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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sonoma Beer Country

You've maybe heard the phrase Sonoma Wine Country, but we're also beer country. As with a lot of the U.S. the micro-beer boom is well underway here. Sonoma County just had its first Beer, Cider and Spirits Conference bringing together the owners, media and people with money interested in funding craft beer growth. Yes, cider and local distilleries are growing, too, but it's mostly about the beer at this point in time.

Sonoma County has about 20 craft breweries. Nobody seems quite sure of the exact number as it changes quickly. Eight of these opened in the last couple years. The better known ones are Bear Republic, Lagunitas and Russian River Brewery. Lagunitas' growth has exploded in the last few years and they are expanding to Chicago to feed the eastern U.S. beerophiles. Russian River is one of the top ten breweries in the world according to those who put together these lists. Third Street Aleworks and Dempsey's have been around a long time, but don't get the press of these others. A couple of the newer ones coming to retail shelves are St. Florian's and 101 North.

Sonoma County doesn't rate up there with Portland, San Diego and Ft. Collins in the amount of craft beer available, but all of Napa Valley has about four breweries, I think. Just another reason to visit Sonoma instead of Napa, huh?

The #1 beer in the world
From Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California

I've searched for a website containing a list of all breweries and who has a pub, but haven't found anything all inclusive.  I recently went to Woodfour Pub in Sebastopol for the first time, but haven't yet made it to Fogbelt in Santa Rosa. And there are more to sample. So now I can't even keep up with the breweries let alone all the wineries. (I know, it's tough).

Sonoma County has four cider makers and three distilleries--so far.

This reminds me of the Sonoma County wine industry in the 1970s as it exploded from almost nothing to wineries popping up weekly it seemed.  And they still are!