Thursday, September 27, 2007

Road Trip - Beer Tasting in Sonoma County

Don't mess with my Pliny!

After visiting Sierra City, we spent a couple of days in Santa Rosa with brewery visits at the top of our todo list. We stayed at the Hotel La Rose, which was a great place and also conveniently located.

Located within stumbling distance of Russian River Brewing Company, that is.

When we aren't drinking local San Diego beer, Pliny the Elder holds one of the top spots on our hit list. It helps that the Liars' Club almost always has it on tap. At the source, however, you can get pints of Pliny and its little brother, Blind Pig for $2.75 during happy hour. It's pretty hard to beat that.

You've got to love the first column on their beer chalkboard listing original gravity.

Less to love was the service at the brewery. It is a surprisingly large and busy place, and was understaffed during our visit. Vinnie, I loves me the Pliny, but I think I'd rather drink it at my local.

Less easily obtained in my neighborhood, we also sampled the five Belgian style beers they had on tap. We are acquiring a taste for Belgian yeast, but aren't quite there yet. Our favorite of the bunch was the Damnation.

We weren't in the mood for the food at Russian River (they basically just do pizza), so we stopped into Josef's, the restaurant in our hotel, and shared three appetizers. We had a smoked chicken dish, mussels, and some escargots. All three were very good, but we particularly liked the chicken. They also had quite reasonably priced wine by the glass.

The next day we did a short road jaunt up to Healdsburg to visit Bear Republic Brewery. We liked the atmosphere here much better than at Russian River.

Their Racer 5 IPA is one of the first aggressive IPAs we ever tasted, and remains one of our favorites today. It was great to have a pint of it on its home turf.

While we were there, we ran into two other couples on similar beer pilgrimage circuits and engaged in some serious beer-geek conversation.

That evening, we again had dinner of appetizers. This time we visited a wine bar called Wine Spectrum just around the corner from our hotel. Our favorite dish was this heirloom tomato soup.

During our Sonoma visit, we also hit up several wine tasting rooms in the area. We were mostly appalled at the trend of the more successful wineries charging more and more for tastings ($10 was not uncommon). We did have a few pleasant stops, however, the best being at Kendall Jackson (right off of the central square in Healdsburg) and Seghesio (a short walk to the edge of town). In both cases the people pouring were both friendly and knowledgeable.


  1. I like your taste in beer. I agree with the service comments at RR Brewery and also the wine tasting rooms. It's gotten so out of hand that most people in Sonoma County don't go tasting anymore. It's become a theme park for out of towners. Try Fort Bragg next time and have a pint of Old Rasputin.

  2. love this! I want to do a beer trip up north. Great blog!!


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