Visiting Russian River Brewing Company has long been on my bucket list. Pliny the Elder is one of my favorite double IPAs, and Consecration and Supplication are amazing barrel-aged sours. What could be better than enjoying these incredible beers straight from the source?
Fortunately, I have a lot of family in Northern California, so my husband and I decided to make a side trip during our recent visit. We spent a day in Napa and then drove to Santa Rosa, home of Russian River, the next morning. The drive through Sonoma County only took an hour, but I could have easily spent more time in the car because the trip was so beautiful with the lush vineyards and mature trees that lined the highway.
Once we arrived in Santa Rosa, we immediately headed to Russian River Brewing. Considering that it was 2 p.m. on a Tuesday, we thought we’d have the brewery to ourselves. That wasn’t the case. The place was packed. For such a prominent and busy brewery, the space was smaller than expected. We snagged the last couple of seats at the bar, ordered a round and then moved to our table about 20 minutes later. Normally, I prefer to sit at the bar, but it was a tight squeeze, and we needed room for our flights. I’m all about priorities, friends.
As soon as we settled into our seats, we ordered a couple of flights, which is a must if you visit Russian River. For $22.50, you can get a flight of Russian River’s entire beer menu. Of course, the beer menu varies, but for us, that amounted to about 20 beers. Maybe it wouldn’t be worth it to a local; however, as a tourist, it was part of the experience.
Besides my aforementioned favorite Russian River beers, Temptation was the standout of the day. Temptation was a blond ale aged in chardonnay barrels with brettanomyces. The resulting beer was tart, crisp and slightly funky — perfect for a summer afternoon at the brewery.
As we all know, beer revs up those appetites, so we were more than happy to try the food. The menu included your typical pub fare: sandwiches, wings, pizza and calzones. We started with the Pliny Bites, a delicious concoction of pizza dough, jalapeños and white cheddar. Pliny Bites gave us the perfect food base to keep sampling ridiculous amount of beer before our food came.
For our meals, my husband ordered the meatball sandwich, which was loaded with melted mozzarella. That’s always a plus. You can never have enough cheese. I went with a pizza, topped with pesto, sausage, spinach and caramelized onions. Pesto pizza is a weakness of mine, so this was the obvious choice for me. If you’re not into pesto pizza, lots of other pizza options are available.
If you’d like to take a piece of Russian River home, you can buy cases of Pliny the Elder as well as bottles of Russian River’s barrel-aged beers. Plenty of apparel options were also available, including a nice selection of women’s styles. On a recent Chicago beercation, we stopped in at one of the city’s major breweries, and zero women’s apparel options were available. Needless to say, I was annoyed. If you offer apparel, there’s no reason you shouldn’t include women’s cuts. I picked up a cute tank top that will get plenty of wear on future brewery trips.
Along with Russian River, several other breweries are in the area. We popped over to Third Street Aleworks and then Fogbelt Brewing Company. Third Street Aleworks was just down the road, and Fogbelt was only a five-minute Uber trip. If you head about 20 minutes south, you can also hit Lagunitas Brewing Company. If you find yourself in Northern California, a visit to Santa Rosa is certainly worth your time.