Summer is fast approaching and the Sonoma County beer scene is ripe with new taprooms to visit and fresh brews to sip. There truly has never been a better time to be a beer drinker, so heed the craft beer call and add these four local taprooms to your brewery bucket list. Click through the gallery above for photos of each location.
Windsor can sometimes feel like a middle child to its southbound 101 siblings, but a surge in local brewing activity shows the town is well on its way to becoming a key player on the local beer scene.
A bright light in this array of north Sonoma sud-slingers is Barrel Brothers. This is the only Windsor brewery east of the freeway, and it’s tucked away in a business center just beyond a highly trafficked box-store center. But don’t let the retail monsters scare you – “BB” is pure pleasure.
Barrel Brothers is a small brewery doing big things. From barrel-aged sours to ripping good porters, brewmaster Wesley Deal has worked feverishly with co-founder and brother-in-law Daniel Weber to build a brewery that can do just about anything. What started as a backyard hobby snowballed into what you see today but as is the case with many new businesses -beneath the shiny showroom are years of blood, sweat, and tears.
Deal holds a BS in Brewing Science from UC Davis, making the union with Weber a great fit, given Weber’s background in wine sales, marketing, and operations. Deal and Weber initially considered a production-only business model but, fortunately, a last minute location change provided them the opportunity to also open a taproom.
The brewery doesn’t serve food at the moment, but the generous selection of beer styles will still make you feel satisfied. Another perk is the taproom design, most of it drawn up by Weber who has also made much of the furniture. How cool is that? Here’s a guy who not only created the beer you’re drinking, but also the tap handle that delivered the beer, as well as the seat you’re sitting on and the bar you relax at.
Barrel Brothers, 399 Business Park Ct #506, Windsor 95492, 707-696-9487, barrelbrothersbrewing.com
As a beer lover, it’s hard to walk into the Crooked Goat in Sebastopol without thinking: “these folks got it, they’re doing it right.” This welcoming taproom always seems to enjoy a steady flow of smiling beer geeks, sipping and chatting away.
The Crooked Goat is one of several new businesses in the Barlow, Sebastopol’s modern take on an outdoor mall, reminiscent of Napa’s Oxbow. The brewery has an industrial feel – lots of stainless steel, natural light, and clean lines; a chalkboard centerpiece dominates the bar scene, listing all available beers and their specs.
Crooked Goat co-founder and brewmaster Will Erickson has been in the beer business for 20+ years, with previous stints at Moylan’s, Great Divide, and Mammoth Brewing. Over the years, he has won numerous awards, including gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival.
Guests to Crooked Goat can expect plenty of hop forward beers, as well as smooth and dark ales and the occasional lager. Many beers come with a fruit blend, including the Strawberry Hop Shake. The brewery doesn’t have a kitchen, but that’s no problem – there are plenty of good neighboring restaurants in the Barlow. Crooked Goat provides menus to these nearby spots, allowing guests to order and enjoy food from the comfort of their bar stool – and delivery is included. Ah, don’t you just love when things are this easy?
Crooked Goat Brewing, 120 Morris St #120, Sebastopol 95472, 707-827-3893, crookedgoatbrewing.com
There are plenty of home brewers in Sonoma County, but few (if any) have the pedigree of Greg Rasmussen. With home brewer awards in the triple digits, it seems almost inevitable that Rasmussen would not one day make the leap into commercial brewing.
Despite working full time as a firefighter, Rasmussen opened a brewery in Cotati, a stone’s throw from the 101, in October of last year. His Grav South is the first and only brewery in town (as an SSU alum, I can’t help but shake my fist at the current crop of students who get to enjoy the Grav South brews. Back in my day, we had to walk all the way to Friar’s, uphill).
The majority of the taps at Grav South are devoted to Rasmussen’s star-studded recipes, which include dank West Coast IPAs and malty strong ales. The remaining taps feature local guest breweries and cideries. Given Rasmussen’s prolific home brewing background, there are always plenty of rotations to satisfy your taste buds. In addition to the beers, Grav South offers ample seating, pub grub and regular live music shows.
Grav South Brew Co, 7950 Redwood Dr #15, Cotati 94931, 707-753-4198, gravsouthbrewco.com
I’m always shocked when I hear a Sonoma County resident hasn’t been to Stumptown. Seated right on the banks of the Russian River, this brewery is a great pit stop on a trip to Guerneville, the coast, or pretty much anywhere in West County.
The all-wood interior at Stumptown, often gently lit, features cozy seating and plenty of local faces. The bar serves patrons in the dining area, and also wraps around to an outdoor deck – which is the real Stumptown gem. Expansive, casual, and great for groups of all sizes, the deck sits above the river’s lazy flow, offering views of the Russian River surroundings.
The Stumptown brewing equipment is located only a few yards from the indoor portion of the bar. The brewery has been producing beers for over 20 years but, until recently, it has relied primarily on the same few styles, serving almost exclusively in-house to their loyal regulars.
Stumptown has now decided to up the ante and branch out from their bread and butter offerings. Four new fermenters and a brand new brewery layout set the scene for what is to be a new chapter in the Stumptown story. This is a significant, and exciting, development for the Guerneville brewery and, with a new lineup of beers, they will also expand distribution to a few key spots across the North Bay.
Stumptown Brewery, 15045 River Rd, Guerneville, 95446, (707) 869-0705, stumptown.com