A Petaluma chicken is on the run. We’re not talking about the feathery poultry kind of chick but a big hoppy one, and now is your chance to catch it. This Wednesday, February 6, marks the seventh annual release of HenHouse Brewing Company’s Big Chicken double IPA and, as we speak, Bay Area beer lovers are getting ready to seek out the rare bird.
Like Russian River Brewing Company’s Pliny the Younger, Big Chicken is a limited- and controlled-release beer. Unlike Younger, which is available during a two-week period each February, Big Chicken is only available one to two days per year. The beer’s unusually high hop content (twelve pounds per barrel) makes it a fragile brew that perishes fast – this is the reason it is brewed, kegged and tapped in a single day.
“Big Chicken is the extreme of our focus on freshness,” says HenHouse Brewing Company’s president Scott Goyne, “beer is a far more perishable product than most folks realize – hop flavor and aroma degrade fast – so it’s important to drink hoppy beer in its short window of freshness.”
The HenHouse brew usually runs out within two days, which leaves only a small window to get a taste. Its limited availability only adds to its allure, as is the case with Younger, a publicity stunt both Russian River and HenHouse have leveraged to their advantage.
This year, Big Chicken will be available at HenHouse’s Santa Rosa brewery and tasting room and Palace of Barrels in Petaluma. It will also be available at the following locations, beginning Wednesday, February 6:
Belly Left Coast Kitchen
Steele and Hops
Rincon Valley Tap Room & Bottle Shop
Barley and Hops
Big Chicken will also be available at these Bay Area locations (some of them, starting Friday, February 8):
Beer Craft (Novato)
Pig in a Pickle (Corte Madera)
Alamo Drafthouse New Mission
Long Bridge Pizza
Mission Bowling Club
Rosamunde Sausage Grill
City Beer Store
Ben and Nick’s Grill
Vine and Grain
Lost and Found
Cato’s Ale House
As thousands of beer-lovers from around the world descend on Sonoma County for the annual release of Pliny the Younger, there’s yet another reason to brag about our booming beer scene. Local breweries Russian River Brewing Company (Santa Rosa and Windsor) and Lagunitas (Petaluma) were just named among the top 100 breweries in the world by beer review website RateBeer, coming in at number two and 100 respectively.
The brewery ranking, released since 2001, is based on aggregated online reviews by thousands of beer enthusiasts (RateBeer receives over one million reviews annually). This marks the 12th year that Russian River Brewing Company’s (RRBC) made the top-100 list, and it’s the highest ranking yet for the brewery, beating out their number four position in 2013. Hill Farmstead Brewery in Greensboro, Vermont, took the first spot this year.
“It is a huge honor to be recognized as one of the best breweries in the world after all these years,” shares Natalie Cilzuro, Russian River Brewing owner and co-president.
Best known for super hoppy brews, Russian River Brewing is considered one of the most trendsetting and cutting edge breweries in the country. Brewmaster and co-owner Vinnie Cilzuro created one of the first commercially brewed Double and Imperial IPAs in the country, including Pliny the Elder, which was named one of the top 100 beers in the world this year by RateBeer alongside the brewery’s Consecration and Supplication ales.
Russian River Brewing Company has been the only Sonoma County brewery to come in almost annually within the top 10 on the list, amid growing competition from an ever-expanding number of Sonoma County breweries. When the brewery was founded in 1997, there were less than a handful in the area.
“With so many young, popular breweries around,” says Cilzuro, “it is nice to know that we are still relevant to hard-core beer enthusiasts.”
Best known for easy drinking IPA-centric session beers, Lagunitas has ranked in the top 100 every year since the RateBeer awards launched in 2001. The brewery’s highest ranking was in 2003 when they came in on number 39 and 19 in the Best North American Brewers category (now long gone due to the rise of craft beer in the United States).
Hops have long been a staple of Sonoma County, but Napa is playing catch-up. In just the last three years, a renaissance has been brewing here as both local and national breweries have been popping up amidst the vines at a rapid rate. Click through the gallery above for our guide to the best breweries to visit in Napa Valley.
To most of the world, Sonoma and Napa are synonymous with wine. But in recent years, the region known as Wine Country has also become known as a mecca for craft beer lovers. Now, a new addition to the local beverage scene is merging wine and beer.
St. Clair Brown, a Napa winery, recently revealed that they have added a “nanobrewery” to their operations. The winery, which opened four years ago in the city of Napa, bills itself as an “urban winery,” and is nestled among culinary gardens with a greenhouse tasting room. The winery hosts music performances and locals nights, and offers wine tastings of their small production wines, which include sauvignon blanc, muscat, rosé, zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon. And now, there’s craft beer, too.
Since opening the winery in 2014, St. Clair Brown co-founder and winemaker Elaine St. Clair had dreamt of adding a brewery to the operations. A former winemaker at Domaine Chandon and former brewmaster and co-owner of Napa Ale Works, she founded St. Clair Brown with co-owner Laina Brown with the intention of creating small batch wine (they make about 1,000 cases a year) and small production craft beer.
“I’ve always wanted to get back to beer,” shares St. Clair, “If we were going to be here for the rest of our lives, I really wanted to be able to do both again.” (St. Clair holds a degree in Fermentation Science from the University of California at Davis, with a focus in both winemaking and brewing).
St. Clair Brown’s nanobrewery (“a scaled-down microbrewery”) is the first of its kind in the city of Napa, which has seen an uptick in breweries over the past few years as more locals and visitors have become thirsty for something more than wine. The brewery produces ten beers, about 60 gallons of each batch, which are bottled by hand in re-sealable Champagne bottles. The beers are unfiltered, naturally carbonated, and malt-driven, with a preference for a less bitter or heavily hopped profile.
“I’m a traditionalist in my palate choices. I want to make beers that are just wonderfully balanced,” says St. Clair.
St. Clair Brown winery serves three beers on tap, with weekly rotations through the beer lineup. Their current beer offerings include a little something for everyone: pilsner, honey wheat ale, farmhouse saison, pale ale, red ale, Scottish ale, brown ale, black IPA, porter and oatmeal stout. Tastings, glasses and growlers are offered.
St. Clair Brown Winery & Brewery is located at 816 Vallejo St., Napa, CA 94559. 707-255-5591. stclairbrownwinery.com.
Beer has come a long way from the days when the only choices available were light or regular. In the past two decades, the flavors and styles on tap have grown into a booming industry that now satisfies patrons thirsty for fruity saisons, triple IPAs and barrel aged sours. Craft beer, once a niche market for a niche community of homebrewers and beer aficionados, has spilled out across the nation in record numbers. As of 2018, there are more than 5,500 breweries in the country creating unique and flavorful concoctions of hops, malt and yeast.
Sonoma County, and Santa Rosa in particular, reigns supreme in this golden age of beer with riches in the form of world-renowned craft breweries. With an ever-growing number of first-class beer venues to choose from, it can be hard for a beer-lover to plan his or her Sonoma suds adventures. With that in mind, we present a sampling of our favorite local breweries in the gallery above. Cheers!
For the past two weeks, Santa Rosa streets have been lined with Pliny pilgrims eagerly awaiting a sip on Russian River’s most coveted brew. While this February frenzy has become a cherished annual event for many, standing in line for five plus hours is not for everyone. If you lack the patience necessary to taste Pliny the Younger or didn’t get a chance to try the famous beer this year, we have picked out five Sonoma County brews you may not have heard (as much) about but that are just as good and definitely worth seeking out. Click through the gallery above for all the details.
Since its debut in 2004, Pliny the Younger’s popularity has only grown. Its annual release has become a cultural event and every year in February the line circles the block around Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa. The good news (for those who do not like to wait in line) is that Pliny production has increased since it was first released and Russian River Brewing Company is no longer the only place where you can get a taste of the triple IPA.
Taprooms, bars and restaurants around the Bay Area, Sacramento, San Diego, and parts of Pennsylvania, Colorado and Oregon, now receive kegs of Pliny the Younger during the annual release. But, as usual with Pliny, it’s all very hush-hush and no one knows for sure who will receive a keg this year. There is a list of bars and taprooms that traditionally get a keg of Pliny – but that may be subject to change, and some bars and taprooms do not announce that they have Pliny, in hope that their allocation might last longer. Beer geeks are now closely monitoring Russian River Brewing Company’s Facebook and Instagram for Pliny news, and so should you if you want a taste of this rare brew. Click through the gallery above for a list of Sonoma County bars where you might find Pliny the Younger (based on previous years’ allocation, and what we’ve heard through the “beervine”). Other Bay Area bars listed below. Happy Pliny hunting! Know of any more Sonoma County spots that will get Pliny? Send us an email.
Bay Area and Sacramento bars that might get Pliny:
This Sunday, the Patriots face off against the Eagles for Super Bowl XXXIX. If you want to pair the game (and the halftime show) with some socializing, snacks and brews, we’ve lined up the best Sonoma County sports bars and beer venues to watch the drama unfold – swipe through the slideshow above for all the details. Did we miss one of your favorite spots for watching Super Bowl? Let us know in the comments.
With so many high-quality breweries, taprooms and beer venues to choose from in Sonoma County, a beer lover can easily get overwhelmed. To help our fellow beer geeks out, we’ve decided to pick out a few of our favorite local spots – town by town. First out is Petaluma – click through the gallery for all the sudsy details.
The beer community quickly jumped on board and the dinner was a sellout -at $65 per ticket – one hundred percent of the money from the ticket sales was donated; $6,500 was raised that night. 100 beer, food, and wine lovers packed into the cellar at Cooperage Brewery for a family-style meal made by Peloton Culinary and their many talented chefs who volunteered their time to be there. Chef and owner Tim Vallery of Peloton Culinary said that all of his team working the event had jumped at the opportunity to volunteer to work this event,
“when asked, I thought some would decline because it isn’t exactly the best time of year for folks, but all of my servers and chefs didn’t blink, they said yes and came to help happily. It was truly amazing. I am proud to be a part of such a loving community and blessed to call these people my team.”
This beer dinner paved the way for the raffle; people generously purchased tickets at the brewery, at Beer Craft, and online as well as put cash in the barrel. What started as a beer raffle turned into over fifteen worthy prize lots. People and businesses from the North Bay donated unique beers, cases of aged beer verticals, cases of wine, tasting experiences, beer paired dinners, and schwag. The San Francisco Giants supported by donating an autographed players jersey as well as other signed memorabilia that is only available directly from the Giants franchise.
On December 1st, Tyler Smith, owner of Cooperage Brewery, broke open the barrel to find that people had put in $1,836 in cash alone. That night the raffle was called in sections giving people more opportunities to purchase tickets. In the end, just about $17,000 was raised between the dinner and raffle. The grand prize was an “Ultimate Instant Beer Cellar” which consisted of over 60 aged, rare and hard to find beers along with three 3 liters of Russian River Brewing Company’s sours (these sours are bottled in small quantities and sell out quickly thus are very sought after). The winner, Matt Chappell, a local man came down to collect his winnings and expressed that he intended to gift this cellar to a friend who lost his home and business in the fire.
“Sonoma means family and family takes care of their own. I learned that our dear friend Dario D’Costa lost his family’s home, business and an extensive beer collection in the fires. It was the Monday night of the fires and Dario, his two sisters and father met at the Local Barrel in Santa Rosa. I watched in admiration as Dario’s father looked at his children and took a sip of beer and stated,
‘We came from worse. We will rebuild.’
That very week I heard of the raffle at Cooperage and went there with the sole purpose of purchasing tickets on behalf of Dario. When I received the call I thought of only one thing – our friend.” said Chappell. He plans to gift this cellar to D’Costa at the Local Barrel this week.
There isn’t a single person who hasn’t been affected by these wildfires – many lost homes, childhood pictures, collections, treasures – but the energy and persistence to rebuild Sonoma County is what is driving all of us now. It is through the compassion and out pour of generosity of this community that will help keep Sonoma County strong.