Windsor Welcomes Russian River Brewery

Russian River Brewing Company has become one of Sonoma County’s most famous breweries, founded as part of Guerneville’s Korbel Champagne Cellars in 1997 then sold to its original brewer Vinnie Cilurzo in 2003.  Its Santa Rosa pub is always busy, and each year, people travel from across the nation in hopes of getting some of its triple-hopped Pliny the Younger ale that is only available for two weeks each February.

glass of beer at Russian River Brewing Co in Sonoma County

Recently, Cilurzo expanded, and in a very big way. He debuted this multi-story, multi-building campus spanning 85,000 square feet. It features a 195-seat restaurant, a beer tasting salon, a one-acre, pet-friendly beer garden, two bars, a gift shop and a two-acre parking lot, all on 15 acres about 1-½ miles from Windsor’s quaint Town Green park.

The look:

Beer pubs are rarely this fancy. It’s a huge space, but made to feel more private with white paneled partial walls, in a décor of hardwood floors, designer columns, funnel style metal fireplaces, and a lounge area anchored by leather armchairs and couches.

To eat:

The menu is longer than at the Santa Rosa eatery, with some fancier dishes here and there. My companions and I whet our appetites with some of this finer fare, including crispy salmon cakes dotted with fried capers and tartar ($8), and avocado toast spread with marinated garbanzo beans, pickled chiles, arugula and a dash of lemon garlic vinaigrette ($8).

Burger and fries on purple plate in Sonoma County

It gets loud here (part of the fun atmosphere), so we simply pointed to the menu to show our server what we’d like next. Shaved zucchini salad is bright and refreshing, the crisp-tender squash laced with creamy Bellwether Farms ricotta, arugula, fresh mint leaves, crunchy candied almonds and lemon garlic vinaigrette ($11). The salad is a nice, beer-friendly snack, too, layered with cubed salami, provolone, hard boiled egg and garbanzo beans plus chunks of creamy vinaigrette-dressed cucumber, arugula and tomato ($13).

I love me a good Reuben and this pastrami version fits the bill ($15). It’s basic goodness: salty meat plopped open face on marble rye over soft onion and sauerkraut, then topped in sliced dill pickles, Gruyere and Russian dressing, with a side of chunky potato salad. The burger is another big-flavored winner, made in a blend of ground brisket and chuck then slathered in cheddar fondue with bacon ($16). 

Reuben sandwich in Sonoma County at Russian River Brewing Company in Windsor

For another beer-friendly dish (RRV loves those giant hoppy brews as a signature), I also suggest the schnitzel sandwich. The breaded cutlet is dressed in homemade mustard, coleslaw, aioli and pickles, and is fine alongside a heap of Kennebec fries ($15).

To note:

Be sure to save time to take a brewery tour, either guided or self-guided. You view through windows on the third floor, and take in an impressive arrangement of the whole process from the yeast cellar to the packaging room.

Guests on a brewery tour at Russian River Brewing Co in Sonoma County

Dessert:

It’s gotta be the ricotta donuts, dunked in Porter dipping chocolate ($6).

To drink:

The beer salon offers nine brews on tap, and the restaurant boasts some 20 frequently-changing beers. My newest fave is the Intinction Sauvignon Blanc, a tart, citrusy mixed fermentation of Pilsner aged in Dutton Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc barrels with a secondary fermentation with Dutton Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc grape juice.

Details: 700 Mitchell Lane, Windsor, 707-545-2337, russianriverbrewing.com

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