Enjoy Craft Beer and Breweries in Sonoma County
In the last few years, more and more artisan brewers have bellied up to the bar in Sonoma County Wine Country, opening boutique operations creating finely crafted beers based on local ingredients and with production limited to small, coveted amounts.
Sonoma County now has more than two dozen operating breweries, eight cideries, and 15 distilleries, with more opening seemingly every day. It's gotten to be such a rich tapestry that Sonoma County put together a Craft Beverage Map showing local breweries, cideries, and distilleries.
A few of the best-known brew houses include Bear Republic Brewing Company, which after more than two decades in Healdsburg is now operating its brewpub in Rohnert Park; Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma; and Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, voted the second best beer in the country out of 7,400 breweries nationwide by the American Homebrewers Association and famous for its uproariously popular annual Pliny the Younger release each February. It's second, larger location now in Windsor features tours of the state-of-the-art beer making facility.
Of course, that's not to overlook Dempsey's Restaurant & Brewery in Petaluma; Fogbelt Brewing Company and Third Street Aleworks in Santa Rosa; St. Florian's Brewery in Windsor; Woodfour Brewing Company and Crooked Goat Brewing in The Barlow in Sebastopol; and many others.
Two of the newest additions to the Sonoma County craft beer scene are both located in Rohnert Park. Parliament Brewing Company offers a variety of small batch beers with names like Whatchamacallit IPA and Friend From Vermont New England Pale Ale. Old Caz Beer also offers a rotating variety of small batch beers on tap, like Steady State German Pilsner, Chismosa Mexican Amber Lager, and Catastrophe Rye IPA.
Local craft beers are also featured in places like The Block, Brewsters Beer Garden, and Taps Restaurant and Tasting Room in Petaluma; Barley & Hops Tavern in Occidental; Steele & Hops Public House in Santa Rosa; and the taproom in the BeerCraft retail store in Rohnert Park.
What's the buzz (pun intended) about? It's because all these independently owned operations showcase beer as art.
At Fogbelt, brewers Paul Hawley and Remy Martin use exclusively California-grown hops. And Taps owner Eric Lafranchi features some three dozen beers from around the world on tap.
St. Florian's, meanwhile, is a tribute to the patron saint of firefighters and chimney sweeps, since owner Aron Levin is a captain at the Windsor Fire District. He and wife Amy donate a minimum of 5 percent of profits to fire-related and community-based organizations, plus all the grain waste is recycled through local ranches where it is used to feed rescue animals. Their signature is an IPA, plus a Brown Ale and a Cali Common.
Want a bit of guidance? Take a guided craft brewery tour with On Tap Beer Tours or North Bay Brewery Tours, or visit craft breweries on two wheels with the Pints N Pedals guided cycling tour by Getaway Adventures or the Santa Rosa Bike 'N Brew Tour with Ace It! Bike Tours.
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet