California brewers pioneered the hoppy IPA craze, and it shows no sign of abating. But in a hopped-up world where it sometimes seems like brewers are vying to see who can cram the most hops into a tank, North Coast Brewing Co. offers a refreshing alternative.
An early player in the craft beer movement, North Coast opened its Fort Bragg brewpub in 1988. A carpenter by trade, founder Mark Ruedrich set his sights on brewing after a visit to England, where he discovered there was more to life than watery, mass-produced American beers.
Red Seal Ale, a hoppy-for-its-time amber ale, was the first North Coast brew to get beer-lovers’ attention. Scrimshaw pilsner and Old 38 stout followed, along with the Old Rasputin Russian imperial stout, now considered an iconic example of the style.
Today, North Coast makes 17 year-round and seasonal brews, plus an array of barrel-aged beers and reserves. Many of those brews are available on draft—in samplers and pints—at the brewery’s Mendocino Coast taproom, along with stone hearth pizzas and other tasty pub fare.
Romance finds a home in this idyllic coastal region, where ocean fog rolls in from the ocean to blanket hushed redwood forests, and whales spout offshore. Along the coast, artists set up their easels to paint scenes of crashing surf and whitewashed cottages wrapped in rose-filled gardens.
Each year, December through May, look to the sea to witness roughly 15,000 gray whales swimming south for the summer.
It’s also a place where a new generation of farmers and winemakers focus on preserving the land as well as producing amazing food and wine. Favorite escapes include the romantic hamlet of Mendocino, roughly a 3-hour drive up the coast from San Francisco, and Eureka, a former logging town 2 hours further north, and the gateway to breathtaking Redwoods National and State Parks.
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