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 29 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 in Healdsburg (now with a second location, Bear Republic Lakeside in Rohnert Park); Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma; and Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa (famous for its uproariously popular annual Pliny the Younger release each February and now with a second location in Windsor).
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’s in Windsor; Woodfour Brewing Company and Crooked Goat Brewing in The Barlow in Sebastopol; and many others.
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.
With so many choices, the solution is simple. Try them all. To get started, check our listings of Sonoma County's breweries and beer pubs. You can also find more info about things to do, restaurants, and hotels and lodging in Sonoma County.
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet