Best Beer Events and Pliny the Younger 2018 Release
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. It’s gotten to be such a rich tapestry that Sonoma County has put together a map, along the lines of the famous Sonoma County Farm Trails and the Cheese Trails maps.
Let’s see what's so special about these suds, shall we?
Our Pliny is Precious:
Every year, the release of Pliny the Younger is a big deal, so much so that, the past 14 years, fans have lined up in front 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 two week run only.
Now celebrating its 15th anniversary, that time has come again, with the 2018 release slated for Feb. 2-15.
The cult beer is neither bottled nor available in growlers, so this is really your only chance to try it, straight from the keg.
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. More details.
SF Beer Week Events in Santa Rosa: It's SF Beer Week in San Francisco and surrounding areas Feb. 9-18, 2018. See what's happening at Santa Rosa breweries during this exciting event, too! For example, St. Florian’s Brewery of Windsor celebrates its 5th anniversary with a great party on Feb. 10, 2018. More details.
It’s already time to plan for the 20th Annual Battle of the Brews, set for April 7, 2018 in Grace Pavilion at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. Sample from dozens of beers for the Craft Brew Cup Best of Show, and indulge in the Sonoma County Sandwich Showdown, while grooving to live jazz performances. More details.
Gear up for the IPA 10k & Beer Mile Invitational coming to Sebastopol April 13 and 14, 2018. Now in its second year, the Saturday, April 14 race begins and ends at the Barlow and includes beer, music, and food. But plan to start the party Friday, April 13, with a beer and pizza party at the Barlow, courtesy of Vignette Pizzeria, Crooked Goat Brewing and Woodfour Brewing Company. More details.
Just four years ago we welcomed the inaugural Ready, Set, Growl Beer Festival, and it’s back on Aug. 26, 2018, in conjunction with the Santa Rosa Marathon’s 10th Anniversary. It’s a blast, including a 32 oz. custom growler for each guest, for unlimited tastes of over 30 breweries plus free food samples from great Sonoma County vendors. More details.
The NorCal Beer Geeks Festival will be back this fall, too, with a 2018 date TBD in November. 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. More details.
Every summer, meanwhile, means even more annual beer-centric gatherings like the 27th Annual Beerfest - The Good One on June 9, 2018, the 16th Annual Russian River Beer Revival and BBQ Cookoff in August, and the Petaluma River Craft Beer Festival in September.
Ace It bicycle touring company offers a highly popular Bike ‘n’ Brew tour, exploring Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol, Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, and Third Street Aleworks in Santa Rosa.
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.
This past summer, Bear Republic opened its third brewery, in Rohnert Park in the former Latitude Restaurant space. Known as 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.
The original Healdsburg brewpub, opened in 1996, is now being remodeled, too. With the flagship Cloverdale production brewery established in 2006, Bear Republic now has become the 39th largest brewery in the United States.
Brewsters Beer Garden is another new 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.
Other newer breweries include:
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.
Sonoma Cider Taproom & Restaurant is drawing crowds in Healdsburg as an expansion of Sonoma Cider's production facility next door.
Owners David Cordtz, a former Ace Cider brewmaster, and his son Robert Cordtz offer 23 taps for sips like a 100 percent Gravenstein cider, or a single-orchard Golden Delicious cider from De La Montanya Vineyard.
Delicious eats, too, like onion soup jazzed up with limited edition apple brandy, or an Apple Jax grilled cheese sandwich on buttery sourdough.
At Fogbelt Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, brewers Paul Hawley and Remy Martin use exclusively California-grown hops.
There's also the new 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 new 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.
Then, there’s Carneros Brewing Company, founded in 2013 along Highway 12 by the four Ceja brothers and their families in Sonoma Valley. The Ceja clan is already recognized for their elegant wines, and this new estate produces its own hops for handcrafted Jefeweizen, Morena Ale, Cerveza Pilsner, Carneros IPA, and Negra IPA. Guests can visit the brewery and taproom to sample the brews, then enjoy a picnic in the beer gardens around the pond.
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.
While Taps Restaurant & Tasting Room isn't exactly new, it has relocated and expanded to Petaluma (nearly next door to Sonoma County’s oldest beer hall - Dempsey’s Restaurant & Brewery), featuring 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.