Beer Country: Need a Pliny Alternative?

Impress yourself and your friends with these other local beers that are on par with the limited IPA.

(photo by Christopher Chung)

For aficionados, two beers put Sonoma on the map: Lagunitas Brewing’s ubiquitous flagship India Pale Ale (IPA) and Russian River Brewing’s Pliny the Younger, a triple IPA that’s available just two weeks a year. But as local craft-beer drinkers know, there’s a lot more to Sonoma brewing than these two superstars. Impress yourself and your friends with these other local beers that are nearly as good (or perhaps even better).

Pliny the Elder, Russian River Brewing
If you can’t make the trip or don’t want to wait in line for Pliny the Younger, the sixth-best beer in the world, according to Beer Advocate, the eighth-best brew isn’t a bad consolation prize. Pliny the Elder, a classic, hoppy double IPA, is one of the most coveted beers around, and it’s right in our backyard, Santa Rosa.

Blind Pig, Russian River
With as much hype as the Plinys get, Blind Pig, a less intense, well-balanced and flavorful IPA, tends to get overlooked. Many hop heads, including this one, prefer Blind Pig over the hoppier Plinys.

Saison, Henhouse Brewing
There aren’t many California breweries whose flagship beer is a saison, or farmhouse ale, but Petaluma’s HenHouse excels at the style. Its signature brew is a rich, golden color that’s light in body, with less of the tartness that puts some drinkers off of saisons. It’s a great first saison for people new to craft beer. HenHouse doesn’t bottle or have a taproom, but its beers are widely available on draft in the North Bay.

Death & Taxes, Moonlight Brewing
A mainstay of the Sonoma craft brew scene, Santa Rosa’s Brian Hunt produces this signature dark lager that has the flavor profile of a dark beer, but without the heaviness of a stout or porter.

Berliner Weisse, Woodfour Brewing
The selection changes often at this Sebastopol brewery, but this tart, low- alcohol wheat beer is a mainstay. At approximately 3 percent alcohol by volume, it’s a great midday pairing with lunch from the brewpub at The Barlow.

Old Adobe Stout, Petaluma Hills
This dry stout should please fans of Guinness, and it’s a great reason to visit Sonoma County’s most laid-back, cozy taproom.