It's clear that we love our beer in Wine Country, from handcrafted IPAs to Lagers, and Stouts to Sessions. 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.
OUR PLINY IS PRECIOUS
Every year, the release of Pliny the Younger is a big deal, so much so that fans line up in front of 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 limited two week run.
It can only be had on draft at the pub (and at a very few VIP restaurants); 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.
SF Beer Week, which traditionally occurs in early February, extends beyond San Francisco to surrounding areas including Sonoma County.
The annual Battle of the Brews, every spring at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, allows visitors to sample from dozens of beers from the Craft Brew Cup Best of Show, and indulge in the Sonoma County Sandwich Showdown.
Gear up for the IPA 10k & Beer Mile Invitational, held in spring in Sebastopol. The race begins and ends at the Barlow and includes beer, music, and food.
Summer brings the annual Ready, Set, Growl Beer Festival, which includes a 32 oz. custom growler for each guest, unlimited tastes of over 30 breweries, and food samples from great Sonoma County vendors.
Additional summer beer-centric gatherings include: Beerfest - The Good One, Russian River Beer Revival and BBQ Cookoff, and the Petaluma River Craft Beer Festival.
The NorCal Beer Geeks Festival occurs in the fall. Admission includes unlimited beer tastings from more than 25 breweries/cider companies, a tasting glass and entry into a raffle, plus live music and food booths.
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.
Bear Republic’s Rohnert Park brewery is Bear Republic Brewing Company Lakeside. It’s a terrific destination, complete with a full restaurant, on-site brewing, full wine and spirits bars featuring beer cocktails, and live music.
Brewsters Beer Garden is another hot spot in downtown Petaluma on the edge of the river. The space spans more than 350 seats inside and out, offering barbecue and higher-end pub grub rounded out with live music, a full cocktail list, wine, and of course, plenty of beers.
Head over to Santa Rosa for the Bohemian chic Henhouse Brewing Company. It's set in an industrial warehouse and produces tiny batch gems like barrel aged kumquat saison, Inside Job tropical IPA, and Oyster Stout made with real local oysters. Snack at the Red Horse Pizza truck, too – it’s served out of a real, renovated horse trailer.
Trail House in Santa Rosa is a creative enterprise, meanwhile, combining beers, coffee, and a hangout for the biking community. Enjoy suds while sharing stories of the best biking trails, get some help with your bike needs, and snack on breakfast and lunch/dinner fare like big burritos and sandwiches.
Crooked Goat Brewing is 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.
At Fogbelt Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, brewers Paul Hawley and Remy Martin use exclusively California-grown hops.
There's also 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 Alen and Cali Common, plus the 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 other respected breweries.
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.
Taps Restaurant & Tasting Room in Petaluma, (next door to Sonoma County’s oldest beer hall - Dempsey’s Restaurant & Brewery), features 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.
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet.