Enjoying beer and food in the wine country

If indeed it takes a lot of beer to make wine, then vintners are in luck; there’s some great beer in the wine country. Just as the modern U.S. wine industry has its roots in the 1970s in Sonoma and Napa counties, craft beer companies like Russian River, Bear Republic, Lagunitas and Moonlight are making their mark today, brewing some of the most distinctive and adventurous beers in the state. And while much of the wine industry is sadly becoming a parody of itself, with wine tourism eclipsing wine making, brewers are demonstrating the innovative spirit that’s dwindling among too many wineries.
If you’re visiting Sonoma’s Russian River wineries and find yourself weary of paying for the privilege of tasting 2-ounce pours of overoaked Chardonnays and overpriced, wimpy Pinot Noirs, drop down to Santa Rosa, just a few miles south of Healdsburg for some great beer and good food. And if you want to sample a brew that you’re not familiar with, breweries and pubs are more than happy to pour generous tastes – for free.
Visiting Russian River Brewing is the beer lover’s version of making a pilgrimage to a sacred shrine and should not be missed, but brewpub Third Street Aleworks, just a couple of blocks away, makes some decent beer in its own right and serves good food to go with it. On a recent visit, we tried Third Street’s award-winning Oatmeal Stout and Annadel Pale Ale, pairing the latter with one of the biggest small Caesar salads I’ve ever had (pictured). For the main course, we split a rib eye steak, which was more than enough for two people, accompanied by a Bodega Head IPA. The hoppiness of the beer cut right through the fattiness of the well-seasoned, nicely grilled medium-rare steak.
Not long ago, drinking beer exclusively meant American macrobrew lagers, fizzy yellow beers that were OK for quenching your thirst, but not much else. By default, then, wine was what you matched with food. With the emergence of craft brewing, that’s all changed, and pairing beer with food is at least as satisfying as matching wine.
Many years ago, Sonoma was the largest hop producer in the country. The historic old hop kiln at Hop Kiln Winery is a relic of those bygone days, cut short by disease and mechanization, which resulted in hop growing moving mostly to Oregon and Washington State. Sitting on the Third Street Aleworks patio, with a little breeze, good company, tasty food and refreshing, full-flavored beer, it’s easy to forget that you’re in the wine country. Perhaps as the craft beer industry matures, the “wine country” appellation will once again become more inclusive of the brews that are gradually redefining the area and quenching the thirst of winemakers.

Third Street Aleworks Brewpub
610 3rd St
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
(707) 523-3060

Russian River Brewing Company
725 4th St
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
(707) 545-2337

Lagunitas Brewing Company
1280 N McDowell Blvd
Petaluma, CA 94954
(707) 769-4495

Bear Republic Brewing Co.
345 Healdsburg Ave
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 433-2337

Hop Kiln Winery
6050 Westside Rd
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 433-6491

No comments:

Post a Comment