Northern California and San Francisco

Our trip began with a flight to San Francisco, where we rented a car.

We drove a Northerly route to the cities of Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Chico, Ft. Bragg,

Boonville, Healdsburg and then back to San Francisco.

Our goal was to visit some of the best mircrobreweries that also had restaurants or pubs attached.

Lagunitas Brewing is located in Petaluma.  It’s a fun, quirky kind of place.  I imagine the staff loves to work here and the customers love to drink and eat here.  There is a small store and a great outside area with live music. Tasters are available.  Lagunitas is most famous for their Censored Ale and IPA. They rotate seasonal selections also.  I tasted their Farmhouse Guerze, 7%, which was excellent. Nina tasted four and loved the Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ ale at 8.5%, a wheaty hoppy beer.  This is a great place to spend a sunny afternoon.


Russian River Brewing is located in beautiful Santa Rosa just a short walk from our hotel.  The brewer is famous for his Belgian style and barrel aged beers.  Upon entering we noticed behind the bar a large blackboard with all the selections listed and clearly described with style, alcohol %, and IBU’s.  It’s a great help here because the names get confusing, especially after tasting one or two.

My favorite was Perdition, labeled a Biere de Sonoma, which was a fantastic tasting Bier de Garde style. Erudition a Saison style with Brettanomyces, 7.15%, got the attention of Nina and reminded her of the famous Orval from Belgium. The food menu is primarily pizza.  Russian River beers are hard to find outside the area so we were happy to take some home with us…but which ones?

Sierra Nevada Brewing is a scenic 4.5 hour drive from San Francisco to Chico. We were both very impressed by their beautiful facility and grounds.  It reminded us of a 200-year-old brewery in Germany with the attention to detail and design.  Sierra Nevada has won many awards for its commitment to the environment and grows their own hops and barley on site.  The beers are pretty good too! Kellerweis is a favorite of Nina’s.  It’s light and refreshing yet complex in flavors.  We also tasted a couple of beers from the Beer Camp Series; a fantastic Weizenbock and an interesting Juniper Black. The pub was dressed up with a shiny copper bar top and even the air conditioning ductwork was copper.  The

food menu was detailed to pair with beer.  When we first walked into the pub someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked if we would like our picture taken.  I turned around and it was Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada.  Celebrating 30 years, he has lots to be proud of as a pioneer in the American craft beer revolution.

North Coast Brewing Co. is located on the coast in Ft. Bragg.  Famous for their Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, Red Seal Ale, and Pranqster golden ale, they brew a complete spectrum of styles. The taps were pouring 16 different beers and all were available in a taster size! Red Seal was also available from the cask and was

delicious.  Of course the Old Rasputin was awesome, and Thelonious dark Belgian ale was like coffee and cream. The pub serves great food, such as fresh grilled salmon with avocado.  Our beer to take home and enjoy with friends was an 11th anniversary Old Rasputin that was released only at the pub.

Anderson Valley Brewing is just an hour drive through the Redwoods to beautiful Boonville. Luke, the bartender’s dog, greeted us at the door of the pub.  This was a very friendly and comfortable pub.  No food was served except for some peanuts but the beer choices and banter more than made up for the lack of food.  Their logo is a bear with antlers.  I asked the question “when does a bear have antlers?” and the bartender answered, “When it’s a beer!”

The bear’s name is Barkley and he has his own Facebook page.  The area also has its own dialect and is used in its signage and ads.  For example “bahlhornin” means good drinking and “Boontsteinber” means Boonville beer.  The beers are nothing to joke about though.  From the Summer Solstice Cervasa Crema to the Brother David’s Triple, they have all the styles covered.

We finished the trip with three nights in San Francisco and found two great beer bars.

Monk’s Kettle didn’t look like much on the outside, but it was perfect on the inside.  They had great beer selections, an informative beer menu, knowledgeable service, and a fantastic beer friendly food menu.  And I don’t mean chicken wings here. We tasted a beet salad, a homemade pretzel knot, beef cheeks on polenta, and mussels with frites. There were about 20 beers on tap from the USA and Europe.  I tasted Leipziger Gose, 4.6%, an old beer style that is getting a new life in the brewing world.  Gose is brewed with salt and

coriander, tastes slightly sour, pale yellow in color,

and is very refreshing.  Nina enjoyed Sweet Grass

American Pale ale, 6%, from Grand Teton brewing in Idaho, which is brewed using 5 different hops and had hints of lavender.  Nina wanted to either take it to the spa with her or go home and roast a chicken herbs de Provence.  A local beer we tasted was from Linden Street Brewing in Oakland, Burning Oak Black lager.  It was toasty, roasty, and delcious in it’s black color.  A finale for the night was Judgement Day, a Quadrupel from Lost Abbey in Southern California.  Wow, this was as good as any Trappist style quad I had ever had.

The second beer pub that we visited in San Francisco was named La Trappe.  This pub had

a central location and a terrific atmosphere.  The first floor had a bar and tables along with the kitchen and below was a cool cellar area with dining and another bar. The beer menu was extensive and listed mostly Belgian imports.  California beers were hard to find here.  But, who doesn’t love a good Belgian?  We started with a couple of Saisons.  The food menu was also typically Belgian. Frites with ten or so dips, moules a la biere four different ways, and artisan cheese plates.  Nina selected the chicken Gentse Waterzooi, a cross between a soup and stew classic to the city of Ghent.  I chose the braised rabbit with a dark beer sauce made with Gulden Draak.  Both plates were superb.

Our trip was exciting and satisfying.  We enjoy exploring and visiting a brewpub or microbrewery that is part of the great Craft Beer Revolution.  Craft beer sales were up 10% in 2010 and there is good reason.  The brewers are producing beers in a wide variety of styles that are superb in flavor.  Now the food menus are also developing to pair with the beers.  We hope you also will want to explore these new beers.  So keep your eyes open and check the beer menu at Stuff Yer Faceoften for new additions.  We’ll add them as they come available to us!

Happy Travels for Beer!

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