Visiting home for the holidays can mean a lot of things: dinner table political debates, meeting expectations, and a whole lot of "when did you get so big?"s. But it also means familiar hugs, country back roads, and the gathering of family around food and drinks. Usually when I'm back in Northern California, my visit lasts only a couple days, limiting the amount of breweries I can gallivant off to. But this trip I had more time to do some local haunting. Lucky for me, beer brings people together and I was able to do so with friends and family this season. While Sonoma County is home to some pioneers of craft brewing like Lagunitas and Russian River, I was seeking out smaller, up and coming breweries. The following are some of my favorites from the trip. Cheers!
Crooked Goat Brewing // Sebastopol, CA
Sebastopol is a little gem of a city in Sonoma County, know for it's hippie roots and hole-in-wall eateries and bars. In the past few years new development has yielded The Barlow: a spot for local restaurants, bars, roasteries and more. When I heard of a newer 10 barrel operation in the area, I knew it was a must go-to. The stainless steel aesthetic matched the sheet metal warehouse exterior, as well as complimented the tanks in the back. A large, stylized blackboard gave me a world of tasting opportunities, as well a crowler system so I could take some home too.
Krampus Seasonal IPA // 7.2% ABV
Color: A hazy, golden sunset
Smell: Citrus hops
Taste: Juicy grapefruit and piney hops define this ale, but the pale malt gives it a refreshing finish
Overall: While Crooked Goat seems to have a love affair with grapefruit flavors, they tried something new by dry hopping with German hops. A cordial ode to European style and traditions.
Tip: Try Krampus on nitro for a smoother mouthfeel without sacraficing the crispness.
Silver Lining Vanilla Bean Stout // 6.0% ABV
Color: Black with a creamy head
Smell: Fresh brewed coffee and mellow hop aromas
Taste: Dark and toasty with the perfect amount of hops. The Madagascar vanilla bean is subtle enough to bring out the richness of a stout without being too sweet.
Overall: An incredibley drinkable stout commendable nuances that makes the Silver Lining truly shine.
Petaluma Hills Brewing // Petaluma, CA
Located right across the street from the iconic Lagunitas taproom and brewery is the hidden-among-business-buildings Petaluma Hills Brewing. My stepdad's favorite spot, I met him there for an after work fix. Cozy yet simple, the taproom reflects the essence of this dairy town. And with two distilleries popping up on the same street, I foresee this once bland business park becoming a hub of local watering holes.
Dated 1858 Ruby IPA with Dates // 6.9% ABV 80 IBU
This ruby IPA has dates steeped right into the tank to achieve a warm, dried fruit flavor. It's named after the year the city of Petaluma was incorporated and for the California medjool dates that are used.
Color: Amber, date skin red.
Smell: Malt and dried fruit
Taste: Malt and date heavy at first, but with a nice hop finish to round out the flavor.
Overall: By using a rich and sweet fruit, the Dated takes on an almost Belgain aged flavor without the heaviness of an ale like that. A toast to this town and all it's brought to the world of craft beer.