Best Beer Events and Pliny the Younger 2017 Release
We love our beer in Wine Country, it’s clear. More and more artisan brewers are bellying up to the bar across Sonoma County, opening boutique operations with finely crafted beers based on local ingredients and production limited to small, coveted amounts.
Sonoma County now has more than two dozen operating breweries, with more opening seemingly every day. It’s gotten to be such a rich tapestry that Sonoma County has put together a map, along the lines of the famous Sonoma County Farm Trails and the Cheese Trails maps.
Let’s see what's so special about these suds, shall we?
Our Pliny is Precious: Every year, the release of Pliny the Younger is a big deal, so much so that, the past 13 years, fans have lined up in front Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, hoping to get a 10 oz. pour of the coveted and extremely limited production triple-hopped ale. The Younger is always released the first Friday each February for a two week run only.
That time has come again, with the 2017 release slated for Feb. 3-16. The cult beer is neither bottled nor available in growlers.
It can only be had on draft at the pub (and at a very few VIP restaurants), and in previous years, waits to get in the 135-seat bar have lasted up to 12 hours.
It’s not just locals, either, since beer lovers travel from across the country – indeed, the world – to get a sip of the 10.25% abv. craft suds. More details.
SF Beer Week Events in Santa Rosa: It's SF Beer Week in San Francisco and surrounding areas from February 10-19, 2017. See what's happening at Santa Rosa breweries during this exciting event. More details.
It’s already time to plan for the 20th Annual Battle of the Brews, being held April 8, 2017 in Grace Pavilion at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. Sample beers for the Craft Brew Cup Best of Show, and indulge in the Sonoma County Sandwich Showdown, while grooving to live jazz performances. More details.
Gear up for the IPA 10k & Beer Mile Invitational coming to Sebastopol April 14 & 15, 2017. Brand new this year, the Saturday, April 15 race begins and ends at the Barlow and includes beer, music and food. But plan to start the party Friday, April 14, with a Marketplace Expo, Hoppy Easter Hunt and Welcome Reception. More details.
In 2014, we welcomed the inaugural Ready, Set, Growl Beer Festival, and it’s back for August 27, 2017, in conjunction with the Santa Rosa Marathon. It’s a blast, including a 32 oz. custom growler for each guest, for unlimited tastes of over 30 breweries plus free food samples from great Sonoma County vendors. More details.
The NorCal Beer Geeks Festival will be back later this fall, too, with a date TBD in November. Admission includes unlimited beer tastings from 25+ breweries/cider companies, a tasting glass and entry into a raffle, plus live music and food booths. More details.
Every summer, meanwhile, means even more annual beer-centric gatherings like the 15th Annual Russian River Beer Revival and BBQ Cookoff in August, the Petaluma River Craft Beer Festival this fall, and the 26th Annual Beerfest - The Good One, with the date still pending.
Ace It bicycle touring company offers a highly popular Bike ‘n’ Brew tour, exploring Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol, Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, and Third Street Aleworks in Santa Rosa.
The Breweries: On the legendary front, a few of Sonoma County’s best-known brew houses include Bear Republic Brewing Company in Healdsburg, Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma, and Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa.
Later this spring, Bear Republic plans to open its third brewery, in Rohnert Park in the former Latitude Restaurant space. The original Healdsburg brewpub, opened in 1996, will be remodeled once the Rohnert Park location is up and running. With the Cloverdale production brewery established in 2006, Bear Republic now has become the 39th largest brewery in the United States.
Other new breweries include:
Crooked Goat Brewing has opened at The Barlow in Sebastopol with 14 beers on tap—four IPAs, two double IPAs, three wheat brews, three stouts, and a lager (check out the yummy Grapefruit Ibex, an IPA infused with grapefruit and grapefruit zest).
The tiny space is family- and dog-friendly, and offers snacks like fresh pretzels from Full Circle Baking Company and flavored popcorn from Comet Corn.
Sonoma Cider Taproom & Restaurant has debuted in Healdsburg as an expansion of Sonoma Cider's production facility next door.
Owners David Cordtz, a former Ace Cider brewmaster, and his son Robert Cordtz offer 23 taps for sips like a 100 percent Gravenstein cider, or a single-orchard Golden Delicious cider from De La Montanya Vineyard.
Delicious eats, too, like onion soup jazzed up with limited edition apple brandy, or an Apple Jax grilled cheese sandwich on buttery sourdough.
Don’t miss these newer gems, either:
At Fogbelt Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, brewers Paul Hawley and Remy Martin use exclusively California-grown hops.
There's also the new Cooperage Brewery in Santa Rosa, which specializes in barrel-aged sour beers, plus a Pale Ale, an India Pale Ale, a Belgian Pale Ale and Belgian Golden Ale.
St. Florian’s Brewery in Windsor, meanwhile, produces signature beers including IPA, a Brown Ale and Cali Common, plus the new Sonoma Springs Brewing Co. facility on the western side of the town of Sonoma. Beers feature a SlowNoma Belgian-Style Ale and Uncle Jack’s Kolsch-Style Ale, among others. These are top rated suds, too, from Tim Goeppinger, who learned his craft over 17 years of brewing for Goose Island, Firestone Walker and others respected breweries.
Then, there’s Carneros Brewing Company, opened in 2013 along Hwy. 12, as a family owned microbrewery founded by four Ceja brothers and their families in Sonoma Valley. The Ceja clan is already recognized for their elegant wines, and this new estate produces its own hops for handcrafted Jefeweizen, Morena Ale, Cerveza Pilsner, Carneros IPA and Negra IPA. Guests can visit the brewery and taproom to sample the brews, then enjoy a picnic in the beer gardens around the pond.
Don’t miss Woodfour Brewing Company, either, at The Barlow in Sebastopol with oft-changing originals like the Wet Hop Session Ale No. 1 made of hops grown at nearby Wildo Ranch, a Gold Ridge Lager, and a sour farmhouse ale.
While Taps Restaurant & Tasting Room isn't exactly new, it has relocated and expanded to Petaluma (nearly next door to Sonoma County’s oldest beer hall - Dempsey’s Restaurant & Brewery), featuring some ever-changing three dozen rare beers from around the world on tap.
Now, that’s beer news worth toasting. Watch this short video clip about breweries in Sonoma County.