Best Craft Beer and Breweries in Sonoma County
There’s a saying that it takes a lot of beer to make a fine wine. That's because winemakers are notorious for their love of suds, since after working around grapes all day, a little change of flavor is appreciated. In the last few months, more and more artisan brewers have bellied up to the bar in Sonoma County Wine Country, opening boutique operations with finely crafted beers based on local ingredients and production limited to small, coveted amounts.
Sonoma County now has at least 22 operating breweries, 5 cideries and 6 distilleries, with more opening seemingly every day. It’s gotten to be such a rich tapestry that the Sonoma County EDB has just put together a Beer, Cider and Spirits Map, along the lines of the famous Sonoma County Farm Trails and the Cheese Trails maps.
A few of the best-known brew houses include Bear Republic Brewing Company in Healdsburg, Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma, and Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa (just now recovering from its uproariously popular Pliny the Younger release).
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. For Warped owners Noah and Mirjam Bolmer, beers are designed to complement the cuisine at their other business, Barley and Hops Tavern in Occidental, and are mixed into the food recipes, too.
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.
At Taps, owner Eric Lafranchi features some three dozen beers from around the world on tap. BeerCraft not only showcases a mouthwatering array of international beers, but hosts tastings with the makers themselves, plus offers 50 percent discounts on “beers of the day.”
With so many choices, the solution is simple. Try them all. Here's a list of all breweries in Sonoma County.