The Santa Rosa Cider Sipper

You already know about Santa Rosa’s booming beer scene. And wine, well, you don’t have to go very far to find the vines in this town. But here’s a cocktail concoction that’s pure SR. The Santa Rosa Cider Sipper is a cool, fresh-tasting, refreshing delight on a warm Central SoCo day. In fact, let’s work up a little thirst so we can truly enjoy it. Instead of just passing on the recipe, we’re taking you on the Cider Sipper tour.

Recipe by:
Marcia Simmons

Debbie Wilson

• Start by moseying on down to your favorite specialty beverage store and grab a bottle of FoxCraft Hard Cider (we recommend Cranberry, but feel free to dabble with their other flavors.) These new world style hard ciders have been sweeping the award circuits.

• From there, it’s just a jaunt to the Miracle Plum neighborhood market in Railroad Square. Ask the good people there for a bottle of Golden Bear Bitters California Native Plants Aromatic Bitters. Then have a sniff to take in the essence of coastal woodlands.

• If you don’t have a box of sugar cubes buried on the back shelf, grab those at a nearby grocer and hustle home.

First, make sure your porch chairs are dry and there’s a comfy spot in the sun to hang out.

Then grab a couple of champagne flutes and put a sugar cube in the bottom.

Pour in just enough bitters to saturate the cube. Then take another whiff. Amazing, right?

Okay, here’s the final step.

Pop that bottle of FoxCraft and pour the hard cider carefully to create the fizzy head of bubbles, known as the mousse in the hoity champagne circles. 

Add a tiny twist of lemon.

If you want a little more kick, drop in a few drips of brandy or whiskey.

Now head out into the warm day and get started doing very little besides savoring your Santa Rosa Cider Sipper and soaking up the sunshine.

True Hoppiness Can Be Found

Here’s the map.

For a little city, Santa Rosa is a big beer town. So if you’re on some form of the never-ending quest for the perfect pint, you’ll eventually find yourself here. And when you do, we hope this online guide to our cool little enclave of hot little Santa Rosa breweries enlightens you.

At press time, there were at least five Santa Rosa breweries with taprooms in the city proper, with more seeming to spring up every few weeks. By my rough estimation that makes for one brewery every 8 square miles. It also makes it super easy to get around.

So, where to start? Well, there’s a method to our manic obsession with small batch beer. First, seeking ale-lightenment can be arduous work, so let us begin somewhere that serves food. Now, suck in your beer gut and let’s go.


The Tree Fort


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Tucked into a little mall on Cleveland Ave. by the freeway, Paul and Remy have created a cozy kind of clubhouse feel in the taproom at Fogbelt Brewing Company. This is the perfect place to start an SR beer tour. The wide range of ales is crazy good, and the food is amazing. Like “beer food” amazing, that is, with hardy fare such as Meatloaf Sliders, Lamb Bam sandwich, and bites like Billionaire’s Bacon, Deviled Eggs and Blanco Bean Dip. We went for the Sausage Maker, a kind of design-your-own fresh, local sausage (from Sonoma County Meat Co.) with a range of clever toppings.

A flight features the eight beers currently on the Fogbelt menu – four flagships and four seasonals, all named after redwood trees. Did you know a lot of redwood trees have names? Well, they do. And now those big trees have beers named after them. Like Lost Monarch Wit Beer, Armstrong Stout and Methuselah Barrel Aged Sour Ale.

Once we put away our lunch and arm-wrestled over which beer we liked best, Remy gave us a look around. We started in the brewing room, which is squeezed neatly into what you’d have to call a large closet off the bar. The tour consists pretty much of turning around, because it all happens here in this tiny space, and the chilly confines of the cooler in the room next door.

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Along the way, Remy told us the story of how a couple of kids with dads in the wine biz came to become Santa Rosa brewers. Turns out, Remy and Paul were aspiring filmmakers who leveraged their connections to get winery gigs in New Zealand. In their idealistic young minds, it would just be a matter of time before they found themselves on Peter Jackson’s crew behind the camera of the latest Lord of The Rings feature. In fact, as it turned out, they found that working the winery night shift meant there was no beer to be had when you clocked out around 7 AM. So they picked up a home brew kit and never looked back. They brewed for friends in Australia, then came home and started saving up for Fogbelt.

Whether you belly up to the bar inside or kick back at the
picnic tables on the outside seating area, Fogbelt Brewing Company is
the perfect starting point on the path to beer nirvana.

The Brewery and Taproom is open Monday > Thursday Noon to 10 PM, Friday and Saturday 11 AM to 11 PM and Sunday Noon to 8 PM.

Visit them at 1305 Cleveland Ave. or



One Beer At A Time


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Let’s hop on the 101 and head north to an industrial park district off Pliner Road. Because it’s entirely possible that finding your beer bliss requires getting lost in the depth of your obsession, and this Bermuda Triangle of craft breweries is a great place to do it. From our first stop, we can walk to two more breweries so, if you’re traveling without a DD, this may be the ideal time to abandon the auto.

Cooperage Brewing Company embodies the quality before quantity approach to beer making so prevalent here in Santa Rosa. Tyler Smith makes one beer at a time, and never technically makes the same beer twice. The taproom is all wide-open spaces, high ceilings and colorful artwork with room enough for fun and games like darts and even a corn hole court (if a court is what it’s called). Along with brewer and owner in his title, Tyler is also beertender, host and official explainer of what’s on tap. But he manages to tear away from the bar long enough to show us around the brewery.

Tyler takes a slow and steady approach to beer making. He brews one batch at a time, always something distinctive, and only sells what he pours out of the taproom.

So, after giving us a quick tour, we’re back at the bar before a flight of beers you can’t get anywhere else. Which is fine, because it’s a great place to hang around.

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Personal opinion here, Cooperage beers are incredible. Each one a really well thought out delight to the palette. The great thing about quaffing at Cooperage is that it’s never the same brewpub twice. At the time of our visit there were eight beers on tap. As you’re reading this, there are probably eight entirely new ones. You’d think it would be hard coming up with names for this never-ending parade of never before brews, but Tyler takes a creative approach with names that are as one-of-a-kind as the beers. Juicy Coop is a double IPA with a hop hall of fame line-up of citra, mosaic, cascade and simcoe. Blanc To The Future is fermented in Sauvignon Blanc barrels and dry-hopped with Nelson hops. Qua-Di-Da-Di is a Belgian Strong Dark and the list goes on.

There’s no kitchen at Cooperage, but there are some tasty snacks available, including our favorite Bloody Mary Popcorn from neighborhood poppers Comet Corn.

After a sampling of Cooperage brews, we can feel the spirits starting to move us towards our intended epiphany, so it’s time to move on. But we’ll be back, no doubt to see what’s on tap next.

Cooperage Brewing Company is open from 3 PM to 11 PM Monday, closed Tuesday, 3 PM to Midnight Wednesday > Friday, Saturday Noon to Midnight and Sunday Noon to 11 PM. Dogs are welcome.

Stop by at 981 Airway Court, Suite G or visit



Down To Earth


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Our search for higher knowledge carries us around the corner to Plow Brewing Company. For one of SR’s newer, up and coming brewers, Plow has a pretty rich history. Owner and Brewmaster Kevin Robinson carries the knowledge and craftsmanship required to make this operation run from the ground up. Literally. A former auto mechanic, Kevin built this brewery himself over the course of a year and a half before he could pull his first tap handle.

After completing the Master’s Brewer program at UC Davis, Kevin did stints at Pealuma’s Lagunitas and Speakeasy in San Francisco. He went deep on the fine art of fermentation at a local winery before going to work at Russian River Brewing Company. The good contacts and high company Kevin kept served him well when it was time to embark on his own venture.

Even the equipment here at Plow has a fascinating backstory. The mash tank was built from a big dump bin. The fermenters he requisitioned from a dairy salvage yard. And the brewhouse kettle has a story all its own, having gone from Dogfish Brewing in Delaware to Russian River to its current roost at Plow.

BT_plow2 Santa Rosa breweries

Remember the game mousetrap? Where you connect a bunch of salvaged parts to create a Rube Golderg-like labyrinth to trap a rat. Well, that’s a little bit of what goes on at Plow.

Kevin has literally created an incredible brewery from scratch, from building out the space to rigging all the lines. It’s a testimony to engineering and personal determination. Oh, and it makes really, really good beer.

Stepping through beer making into the taproom you really get a sense of the big idea behind this little brewery. Kevin himself has a tractor mechanic farmer mentality. He wants his beers to have a connection to the earth. The name Plow, and its reference to the soil are deliberate. The cozy tasting room has a hip ag feel, with lots of iron and old-school appliances. Beer at the bar is served in cool little beakers that are totally fun to sip from. But it’s the beer-to-go that gives Plow its signature packaging appeal. Kevin has created a little canning facility right here in the pub, so you can walk away with a few of your favorites gift wrapped in original aluminum. Every can is hand poured and labeled. Think old-fashioned oil can but with delicious, fresh-brewed beer.

With our three pack to go, it was time to continue our quest, enlightened as we were by one of the friendliest, most approachable brewers you’ll meet anywhere.

Plow Brewing Company is open from 4 PM to 8 PM Monday > Friday, Saturday 2 PM to 7 PM and Sunday 2 PM to 6 PM.

The taproom is at 3334 Industrial Dr. or find them on facebook.



Beer With Character


BT_moon1 Santa Rosa breweries

The fifteen-minute walk from Plow to Moonlight Brewing Company gives you time to ponder the course of your quest. How do you know when you’re getting close? Who will guide you? Then you get to Moonlight, meet Brian Hunt, and realize that, rather than answers, the teachers themselves pose only more riddles.

Brian Hunt, or Curly from Payroll as we came to call him, possesses the rare knowledge gained from a few decades worth of beer brewing in Santa Rosa.

And yet the Tao of Brian is revealed in the form of a man who seems to have more fun brewing beer than should be allowed by the laws of nature. With an energy and enthusiasm well above and beyond all the younger brewers popping up around him, Brian is happy to tell you that Budweiser brews a better beer. (“They satisfy the most people, and isn’t that what matters most?”) He serves up a rousing, rather anthropomorphic description of the brewing process. (“Yeast eats sugar. And what happens when yeast burbs?”) And when our photographer asks about the uniquely cool combination of stainless steel and fermented liquid he names an entirely new genre of libation fascination. (“Beer porn.”)

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With gesticulations that occasionally knock over glasses and bang into brewing equipment, Brian speaks the truth. He’s far more interested in crafting the kind of beers he loves to drink than chasing the latest trends. “Balance” he’ll tell you, is the key, as he seems to careen from one subject to another with something resembling a Neal Cassidy diatribe from a Kerouac novel. “Drinkability, not leading edge.” These are the qualities that have sustained Moonlight through the years. And if you’re wondering if the younger generation of SR brewers come to him for advice, Brian answers with a question. “Do you have kids?” he asks. I do. “Do they listen to you?” Enough said.

Honestly, the Brian-isms come faster than I can pencil, so I can only hope that he’s pouring when you stop in to try Moonlight’s delicious batch of brews. Of course, you’ll be well served to have the lovely (and patient) Shannon pulling the taps, too. Moonlight Brewing is best known for its legendary, and fairly widely distributed, Death and Taxes Black Beer, a dark but deceptively light-bodied Lager, with a crisp refreshing flavor. Fittingly named Reality Czeck is a soft, Pilsener-style brew. Bombay By Boat is their earthy IPA and Twist of Fate is a deep Amber Ale with pronounced hop bitterness and aromatics.

To enjoy Moonlight Brewing Company beers in their place of origin, you’ll have to stop by on Friday or Saturday between 3 and 8 PM.

The brewery and taproom are at 3350 Coffey Lane or online at



The Hub Pub


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From the industrial outskirts to the center of Santa Rosa, our spiritual journey leads us downtown to one of the city’s mainstay brewpubs. Third Street Aleworks, conveniently located on Third Street, has been around since 1996, making it a veritable old-timer. So it’s a testament to founders, and friends since high school, Todd Hedrick and Chris Hagan that their simple recipe, great fresh beer, great comfort food, and great people, has endured and flourished.

Third Street Aleworks has an old friend feel. Easy. Welcoming and familiar. It’s the perfect place to meet up with friends, catch a game or grab a bite.

It’s pub grub to be sure, but done right, with a far ranging menu covering everything from Buffalo Wings to Baja Fish Tacos. We sent in an order of Fiesta Table Nachos that arrived overflowing with deliciousness and kept us all snacking through a flight of fantastic beers.

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Brew-wise, Third Street has been a model of consistency, with a handful of the local’s favorite brews. Brewmaster Tyler Laverty took over for local brewing legend Randy Gremp in 2014, building on his reputation for balancing tradition with experimentation. Third Street brews trend towards the “Anglo-Celtic” and aggressive “West Coast” style ales. While Tyler likes to keep the portfolio fluid if you will, since they started distributing beers a few years ago, demand has increased for a few of their standards. Bodega Head IPA is one of those, based on IPA’s origins quenching the thirsts of British settlers in the Indies. Puddle Jumper Pale is a personal favorite, with a light golden color bursting with refreshing aromas of fresh Simcoe hops. Of course these are just a very small sampling of what you’ll find any give day at Third Street, along with some Occasional offerings and Seasonal/Specialty beers.

A unique treat for the true aficionado, Third Street also offers some Nitrogen Draft Beers, and were one of the first California brewers to bring back Cast Conditioned beer. These sell out fast, but with a little luck you’ll have the chance to taste one of these old-school brewing time machines.

Third Street Aleworks is open Sunday > Thursday 11:30 AM to Midnight and Friday and Saturday 11:30 AM to 1 AM, smack dab in the middle of town at 610 Third Street. Or online at



The Holy Ale


BT_RR_1 Santa Rosa breweries

I suppose all spiritual quests eventually lead to the same place. The top of the mountain. The highest peak. And the chance to sit before the master. And in Santa Rosa, the position of big kahuna is held by Russian River Brewing Company.

If hop heaven can be found on earth, this just might be the place.

RRBC is also right downtown on Fourth Street. If anything, its appearance is modest compared to the immense, dare we say, legendary reputation these beers have garnered. So, before we get there, a little history is in order. Russian River actually started quite near the Russian River on the Korbel Champagne Cellars property in Guerneville. As legend would have it, Korbel bailed on the brewery business and generously bestowed the brand to brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo and his wife Natalie. The rest is what you could call storied beer history. From Korbel’s small hop garden, Vinnie received a field education on growing and brewing with fresh, “wet” hops. The most celebrated Russian River brews get the locally grown, farm to brew treatment, the results of which have put these offerings way high on the world’s beer map.

Fast-forward to today and you’re sitting in one of the world’s most buzzed about breweries. And while they brew an eclectic range of beers, one in particular has captured the imagination, and high acclaim, of the so-called ale-teligencia. Pliney The Younger is a triple IPA, with three times the amount of hops as a regular IPA. The thing is, it’s so time and space and cost consuming to make, that RRBC only brews it once a year. And therein lies the key element of Pliney The Younger’s almost mythic reputation. It’s incredibly hard to come by.

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Come Pliny The Younger time, the beer is released to extremely small distribution, and lines form at the pub for a taste of the beer that made Santa Rosa famous (at least in certain beer geek circles). You’re limited in how much you can have and how long you can stay. That way everyone gets a turn. And, yes, it’s true, beer lovers come from all over for a few sips of Pliney The Younger. However, it would be shameful to dismiss the rest of Russian River’s incredible line-up. Pliney’s adopted uncle, (it’s an old story we’ll save for another time) Pliney The Elder is brewed year round and is (only a little) easier to come by. If you ask me, and most of the people who work there, Blind Pig is the best beer in the house. Particularly if you like that fresh, hoppy, citrus, pine, almost fruity flavor with a dry, bitter finish.

The Russian River Brewing Company Brew Pub is open every day from 11 AM to Midnight at 725 4th Street. Or check them out online at



Sitting here at the Russian River Brewing Company pub bar, it’s hard not to feel like you’re a part of something much bigger. Like maybe this is just the beginning of the journey, not the end. Maybe true hoppyness can be found. Maybe not. But here in Santa Rosa, the journey couldn’t be more fun.

* Caveat: This article, like most of what you’ll find at, is created by the good folks who love living in Santa Rosa, and is intended as a personal invitation to like-minded people to come visit.

It's Almost Pliny Time

Out There Guest Blogger Tom Edwards is here to tell you that Pliny the Younger 2017 is coming, and it’s okay to believe the hype.

You’d have to be living under a very large rock to be completely unaware of the craft beer revolution that has gripped Sonoma County. Not only have a slew of terrific new breweries opened up over the past five years, but industry veterans have taken a flamethrower to the phrase ‘resting on one’s laurels’ and continue a relentless expansion of quality and production power. A recent Sonoma Magazine issue said it best: Welcome to Beer Country.

SR_RR2_pliny the youngerAlthough Santa Rosa’s list of beer-powered happenings continues to grow, from bustling beer fests to educational industry conferences, one event has remained the undisputed heavyweight champion of the scene: Russian River Brewing Company’s Pliny the Younger release.

Along with its milder uncle, Pliny the Elder, the brew duo have become household names in most parts of the county, and let us stop for a second to appreciate that fact: the idea that a pair of high quality beers have garnered so much love and respect that the mere mention of their names is enough to evoke a thoughtful nod or reminiscent smile in a large portion of the region’s beer-drinking population. Cabernet Sauvignwho?

SR_RR3_pliny the younger brewing2017 marks Russian River’s 13th unveiling of Pliny the Younger, and despite this relatively lengthy tenure as one of the nation’s go-to beer releases, legend surrounding the event refuses to diminish. Tales still abound regarding the incredibly complex mixture of bitterness and malt character, all under the inexplicably aromatic bouquet of hop aroma – a combination that catapulted Pliny the Younger to rest comfortably atop the charts of all respected beer rating publications.

Tasty beer is all good and well, but it takes no more than a few financial figures to show just why Pliny the Younger’s release left its distinction as world class beer tasting and soared onward to that of economic force. According to most recent studies, the fortnight long pouring spurred on $2.4 million in economic impact, with 65% of attendees traveling from outside the county and spending their money locally. Talk about the power of good beer.

We had a chance to catch up with Natalie Cilurzo, president and co-owner of Russian River Brewing, to get some of her insights into the Pliny phenomenon.

RRbrewing co menu pliny the youngerThe economic impact figures for PtY’s release are quite startling, did you ever think that it would become such a big event for Sonoma County?

We never set out with the intention of this turning into anything other than a winter seasonal beer. The results of the impact study were mind-blowing! Vinnie and I are proud to be able to have our business contribute so much to the local economy.

How has the event evolved over the years, is it as big of deal around the brewery as it is for the beer fans that travel far and wide to attend?

RRbrewing co shelf of growlersIt takes months of preparation from the brewing schedule all the way through to the extra staffing and distributor allocations. It’s really, really time-consuming just getting ready for releasing this one beer! Once the beer is on tap, it’s pretty much business as usual inside. The real event is in line. I have always said that, but now the City of Santa Rosa provides us with an actual Events Permit that makes it official.

It is well accepted that PtY is a very special beer, but non-beer fans may still scratch their heads at the fanaticism it brings. What are some things the average person may not realize about the brew – from time involved, to ingredients – that sets it apart?

RRbrewing co brewery vatsNot everyone is willing to stand in line for hours to drink beer, I get that. With the recent release of Star Wars VII, I found it rather head-scratching to see people camping out for days just to see a movie. The folks over at Apple have had to become good at crowd control, too, when they release whatever latest version of the iPhone. Pliny the Younger IS a special beer and we take great pride in making it better every year through hop selection and fine-tuning the brewing process. Younger takes about 6 weeks to make, tying up already precious tank space. The fermentation is longer due to the higher alcohol, and it is dry-hopped 4 times. Pliny the Elder takes only 3 weeks from brew to package. The extra malt and hops in Younger makes the final yields extremely low, thus making it the most expensive beer in our portfolio! Brewing it just once a year is not only fiscally responsible, but it keeps it special to both us and our loyal customers!

RRbrewing co pliny the younger brewing equipmentHave there ever been any variables/setbacks that have threatened PtY’s release, or is it safe to say we will be enjoying this event for many more years to come?

Managing the line and our neighboring businesses is the most challenging aspect of the release. We have worked very hard over the years to minimize the negative impact on Downtown. Sometimes it is dampened by large amounts of rain, but nothing has ever threatened the release of Pliny the Younger!

Despite Russian River’s beers receiving overwhelming and far reaching praise, you guys have kept production outputs and expansion to a relatively mellow pace. What sort of principles have guided this impressive commitment to quality and thoughtful growth, especially in the face of such rampant development in the craft beer industry?

IMG_0258_1Vinnie and I are firm believers that fast growth is not a sustainable path for our business or our personal life. Organic and conservative growth fits with our business philosophies and our intense commitment to quality. We are constantly reinvesting in our company to make things better. Last year we installed a brand new 50bbl brew house at the production brewery. Our kitchen staff is enjoying a new dishwasher and a 3 compartment sink. The bathrooms at the pub are getting a much-needed facelift. And we have invested about $250K in our small lab! In the past couple of years we also successfully bought out all of our remaining investors. Now we are busy paying off debt and figuring out our next move. This is a lifestyle venture for us and we love what we do.

Get all the details regarding Pliny the Younger’s release at



Screen shot 2016-02-03 at 6.29.03 PMTOM EDWARDS spent most of his life in Nevada and abroad, moving to Sonoma County about ten years ago to attend Sonoma State University. Despite graduating with a Kinesiology degree, he became so engrossed with homebrewing and the craft beer world that he decided to pursue a job within the industry, eventually leading to a brewer position at Bear Republic Brewing. On top of brewing, Tom has worked intermittently as a freelance writer, and tries desperately to devote any remaining time to cycling.

A Brew Fest For Bean Fiends

How many brews could a homebrewer brew if a homebrewer brewed at Brew?

Step aside, coffee – this is a job for beer. I stumbled across that statement online and found it pleasantly amusing. Perhaps a bit sad from the viewpoint of someone who enjoys neither, but they’re probably the same folks that don’t find Seinfeld funny.

So how does this tie into a homebrew competition? Well, there just so happens to be a very special one happening on October 27th at Brew, and the details should make any sud-loving bean fiend (possible beer name?) tickled with excitement.

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If you haven’t been, Brew is located in historic downtown Santa Rosa and has a fun array of coffee-infused beverages, amazing craft beer & cider, and tasty food items that won’t run you more than ten bucks a pop. Menu choices are carefully created from organic, locally sourced ingredients, which is always a great way to showcase the collective awesomeness of any region, especially our very own Sonoma County.

I’m a huge fan of the aforementioned goodies, so my personal interest in Brew was a no-brainer right off the bat. Take my money, damn it!


The homebrew competition is in its third year, so you can definitely expect at least one person there to say, rather justifiably, “This ain’t my first rodeo.” On top of cleverly placed catchphrases, you can also look forward to the fact that operations will be even more dialed in after two previous years learned experience – a positive thing for any event.

Another cool aspect of the event is that many of the folks entering this competition will no doubt have professional aspirations of ascending to a commercial brewing level. How many of you beer fans would’ve loved to try Ricardo Norgrove’s Red Rocket homebrew, long before Bear Republic made Racer 5? How about Tony Magee’s original Lagunitas IPA? Vinnie’s early versions of Blind Pig?

Home Brew Competition

Well, given the rapid growth of Santa Rosa brewing, one can only imagine that a trip to Brew’s homebrew competition may be a ticket to a long enduring flavor memory, one which you can bust out ever so coyly at future gatherings. “This one time, at Brew…”

The piece de resistance is the competition’s solitary flavor guideline: the homebrewed beer must include coffee. Don’t you wish all official rules were as flat-out amazing as that?

Home Brew competition

This is of particular interest to those of us that enjoy the bitter, roasty characteristics of the almighty coffee bean, as well its uplifting effects. Four Loko made this combination illegal for countless companies, but it’s craft beer and we don’t pander to the laws of mere mortals.

Many of us love coffee stouts and porters, but it’ll be great to see what the more intrepid  brewers concoct when given this parameter. Who can forget how awesome HenHouse’s coffee saison is?

That’s it for now, hope to see everyone doing their taste buds and Santa Rosa-minded souls a favor by getting out to the event.

Brew is at 555 Healdsburg Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95401

You can learn more about Brew’s Home Brew Competition here.