In a region known for internationally acclaimed wines, craft beers don’t typically come to mind. Well, now they should, especially in Sonoma County. First stop is the appealing town of Petaluma, where brew masters at Lagunitas Brewing Company (now owned by Heineken) have gained a huge following with their radical takes on traditional beer types and irreverent messaging on their packaging. Visit the company’s in-town taproom for a sampling; favorite brews include a classic IPA, plus A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’, and Hop Stoopid ales. Another Sonoma County notable is Russian River Brewing, with 20 of its beers, including legendary Pliny the Elder double IPA, served in its Santa Rosa taproom. (Expect a crowd; this brew has gained a truly cult-like status.)
Some breweries want to make sure you don’t go hungry: Woodfour Brewing Company, in boho-chic Sebastopol, pairs fine foods like heirloom beans and braised pork belly with its own beers. Guerneville’s Stumptown Brewery (look for the big white fermentation tank out front) pours three of its own brews as well as guest beers, ales, and stouts from other parts of the state and serves up casual grill fare. In swanky-but-friendly Healdsburg, where in-town wine-tasting rooms abound, hang out with winemakers (yes, they drink beer) and other locals at Bear Republic Brewing Company. Raise a pint of brew in nearby Napa Valley at Napa Smith Brewery, also known for its Grateful Dog barley wine, and Tannery Bend Beerworks, located in Napa’s historic Tannery Row.