Tucked in Northern California wine country lies an unexpected gem: A true beer devotee’s circle of brewpubs. From Boonville to Petaluma and west to the town of Sonoma, embark on a tour of the best places to enjoy rich lagers and ales this season. Here’s our beer country guide:
Anderson Valley Brewing
In the coastal region of Mendocino County, in the 15-mile strip known as Anderson Valley, visitors can enjoy the 18-hole disc golf course attraction before heading to the craft brewery clubhouse. Brother David’s Double Abbey Style Ale, a full-bodied, Belgian-style ale with honey and nutty flavors was the Silver Medalist in the 2010 Great American Beer Festival, one the biggest commercial beer competitions internationally.
17700 Highway 253, Boonville, 707-895-BEER, www.avbc.com.
Bear Republic Brewing
Bear Republic’s Racer 5 IPA may be among the most recognized beers, but the brewery also makes other delicious options, including Oktoberfest, a late-harvest lager, or the Nectarine Grizz, the barrel-aged, sour, Belgian-style brown ale fermented with Dry Creek Valley nectarines. Another plus? You can taste test on the property’s peaceful patio overlooking downtown Healdsburg.
345 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-433-BEER, www.bearrepublic.com.
Dean Biersch, of Gordon Biersch fame, opened his second Sonoma County brewpub (he also owns the popular Sebastopol), and the beers on tap constantly rotate. Try the North Coast Old 38 Stout named after a retired California steam engine on the Fort Bragg-Willits run, or the Duchesse de Bourgogne, a light-bodied Flanders red ale with a sharp finish.
691 Broadway, Sonoma, 707-935-9100, www.hopmonk.com.
In the town of Petaluma, Lagunitas’s TapRoom and Beer Sanctuary invites beer lovers to try the special releases only available at the brewery such as the spectacular Brown Shugga, while indulging in snacks and sandwiches and live music. Tasting tours are available weekdays beginning at 3 pm, and make sure to buy a growler to take home.
1280 North McDowell Blvd., Petaluma, 707-778-8776, www.lagunitas.com.
North Coast Brewing
Up in Fort Bragg, North Coast has become quite the destination by offering a range of thirst-quenching beers from Pranqster, a Belgian-style golden ale, to Brother Thelonious, a dark strong ale made in honor of the quixotic Thelonious Monk. On a colder day, opt for the Old Rasputin, the brewery’s big and bold imperial stout.
455 N. Main St., Fort Bragg, 707-964-2739, www.northcoastbrewing.com.
Russian River Brewing
Whether to have the famous Pliny the Elder double IPA or the delicious Damnation (some of the finest names of golden ales), Russian River Brewing is a must-visit destination located in the middle of Santa Rosa. Thanks to award-winning brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo, new beers are always popping up, and every February when Pliny the Younger is released, lines form around the street corner. But there’s also a chalkboard menu full of reasons to stop by including Beer Esteem, a California common-style beer with a Russian River twist.
725 4th St., Santa Rosa, 707-545-2337, www.russianriverbrewing.com.