Although the omicron variant surge forced Russian River Brewing Co. to postpone the Feb. 4 release of its revered Pliny the Younger triple IPA until late March, there’s no reason for anyone to cry in their beer: FeBREWary is here.
Each February, Visit Santa Rosa and local breweries collaborate to offer the Santa Rosa Beer Passport, a month-long series of tastings and events. Pick up free passports at any of the participating breweries and a handful of other businesses, visit the taprooms, enjoy a pint and get the passport stamped. Eleven or more stamps earns you a commemorative Santa Rosa Beer Passport bottle opener medal and lanyard.
To me, the bling is not the thing. The best thing about the passport is that it guides craft-brew buffs to many of Sonoma’s most inventive, cutting-edge breweries that also embrace old-school beer-making traditions in producing their pilsners, IPAs, sours and stouts. And passport breweries pull out all the stops during FeBREWary, with new and seasonal beer releases, comedy nights, contests and food trucks. It’s an offshoot of SF Beer Week, Feb. 11-22 this year, but Santa Rosa Beer Passport extends the “week” to a full month.
The two-week celebratory release of Russian River Brewing’s Pliny the Younger is now scheduled for March 25 to April 7, after the FeBREWary window closes. Yet Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo’s RRBC taprooms in Windsor and downtown Santa Rosa will do their share of passport stamping through Feb. 28 and draw another round of locals and visitors to Sonoma County seeking sips of the internationally acclaimed Pliny. It’s a win-win for all.
A must-visit in February
Perhaps the most ambitious celebrant of FeBREWary and Santa Rosa Beer Passport is Iron Ox Brewing in Santa Rosa. Kevin Robinson established the company in 2015, first calling it Plow Brewing Co. and doing most of the interior construction and brew system assembly himself. In 2000, sales manager Vince Ferracuti became a partner and the name was changed to Iron Ox, a reference to their stamina and will to endure wildfires, the pandemic and new-business challenges.
“We scheduled an April 10 (2020) party to introduce the change from Plow to Ox,” Ferracuti said. But on March 17, statewide shelter-in-place orders shut down the hospitality side of the business. When breweries could finally reopen, it had to be outdoors.
“After a year of being closed, we got a tent permit for behind the taproom,” Ferracuti explained of the brewery on Industrial Drive in west Santa Rosa. “(FeBREWary) this year marks the first time we’ll serve indoors since the pandemic. We extended the horseshoe tasting bar (to run) along one wall, adding a few more seats. We’ll still have events in the tent, but also an indoor option.”
Iron Ox has packed February with several beer releases, including Smart Feller Triple IPA, Scythe Imperial Porter, Monkey With A Long Tail West Coast IPA, Oxytocin Raw IPA, Dieci-Lire Italian Lager and Star-View Hazy IPA. Come for the brews and stay for the Ro-Sham-Bo Tournament (Feb. 12), the Meatless Saturday Vulture Foods food truck (Feb. 19) and Comedy Night on Feb. 26.
3334 Industrial Drive, Santa Rosa, 707-843-4583, ironoxbeer.com
Other notable Passport participants
Bear Republic Brewing Co.: The Norgrove family and their master brewer, Rich “Ricardo” Norgrove, produce their flagship Racer 5 IPA and a couple dozen other ales in Cloverdale, having outgrown their original downtown Healdsburg location. The place to taste their brews and enjoy elevated pub grub is their Rohnert Park taproom and restaurant, which is dog-friendly (there’s plenty of outdoor seating and a dog park next door). The brewery is pouring three new releases in February: Spawn of Yaga Imperial Stout and two throwback beers from their Origins Series — the Hop Rod Rye IPA and the Black Racer IPA. There will be live music in the beer garden on Feb. 20 and 27, Pizza and Pints on Wednesdays and Trivia Night on Thursdays.
Fogbelt Brewing Co.: Owners Remy Martin and Paul Hawley celebrated their eighth year in business together with a Saturday, Feb. 12 anniversary party at their Santa Rosa taproom. FeBREWary is devoted to new releases at Fogbelt, with the Godwood Triple IPA dropping Feb. 12 (Fogbelt beers are named for coastal trees), right after the Tree 76, a hazy IPA. On Saturday, Feb. 19, two exotic, barrel-aged beers will take the spotlight: Big Tree Imperial Stout, aged in bourbon barrels and blended with Candy Cap mushrooms and toasted pecans; and Methuselah Barrel Aged Sour with added zinfandel juice. The grain-fermented fun continues to Feb. 20 with bacon and beer pairings.
1305 Cleveland Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-978-3400, fogbeltbrewing.com
HenHouse Brewing Co.: This brewery, which began on a small scale in Petaluma and expanded to a larger facility in Santa Rosa, celebrates its “Stoked on 10” decade anniversary during FeBREWary. Ten beers brewed specifically for Stoked on 10, some made in collaboration with other brewers throughout the U.S. (and one in England), have been released since early January, and now’s the time to get them before they’re gone. The Big Chicken Double IPA was let out of its cage on Tuesday, Feb. 8.
322 Bellevue Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-978-4577, henhousebrewing.com
Old Possum Brewing: Beer tastes best when it’s accompanied by live music, and Old Possum delivers the combo on the evenings of Friday, Saturday and Feb. 25 and 26. Performers include Jacob Philip Benning, Brian Francis Baudoin, Nick Foxer and Dan Martin. The beer? La Rosita Lager and La Rosa Negra are special pours until Feb. 20; Interstellar Stout is now out in cans and Tonic Immobility IIIPA releases Friday, Feb. 11.
57 Sutton Place, Santa Rosa, 707-303-7177, oldpossumbrewing.com
More Passport participating breweries
Cooperage Brewing Co., 981 Airway Court, Suite G, Santa Rosa, 707-293-9787, cooperagebrewing.com
Moonlight Brewing Co., 3350 Coffey Lane, Suites A and D, Santa Rosa, 707-755-4951, moonlightbrewing.com
Old Caz Beer, 5625 State Farm Drive, Rohnert Park, 707-978-3974, oldcaz.com
Russian River Brewing Co., 725 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-545-2337; 700 Mitchell Lane, Windsor, 707-545-2337; russianriverbrewing.com
Seismic Brewing Co., The Barlow, 6700 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol, 707-544-5996, seismicbrewingco.com
Shady Oak Barrel House, 420 First St., Santa Rosa, 707-575-7687, shadyoakbarrelhouse.com
Steele & Hops Public House, 1901 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-523-2201, steeleandhops.com
Third Street Aleworks, 610 Third St., Santa Rosa, 707-523-3060, thirdstreetaleworks.com
3 Disciples Brewing, 501 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-978-2459, 3dbrews.com
In addition to the breweries, you also can pick up passports at:
Belly Left Coast Kitchen & Taproom, 523 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-526-5787, bellyleftcoastkitchenandtaproom.com
Brew Coffee and Beer House, 555 Healdsburg Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-303-7372, brewcoffeeandbeer.com
Wilibees Wines & Spirts, 700 Third St., Santa Rosa, 707-978-3779, wilibees.com
Wilibees Wines & Spirits, 309 Lakeville St., Petaluma, 707-762-2042, wilibees.com
For information all in one place, go to visitsantarosa.com/beerpassport.