bottled options.
Lagunitas Taproom and Beer Sanctuary, Petaluma
Lagunitas Brewery doesn't take itself too seriously, and Sonoma County is all the better because of it. The legendary craft brewery is as famous for its IPAs as it is for the whimsical ramblings on their seasonal releases. Undercover Shutdown Ale? Yup- the story is almost as good as the beer.
The Taproom and Beer Sanctuary (1280 N. McDowell Boulevard, Petaluma, 707-778-8776) is a good place to check out their beers (both year-round varieties as well as seasonal and seemingly ad-hoc ones) and get a tour. Bands play and there is even a Beer Circus. It has to be seen to be believed.
Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa
Pliny the Elder, Blind Pig, and Damnation. It may sound like the father from the famous Christmas Story movie is swearing at his furnace again, but actually, these are the creative names of just a few of the private label beers at the Russian River Brewing Company (725 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-545-2337).
You can see the actual brew tanks in the cellar next to the bar, and the full, Italian-inspired, beer-paired menu makes lingering even more delicious. Stay for the live music, and sample as many beers as you like from the chalkboard list of dozens of frequently changing, seasonally inspired, small-batch suds – it’s easy since two-ounce samples of any beer can be tasted for $1.50 to $2.
Find all Sonoma County Breweries here.