The New Case for Visiting Wine Country for the Beer

The beer scene in Napa and Sonoma shows no signs of waning, with a profusion of new breweries opening in 2017 alone.

For decades, Wine Country has attracted Bay Area locals and tourists alike for weekends of imbibing and dining amid bucolic vineyards. Then, breweries such as Russian River Brewing Company and Lagunitas Brewing Company joined the party in the '90s, enticing people from across the globe to try Wine Country’s other beverage of choice. But now dozens of other breweries and taprooms have popped up in Napa and Sonoma counties, giving the wine industry a run for its money. Here are several that opened in 2017, with even more scheduled to open doors in 2018.

Beer Baron Bar & Kitchen in Santa Rosa

Sonoma

 In July, Beer Baron Bar & Kitchen opened up its third Bay Area location in downtown Santa Rosa, just a few blocks from Russian River Brewing on 4th Street. With about 25 craft beers on tap and an extensive (to the tune of 400) list of local and hard-to-find whiskies, this has quickly become a go-to spot for after-hour drinks. Plus, its comfort-food menu of fried chicken and waffles and Cajun mac and cheese is definitely worth a stop.

Beer Baron

Then 2 Tread Brewing Company joined Beer Baron in downtown Santa Rosa a few months later with a September debut. The brewery’s open space gives customers a front-row seat to the brewing process. IPAs, cream ales and farmhouse ales are crafted onsite using specialty ingredients that change with the seasons, while burgers, flatbreads and an innovative bites menu, including sweet potato tots and fried shishito peppers, are also up for grabs.

Bear Republic

Bear Republic Brewpub is another long-standing brewery that attracts people to Sonoma County, which is why the opening of its second location in Rohnert Park this past September was widely welcomed by the community. The same beloved menu of burgers, pizzas, local cheese boards and charcuterie plates pairs nicely with the brewery’s delicious homebrews, including its famous Racer 5 IPA.

Napa

After much success in Berkeley, Fieldwork Brewing Company expanded by opening taprooms in other parts of the Bay Area—landing in downtown Napa’s popular Oxbow Public Market as of late 2016. Enjoy a sampler flight off the brewery’s always-rotating tap list. Better yet, take some brew ha-ha home using a growler or the brewery’s very own Crowler cans.

 Tannery Bend Beerworks

Tannery Bend Beerworks is small—some used to call it nano-sized, in fact—but it prides itself in producing local, small-batch beer. Opened last spring, the new taproom accommodates a five-barrel system, which produces about 250 gallons of beer a week—a long way from its nano-brewery days of 15-gallon batches. Created by the team behind Napa’s popular Oenotri restaurant, the brewery combines brewing techniques with a culinary bent, drawing inspiration from local ingredients. Case in point: The Bancal Belgian winter ale gives off aromas of freshly baked banana bread.

 Stone Brewing

Stone Brewing, Southern California’s largest brewery, is making its way up north and opening a new taproom in Napa, scheduled for March. Its downtown location in the historic Borreo building will feature a 10-barrel pilot brew system, guaranteeing that Stone’s iconic beers, including its Stone IPA, can be replicated onsite. Communal tables and outdoor fire pits will complete the inviting feel of the space.

East Bay

If you can’t make it up north to Napa and Sonoma, the Blue Brew Bus offers brew tours throughout Livermore and San Leandro to the east. Up to 20 people can board the bus to start the tour with a “cheers beer” in a souvenir beer glass. Then, the bus will visit three area microbreweries, one of which will give a production facility tour. Past tours have included stops at Altamont Beer Works and Drakes Brewing. Bottoms up!

Blue Brew Bus