Norton Safeweb

Friday, February 3, 2017

History of Beer in Sonoma County

If you go back to the olden days before Prohibition Sonoma County had breweries just like many other parts of the country. What was unique during this time was the county was home to a thriving hop industry. But what we're going to talk about here is the resurrection of the craft beer industry and it's beginnings right here in Sonoma.

New Albion Brewery was founded in the town of Sonoma and is considered the first microbrewery of the modern craft brewing age. New Albion Ale, a pale brewed with Cascade hops is considered the first craft beer. The company went out of business in 1982 even though they had no problem selling every bottle of beer they made. They were perhaps a little ahead of their time.
The original New Albion Brewery sign is inside the Russian River Brewery
Hopland Brewery opened just across the county line in the town of Hopland as the second brewpub operating in the country. It later morphed into Mendocino Brewery, home of Red Tail Ale.

Kelmer's Brewhouse, a brewery and restaurant was founded in Santa Rosa. Pale Ales, Lagers, Stouts, and Porters, but no such thing as an IPA yet, as best I can remember. They closed in 1993.

Acme Brewing was in San Francisco during the first half of the 20th century. The name was purchased by Grace Brothers Brewing of Santa Rosa and produced during the 1960s. In 1987 Xcelsior Brewing of Santa Rosa opened and used the Acme brand, but it folded just two years later. The rights to the brand now belong to North Coast Brewing of Fort Bragg, CA.

Dempsey's Restaurant & Brewery opens in Petaluma. Note that it was a restaurant first and a brewery second--just in case the beer thing didn't work out.

Moonlight Brewing opened in Santa Rosa. No, you've never heard of them. They are still tiny and recently "gave in" to the craft beer boom and opened a small tap room three days a week.
Death & Taxes is Moonlight's original
Lagunitas Brewing was founded in Marin County and moved to Petaluma in Sonoma County a year later. Today it's the fifth largest craft brewery in the county. They now have a second brewery in Chicago and looking for another location in the eastern U.S. plus they have several tap rooms across the country. Their flagship Lagunitas IPA helped set the stage for hoppy, piney West Coast IPAs. The owner sold half of the company to Heineken to finance his expansion plans.

Bear Republic Brewery, home of Race 5 IPA, opened in Healdsburg. They make about 20 beers and have a restaurant. They rank in the top 50 American craft breweries in size.

Russian River Brewery was founded at Korbel Champagne Cellars (located near the Russian River) as sort of a side project for the owner. In 2003 he sold the rights to the brewmaster. In 2004 they opened in their current location in downtown Santa Rosa. They rest, as they say, is history as they make some of the top-rated beers in the world. Just mentioning Pliny the Younger to any beer geek will bring tears to their eyes.  They will expand to a second location in nearby Windsor in a couple years.
Just another day at the Russian River Brewery
The Benziger Winery family opened Sonoma Mountain Brewery in Sonoma Valley. The site is now how to Imagery Winery as the brewery lasted less than two years. They made a couple lager beers in the German tradition.

There are over 500 breweries in the state of California with San Diego having the biggest concentration. There are close to 30 in Sonoma County. It's hard to know the exact number as several open every year.
Opening soon