Beer Trail Itinerary: Explore Breweries in Sonoma County
Welcome to heaven for beer lovers! With more than 30 craft breweries and brewpubs, Sonoma County flows with the love of good beer.
Use the Sonoma County Craft Beverage Map to find the places you just have to visit, or follow this two-day itinerary for a getaway centered around the pursuit of great brews.
Already thinking about how to get here? Consider flying into STS - Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, where you can fly direct from Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, Santa Ana, San Diego and more.
Beer for breakfast?
Why not — it’s a refreshing way to start the day! At neighborhood hangout Piner Café, where owner Chrissy Schilling actually employs a full-time expert to manage the eatery’s ever-changing craft suds selections, servers can suggest the perfect beer pairings for breakfast favorites like the best-selling chili relleno casserole, fresh salmon, and egg scramble, hearty homemade biscuits smothered in gravy, or the homemade chili and cheese omelet served with hash browns or country potatoes, toast and jelly.
(Hint: Get the omelet stuffed with jalapenos for a killer spicy bite).
You’re just minutes away from the legendary Russian River Brewing Company's original location in Santa Rosa, which is famous for its uproariously popular Pliny the Younger release each year. Year-round, brewmaster/owner Vinnie Cilurzo also offers up strongly-hopped, California-style ales, Belgian-inspired ales, lagers, and barrel-aged beers. You can sip at the remodeled bar, order suds samplers off the chalkboard, and listen to rousing music.
Make Your Own Beer!
If you’ve ever wanted to make your own beer, head to The Beverage People, a shop dedicated to sharing everything you'd want to know about home fermentation. Browse among brew-making kits, kegs, bottling equipment, and all the good stuff that goes into it, like grains, malt, yeast and hops.
Just a short drive away, BeerCraft can help set you up with more education. Part tasting bar and part retail shop, this cozy store keeps customers coming for special beers of the day at 50 percent off, a craft beer of the month club, and 12 rotating taps, plus a changing list of up to 30 new beers in the store each week. It’s also a hangout for local garage beer makers, who are happy to share tips and secrets.
Lunch at Woodfour Brewing Company is just the ticket.
An anchor tenant of The Barlow culinary and arts center, this popular, loud destination sports an entire wall of international beers displayed next to a counter overlooking the beer tanks.
Brewmaster and co-owner Seth Wood fashions 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, all set on tap next to guest beers from other local purveyors such as HenHouse.
The food is notable, too, with inventive Cal-global cuisine crafted by chef-partner Jamil Peden. This means playful pub takes like white corn nuts dusted in vadouvan curry and lemon; homemade potato chips sprinkled in scallion salt and coriander for dunking in Meyer lemon yogurt; and a “BLP” sandwich of bacon, lettuce, peach and black garlic mayo.
Boasting floor-to-ceiling windows, wood-paneled walls, and outdoor spaces, the new taproom at Seismic Brewing Company features a choice of 12 rotating taps, including some of the brewery’s award-winning favorites as well as small-batch and barrel-aged offerings only available at the taproom.
A more recent addition to The Barlow, Crooked Goat Brewing crafts innovative beers with a distinctive western Sonoma County style. The casual, family-friendly taproom features 16 Crooked Goat beers on tap and a menu highlighting food from several Sonoma County sources, including barbecue, pizza, sandwiches, and flavored popcorn.
And if you're soon craving more beer, you'll find it at Hopmonk Tavern, a rustic 105-year-old stone-and-timber tavern with a world-class beer garden.
Offering more than 100 different types of beer, including their own, Hopmonk also serves wine, a full bar, and a "pub grub" menu, and features a music venue known as the Abbey.
Time to check into your hotel yet?
Indeed, a nap might be in order. So many people visit from out of town specifically for Russian River Brewing Company beers that the nice owners have published a hotel directory, and some lodging places offer special RRBC packages.
Choices range from near — Hotel La Rose is only a half-mile away from Russian River Brewing Company, and is a historic property built in 1907 with 47 boutique room — to just a bit farther — Flamingo Resort is 1.3 miles away. All Flamingo stays include a breakfast buffet and free wine tasting passes.
Refreshed, you’re now ready for dinner.
Steele & Hops Public House serves both local and global beers, celebrating the best of Sonoma County’s brewing scene and honoring some international favorites.
The menu features house-smoked, house-ground, house-pickled, hand cut, and made-from-scratch goodies, including pizzas from the 750-degree brick oven. All dressings, sauces, dredges, dough, and soups are made in-house. Build your own burger, or try the classic Buffalo wings, fried calamari, beet-pickled deviled eggs, or oven-roasted mushroom toast with gouda and onion jam.
Rise and shine to a hearty breakfast.
The restaurant is surrounded by independently-owned shops like Western Farm Center, Green Fish Trading, and Whistlestop Antiques, and all are near the beautifully restored Northwestern Pacific Railroad Train Depot, made of locally quarried stone and home to the Santa Rosa Visitor Center / California Welcome Center.
Take a Beer Tour
If by now you've had enough of exploring on your own, consider letting someone else bring you to the beer you crave.
North Bay Brewery Tours and On Tap Beer Tours offer public or private guided visits to Sonoma County breweries, with names like Lagunitas Brewing Co., HenHouse in Santa Rosa and Petaluma, Bear Republic Brewing Co. in Rohnert Park, Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa and Windsor, Stumptown Brewery in Guerneville, Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol and Sonoma, Dempsey’s Brewery in Petaluma, and Third Street Aleworks in Santa Rosa.
There are still more new places to see on your own, however, if that's what you prefer.
At Fogbelt Brewing Company, brewers Paul Hawley and Remy Martin use exclusively California-grown hops.
The urban-hip taphouse puts forth signature sips like Atlas Blonde (“light and crisp with a fruity hop aroma”), Del Norte IPA (“hop driven with a malty finish”), and Armstrong Stout (“rich with flavors of chocolate and coffee but finishes light and balanced”).
Head South to Petaluma
While you're in the area, check out Taps Restaurant and Beer Tasting Room, where owner Eric Lafranchi features an ever-changing array of some three dozen rare, global beers on tap, and often hosts special guests like Stone Brewing Company for exclusive tastings. Snacks are another draw, like feta bruschetta, or fiery spicy chicken wings.
For lunch, though, you might want to save your appetite for the Pub Republic. This cheerful sports bar and upscale eatery woos with uncommon plates like brussels sprouts tacos, potato nachos, and truffle burgers. Pair your meal with an excellent selection of sampler flights, bottled locals and imports, and even gluten-free brews.
After lunch, hop in the car and head north on Highway 101 for about 20 minutes to Rohnert Park's Parliament Brewing Company. Tucked away in a small commercial area just off Highway 101, the modern and minimalist taproom serves a variety of small batch beers with names like Whatchamacallit IPA, Friend From Vermont New England Pale Ale, and Brown Cow Brown Ale.
Also here is Old Caz Brewing. Named for a rugged road in western Sonoma County, this dog- and family-friendly spot offers a rotating variety of small batch beers on tap, like Chismosa Mexican Amber Lager, Catastrophe Rye IPA, and Cazzberry Kettle Sour with Passion Fruit.
And by all means, let's not overlook Bear Republic Brewing Co., which after more than two decades in downtown Healdsburg now operates its taproom in Rohnert Park, overlooking the Roberts Lake reservoir. It offers quality, handcrafted craft beers, house-made specialty cocktails, pizza, and more. Local favorite menu items include the Brewers’ Mac and Cheese and the classic BBQ Pork Sandwich, made with sauce from the Peter Brown Tribute Ale.
You'll also want to check out the Russian River Brewing Company in Windsor. With seating for about 200, this enormous pub features two bars, a 16-seat fireplace, two gorgeous live-edge sycamore community tables, a large outdoor pet-friendly beer garden, and a beautiful open kitchen with something for everyone.
Dinner Paired with Beer
But you’re not done with beer quite yet. You're just minutes from downtown Healdsburg, so head to Healdsburg Bar & Grill for a delicious brew-paired dinner.
Besides local beers on tap, the popular, always-busy restaurant has especially great burgers (topped with homemade pickles) and beer-batter-dipped fish ’n’ chips.
Your hotel for the night is conveniently back in Windsor, at either the cozy Hampton Inn & Suites or Holiday Inn Express. Both properties offer Wine Country chic accommodations, with amenities like an in-room fridge (to keep that beer cold), and complimentary breakfast.
Sweet, sudsy dreams!
Looking for more fun things to do during your trip to Sonoma County? Take a look at the many outdoor activities to enjoy in the valleys, vineyards, coastline and Russian River areas of Sonoma County.
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet.