Carneros Brewing Company
Driving along Highway 121 in the Sonoma Valley, you may find your head turning as you pass a small hop yard slightly obscured behind a few olive trees. Make a quick turn and you’ll enter the park-like grounds that are home to Carneros Brewing Company. Upon arriving I’m usually torn whether to take a stroll around the lovely pond and hop yard, or to head straight for the beer.
The taproom is conveniently located inside the production warehouse. A mission-style bar with cantina seats beckons. Since the tasting room is in the middle of the brewery don’t be surprised to see the brewers working on the next batch. Revel in the fact that this is one of only a handful of Latino-owned breweries in the country. It was founded by brothers Jesus, Pedro, Armando and Manuel Ceja, Mexican immigrants from the states of Michoacán and Jalisco. Brewmaster Jesus Ceja attended U.C. Davis and went on to hone his brewing skills and gain an encyclopedic knowledge of yeast as an employee at Coors, Red Star Yeast Company, and Anheuser-Busch.
Carneros beers are restrained in the best possible way. Subtle flavors from the malt and hops are used to craft approachable and traditional beers. The two standouts for me are the Morena Ale and the Negra IPA. The Morena Ale is a creamy, malty amber ale that goes down so easy that I always find myself at the bottom way quicker then intended. The Negra IPA is a bit of a cross between the new dark Cascadia-style IPAs of the Pacific Northwest and an old dark German lager; it drinks smooth with a rich roast and a clean hop finish. Other popular styles are the Jefeweizen and a light, easy drinking Cerveza Pilsner.
Carneros Brewing company is worth the stop. Family-friendly grounds, a fun tasting room, an affable staff, and great beers add up to a great spot to have a pint.
22985 Burndale Rd., Sonoma; 707.938.1880; carnerosbrewing.com
Dempseys Restaurant & Brewery
Tucked alongside the Petaluma waterfront, Dempsey’s is known for the excellence of its burgers, the pile-high loft of its stringed onion rings, the insane height of its pork chops, and its flagship Red Rooster Ale, a caramel-infused, hoppy flower of a drink. With homemade root beer on tap for the kids, a relaxed outside dining area in the front perfect for people-watching, and a take on comfort food that skews to Asian and Latin flavors, it’s no surprise that Dempsey’s has slid comfortably into its second decade. Look for seasonal beers and a changing tap roster that swings from IPA to stout and includes a spin-inducing 11.25% ABV barley wine.
50 E. Washington St., Petaluma; 707.765.9694; dempseys.com
Fogbelt Brewing Cº.
With a background in winemaking, the folks at Fogbelt Brewing Company now aim for a much tougher fermentation process. Because, while it takes a lot of good beer to make great wine, the big secret is that making beer is actually a lot harder than letting some grapes go to juice. Tucked away in an interesting corner of Santa Rosa on freeway frontage property, Fogbelt must be sought out, but once found, it rewards the effort. Featuring a seasonal menu made to match the suds, a large bar, and outdoor tables, Fogbelt is a welcome addition.
1305 Cleveland Ave., Santa Rosa; 707.978.3400; fogbeltbrewing.com