Unique Beer Tastings
Check out these breweries for a different kind of tasting.
Courtesy of Napa Valley Brewing Company
Napa Valley Brewing Company, Calistoga
You don’t have to be a guest to enjoy the ambiance of Calistoga Inn, the home of Napa Valley Brewing Co. Spend an afternoon sitting in the courtyard, or bellied up to the alfresco bar, where sunlight filters through the trees. Relaxing beside the Napa River with a cold brew and house-made pizza—the dough is made from spent grain and wort reduction from the brewery—is a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of wine tasting.
Drink this: The Napa Valley Brewing Co. Porter has a smooth and velvety mouthfeel that isn’t as heavy or bitter as other porters. 1250 Lincoln Ave., Calistoga, (707) 942-4101, calistogainn.com.
HopMonk Tavern, Sonoma
Cozy up to HopMonk Tavern’s outdoor fire pits on a summer evening for live music and house-brewed suds. The tavern serves four of its own brews and plenty of other local beers on tap. Order your favorite pint or try a flight of HopMonk beers, then choose a new favorite. Be sure to arrive hungry: HopMonk’s menu of upscale pub food can please any palette. We loved the chicken Philly on naan.
Drink this: The HopMonk Kellerbier, a refreshing pilsner for a warm summer’s day. 691 Broadway, Sonoma, (707) 935-9100, hopmonk.com.
Napa Smith Brewery, Napa
With games galore—shuffleboard, giant Jenga, darts—and plenty of room to stretch out on picnic-style tables, you can spend the entire afternoon acting like a kid again at Napa Smith Brewery. Plus, there’s great beer. With at least 11 beers on tap, and a reasonably priced taster flight, you’ll find something you love.
Drink this: The Hop Java, an American Extra Pale Ale, brewed with Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Co.’s Guatemalan coffee. This ale is smooth with a nice balance of hops, and a perfectly slight coffee flavor. 1 Executive Way, Napa, (707) 254-7167, napasmithbrewery.com.
Petaluma Hills Brewing Company, Petaluma
Come here if you love to chat it up with the brewmaster and to have your pooch by your side. What Petaluma Hills lacks in fancy decor—the brewery and taproom are in an industrial complex—it makes up for in tasty brews and great company. The atmosphere is relaxing, and the guys behind the bar want to tell you about all the cool new things they are doing—from incorporating fresh honey (from hives on the roof, which are cared for by JJ, the brewmaster) in their Lamppost Ale to putting several of their standards on nitro.
Drink this: The Lamppost Ale on Nitro goes down easy, with a silky, smooth mouthfeel and hints of honey and coffee. 1333 N. McDowell Blvd., Ste. A, Petaluma, (707) 766-4458, petalumahills.com.
The Grandfathers of Wine Country Craft Beer
Bear Republic Brewing Company, Healdsburg: Famous for its Racer 5 IPA. 345 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, (707) 433-2337, bearrepublic.com.
Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa: Famous for its year-round Pliny the Elder and its seasonal Pliny the Younger. 725 4th St., Santa Rosa, (707) 545-2337, russianriverbrewing.com.
Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma: Famous for all of its tasty beers. 1280 N. McDowell Blvd., Petaluma, (707) 778-8776, lagunitas.com.