What do you do when you’re stuck in California for the better part of two weeks? Well, if you’re passionate about craft beer you hop on “The 101” and start hitting any number of brewpubs and production breweries that literally dot the Northern California landscape. Just for fun, here are a few tidbits from my recent travels. Cheers and enjoy!
Anderson Valley Brewing, Boonville – Nestled alongside a winding mountain road, it’s hard to imagine a more tranquil setting while enjoying a brewery fresh pint out in the beer garden. However, should you prefer less sedentary pursuits, consider taking the tour or signing up for a round of disc-golf.
Tap Count: 12+ house taps
Availability in Texas: Boont Amber, Hop Ottin’ IPA, Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout, Poleeko Gold Pale Ale
Bear Republic, Healdsburg – The original brewpub sits just off the main drag in downtown Healdsburg, while the main production facility is up the road in Cloverdale. In addition to their familiar line of bottles, they also have a diverse selection of limited draught-only brews like Black Racer (Black IPA) and Racer X (DIPA), though the most enjoyable brew I discovered was a cask-conditioned version of Racer 5 dry-hopped with Simcoe.
Tap Count: ~15 house taps and a rotating cask beer
Availability in Texas: Racer 5, Red Rocket, Hop Rod Rye, Big Bear Black Stout, Peter Brown Tribute Ale, XP Pale Ale.
Firestone Walker, Paso Robles – Take the tour to learn about their patented brewing process involving primary fermentation in the “Firestone Union”, an array of 60 gallon toasted American oak barrels which imparts hints of smokiness and vanilla into Firestone-Walker’s brews. For insight into how this approach shapes each beer’s character, try the 100% oak barrel fermented and unfiltered version of their Double Barrel Ale (a brewery tour exclusive).
Tap Count: 12+ house taps
Availability in Texas: Firestone Walker distributes to a number of states outside California, but as of now Texas is not one of them.
Lagunitas, Petaluma – Constantly expanding, the brewery is now adding an outdoor amphitheater to their popular Tap Room and outdoor entertainment space. On draught are numerous production brews and ever-changing experimental offerings like barrel-aged versions of Censored (port), Hairy Eyeball (brandy) and Cappuccino Stout (bourbon).
Tap Count: 15+ house taps
Availability in Texas: Lagunitas distributes their IPA, Pale Ale, A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ and over a dozen others to Texas. In the near future, be on the lookout for Lagunitas Pils with labeling special to the Lone Star State.
Moylan’s, Novato – Judging by how many beers we get here in Texas, it’s amazing this small restaurant-based brewery keeps up. Even more so considering that according to their Barrel-O-Meter they’ve only produced a little over 2000 barrels this year. Stop in and enjoy a wide-ranging array of styles, and be sure to check out their cask-conditioned ales which on this trip included both Kilt Lifter and Dragoons Dry Irish Stout.
Tap Count: 15+ house taps, two rotating cask brews and a few guest ciders.
Availability in Texas: Moylan’s distributes around 10 beers to Texas including Hopsickle, Irish Red, and Ryan Sullivan’s Imperial Stout.
Russian River, Santa Rosa – Most come here for Pliny the Elder, a Double IPA that typically ranks among the top ten beers in the world, but locals will tell you to spend your time exploring their range of Belgian-style ales. Each tagged with the suffix “-tion”, they include superb barrel-aged sours like Supplication and Consecration, but don’t hold your breath for Procrastination, a brew that is perpetually “coming soon”.
Tap Count: 15+ house taps along with 1 guest tap.
Availability in Texas: Unless you’re planning a trip out west with ample room in your checked bag, Colorado is as close as these brews get to Texas.
Have a comment, critique, or just want to talk about great beer? Contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow me on twitter.