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.
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.
As assistance for Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino County fire evacuees continues to pour in – truckload after truckload – some shelters are beginning to turn away donations due to oversupply on some items and limitations of space. The challenge is to match the items donated with the specific needs of fire victims.
The space inside the Roaring Donkey has become a pop-up clearinghouse of sorts, where items received are organized by type. Over a dozen volunteers move at a quick pace to keep up with the deliveries from cars and trucks arriving continuously at the Kentucky Street bar. Once sorted, items are delivered to particular shelters where a matching need has been communicated.
Volunteers at the Roaring Donkey say they’re currently overloaded with donated clothing, which requires lots of volunteer-power to sort. There is, however, a great need for new items: new-in-the-package underwear (including teen bras), Ziplock bags of collected new toiletries, plastic bins (for use as “footlockers”), glass-free packaged food, and gift cards to fill in the gaps. Volunteers are needed to organize donations.
“Every time we empty one (truck), we end up getting more,” says volunteer, Tara Lanatti, a student and instructional aide, who learned of the need for volunteers after driving by the pub.
School supplies, being stored at Maguire’s pub, are delivered to Xandex Inc.’s office space at 1360 Redwood Way, where they are organized by the Active 20-30 Club in partnership with Petaluma-based Mentor Me program.
Megan McClelland, Active 20-30 Club volunteer and counselor at Petaluma High School, beamed as she told of the hundreds of new backpacks that arrived from individuals as well as from Camelbak and Jansport. The drop-off on Redwood Way has been visited by “an insane amount of people,” she says. “It’s awesome community here.”
Active 20-30 Club volunteers say they are well stocked with pencils and pens, but there’s a need for three-ring binders, graphing calculators, lunch boxes, pencil pouches and backpacks.
Roaring Donkey co-owner, Brian Tatko, who could only stop briefly while carrying a large box of delivery-bound donations, said they will be accepting goods on Saturday and Sunday until about 3 or 4 p.m. at which point they have to tend to their regular business as a bar, music venue and gathering place.
How to help: Jamison’s Roaring Donkey is located at 146 Kentucky St. in Petaluma. The Active 20-30 Club will be accepting donations at Xandex at 1360 Redwood Way in Petaluma on Saturday, October 14 until 2 p.m. Please check The Roaring Donkey’s Facebook page and Petaluma 20-30 Club’s Facebook page for updates. Keep in mind that needs are constantly changing. For more ways to support fire victims, click here.
North Bay residents have spent the days since Monday morning, October 9, experiencing terror, loss, and heartbreak. They’ve been fighting fires with garden hoses, preparing their homes against the onslaught of raging flames, and waiting in evacuation centers for news of loved ones and updates regarding the survival of their homes. In the past few days, firefighters battling blazes in Napa and Sonoma counties have continued to make gains, with containment numbers increasing. When the fires are quenched begins the road toward recovery.
In an effort to help rebuild their local community, Natalie and Vinnie Cilurzo, owners of Santa Rosa’s Russian River Brewing Company, have partnered with former professional cyclist Levi Leipheimer’s King Ridge Foundation to launch the charitable endeavor Sonoma Pride. The campaign will raise funds through direct donations to the King Ridge Foundation, sales of Sonoma Pride beer (to be released on October 31) and $25 donations for a chance to win Pliny the Younger line-cutting privileges in 2018.
The Sonoma Pride donation site, which has already realized over $162,959 in charitable contributions, will continue to collect and distribute funds through December; 100 percent of proceeds will be donated to victims of the Sonoma County wildfires.
Commenting on the Sonoma Pride campaign, Natalie Cilurzo says, “It was important to Vinnie and me to partner with a local non-profit that would ensure the money raised stays in Sonoma County…one with no overhead or administrative fees so all of the money goes directly to the wildfire victims.”
As part of this fundraising effort, Russian River Brewing Company has invited breweries from across Sonoma County and around the world to create beers under the Sonoma Pride label. Bear Republic Brewing Company in Healdsburg was the first to sign on for the collaboration.
“Being a retired firefighter myself” says Richard Norgrove Jr., Bear Republic owner and master brewer, “it was important for us to be a part of this.”
As part of the Sonoma Pride campaign, Bear Republic has partnered with St. Florian’s Brewery in Windsor to make a collaborative beer called “Mutual Aid.” Firetrucks from Healdsburg and Windsor will be pictured on the label. Aron Levin, owner and master brewer at St. Florian’s Brewery (St. Florian is patron saint of firefighters), is a fire captain and has been fighting on the front line since the North Bay wildfires broke out.
Bear Republic is planning a similar collaboration with Petaluma’s 101 North Brewing with a label representing Richard Norgrove’s and 101 North master brewer Joel Johnson’s alma mater Cardinal Newman. The proceeds from this collaborative brew will go directly toward rebuilding Cardinal Newman High School, which was damaged in the Tubbs Fire. Bear Republic Brewing is also donating 50 cents on ever case sold to help fire victims; the brewery estimates this will net $70,000 for the charitable endeavor.
Meanwhile, Sonoma Springs Brewing in Sonoma Valley plan to brew a juicy-style IPA under the Sonoma Pride label, which will be released on draft in November. On November 11th, the brewery will honor the Sonoma Valley Volunteer Fire Department at their annual Sottile Red Party fundraiser.
In addition to Russian River Brewing, Bear Republic, St. Florian’s, 101 North and Sonoma Springs, Santa Rosa breweries HenHouse and Cooperage are brewing a collaborative beer under the Sonoma Pride label and local breweries Plow, Third Street Aleworks, Seismic, Moonlight, Crooked Goat, Fogbelt, Barrel Brothers and 3 Disciples are also joining the fundraising effort.
All Sonoma Pride beers will be available on draft from October 31. Russian River Brewery and Bear Republic will be producing 10,000 barrels; they will bottle some Sonoma Pride for national distribution. Russian River Brewing Company’s Sonoma Pride release party is scheduled on October 31st, more details can be found on the brewery’s Facebook page.
Locals and families affected by the fires can apply for funds online through the King Ridge Foundation; families with children are given preference. The Sonoma Pride campaign has also secured donations from Trek and Specialized of 1,000 new bicycles; families with children who lost bikes in the fires or children who don’t own a bike may apply for one here. North Bay residents who are in need of basic necessities like toiletries, shoes, and clothing may apply for assistance in obtaining those items here.
More information about Sonoma Pride, and how to make a donation, here.
National breweries planning to brew beers under the Sonoma Pride label include:
Alvarado Street (Monterey, CA), New Bohemian (Santa Cruz, CA), Eight Bridges (Livermore, CA), Morgan Territory (Tracy, CA), The Bell Marker (San Diego, CA), Crux Fermentation Project (Bend, OR), Boneyard (Bend, OR), Creature Comforts (Athens, GA), Scarlet Lane (McCordsville, IN), Cigar City (Tampa, FL), Ballast Point (San Diego, CA), and Sierra Nevada (Chico, CA), Sante Adairius Rustic Ales (Capitola, CA), Bagby Beer Company (Oceanside, CA), Three Weavers (Inglewood, CA), St. Archer (San Diego, CA), J Dubs Brewing (Sarasota, FL), Allegory Brewing (McMinnville, OR), and Revision Brewing (Sparks, NV) — more are expected to join.
Sonoma County is a beer lover’s dream destination. From some of the highest ranked breweries in the world to unassuming yet well-stocked brew pubs, you can find it all here. Generally, local and visiting beer enthusiasts gravitate toward the cities of Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Sonoma and Healdsburg, but in between these wine country hot spots, just east of Hwy. 101, are two towns worth a visit.
We recently toured Rohnert Park and Cotati and checked out five beer venues you should add to your beer bucket list. From breweries and taprooms to family friendly venues and bottle shops, click through the gallery above for all the details.
Harvest time in Wine Country has traditionally meant grape picking and winemaking but with the growing popularity of craft beers, hops are becoming our region’s “other” hot crop. As hop varieties and flavor profiles proliferate in beers, brewers have begun to follow the lead of grape vintners and wine bottlers before them by planting their own hop farms to gain more control of their ingredients and finished products. And it’s no surprise that some of the brewers who are taking hop harvesting the most seriously are those who started with grapes. Here are nine Sonoma brewers who swapped wine for beer.
Barrel Brothers Brewing Company, Windsor: Wesley Deal and Daniel Weber
Brothers-in-law Wesley Deal and Daniel Weber both previously worked in wine. Deal worked as assistant winemaker for two years at a winery in Healdsburg before becoming inspired by his father-in-law’s love for home-brewing. He then decided to study brewing science at U.C Davis. Weber worked in sales and marketing in the wine industry and took an equal liking to the beer world when likewise inspired by the same father-in-law, Tom Sather.
Deal’s and Weber’s love for the brewing craft led them to take their hobby to the next level when they opened Barrel Brothers Brewing Company in Windsor. Recently they have begun working with fellow brewer Steve Doty of Shady Oak Barrel House to bring the characteristics of the Sonoma terroir to beer. On their two acre hop farm north of Windsor, the partners plan to create a spontaneously fermented lambic series to share with local beer lovers and travelers alike.
Barrel Brother’s Brewing, 399 Business Park Ct, #506, Windsor 95492, 707-696-9487, barrelbrothersbrewing.com, @BarrelBrothersBrewing
Carneros Brewing Company, Sonoma: Armando, Jesus and Pedro Ceja
Brothers Armando, Pedro and Jesus Ceja grew up in Napa Valley working for their father in the vineyards and learning the wine trade. After paying homage to their father by building a successful winery, the brothers are now tapping into beer at their Sonoma Valley microbrewery Carneros Brewing Company, located near the Ceja Family Vineyards. Head-brewmaster Jesus Ceja graduated from the brewery science program at U.C Davis, and previously worked at Coors in Golden, Colorado, AB-inBev, and Red Star Yeast Company.
The brothers have planted their own hops on the brewery property so that they can obtain nothing but the best ingredients for their beers. Guests of the brewery can enjoy views of Carneros Valley, picnic in the beer garden by the pond and sip on handcrafted ice cold beers.
Fogbelt Brewing Company, Santa Rosa: Paul Hawley and Remy Martin
Co-owners and co-brewers Remy Martin and Paul Hawley grew up working in the wine business – Martin worked grape harvests in California and abroad; Hawley worked at his family’s winery, Hawley Wines in Dry Creek Valley. The two began brewing together during a trip to New Zealand’s wine country, where they were working the harvest. Martin then studied brewing at U.C Davis while Hawley continued to work at his family’s winery.
Four years ago, just before opening Fogbelt Brewing, Hawley planted a quarter acre of hops on his family vineyard in Healdsburg. With farming in his blood, he knew this was the best way to both understand and control the quality and variety of hops for the brewery. Fogbelt Brewing now hosts the “Wet Hop Fest,” an event that features beers brewed with locally harvested hops.
Hawley continues to help out at the family winery. He is constantly reminded that the two industries, wine and beer, have different challenges, “With wine, the main production period is once a year during harvest. With beer, we are always in production-mode, allowing for more experimentation and perfecting of the process and beers, but a lot more scrubbing tanks. After a while, brewing twice a day, you wish you could just have a couple months of heavy production and make enough to last a year. Beer has a shelf life though and wine just gets better with age. I love making barrel-aged sour beers because it feels more like wine-making than brewing…”
Fogbelt Brewing, 1305 Cleveland Ave, Santa Rosa 95401, (707) 978-3400, fogbeltbrewing.com, @FogbeltBrewing
Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa: Vinnie Cilurzo
Russian River Brewing Company co-owner, brewmaster and Pliny creator Vinnie Cilurzo grew up in Temecula, CA, working in the barrel room at his family’s winery, Cilurzo Family Cellars. After realizing he had more passion for hops than grapes, Cilurzo made the leap to beer and, after acquiring investors, opened Blind Pig Brewing in Temecula, in 1994. It was at this time that he perfected the original recipe for what was to become the famous Blind Pig IPA.
Cilurzo then moved to Northern California where he became head brewer at Korbel Cellars’s Russian River Brewing Company. When Korbel bowed out of the brewing business, Cilurzo accepted rights to the Russian River Brewing Company (RRBC) name and all of the recipes in lieu of a severance package. In 2004, Vinnie and his wife Natalie opened the RRBC brewpub on 4th Street in downtown Santa Rosa. Natalie, who left a job in the wine industry after the pub’s opening, now oversees the business side of the brewery and brewpub while Vinnie oversees brewing and distribution. A new brewery in Windsor is slated to open in the fall of 2018.
Russian River Brewing Co., 725 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404, (707) 545-2337, russianriverbrewing.com, @RussianRiverOfficial
Seismic Brewing Company, Santa Rosa: Christopher Jackson
Christopher Jackson, son of philanthropist Barbara Banke and the late Jess Jackson (founder of Kendall Jackson), has adopted his parents’s love for a grape-to-glass approach in wine and applied the concept to his grain-to-glass philosophy at Seismic Brewing.
In partnership with friends Patrick Delves and Andy Hooper, Jackson’s dream to build a sustainable brewery, operating on a clean and green scale to produce the highest quality beers, has come to fruition. Jackson’s custom-brew house is built with energy efficiency and a “clean to can” approach. The brewery emphasizes the three “P’s” of sustainability: “people” (by paying and treating employees fairly while providing a healthy work environment), “planet” (by maximizing energy and water efficiency), and “prosperity” (by adopting a policy to partner with the community and local businesses). While the brewery does not currently have a taproom, Seismic beers can be found on draft at Confluence Taproom in Santa Rosa, Brewsters Beer Garden in Petaluma, and other establishments throughout the Bay Area.
Seismic Brewing, 2870 Duke Court, Santa Rosa, California, CA 95407, 707-230-5014, seismicbrewingco.com, @SeismicBrewingCo