Seth Wood pouring beer at Woodfour Brewing Company in The Barlow in Sebastopol, Tuesday, September 3, 2013. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

As a final thought for 2013, it seemed like a good idea to ask two well versed beer professionals – the co-owners of two excellent local beer shops – what they liked last year and what they are looking forward to this year.

JT Fenn, co-owner of Rohnert Park’s BeerCraft:

“As a guy who has to drink lots of beer (occupational hazard) I’ve enjoyed seeing a subtle shift towards really flavorful session beers.  Seems like everybody had at least one interesting session beer in 2013, and some breweries (Woodfour for example) seem to be be making sessionable beers their main emphasis.” (Beer Country note: We wrote about this very thing in 2013 – right here).

“As for 2014?  I’m first and foremost looking forward to opening our taproom!  :). Probably in Feb.  We have soooo much stuff on our plate for the coming year (including a barrel aged collaboration beer we’re doing with Woodfour called 1000 LB Gorilla) it’s hard to think much about anything else.  SF Beer Week is gonna be great – seems like the North Bay is really embracing it this year.  Also, I recently read that Stone will be doing collaborations with Heretic and Anchorage – that certainly made me pause to say “oooooohhh”.  Other than that, just gonna take whatever the craft beer universe gives us in 2014.”

Michael Scalet, co-owner of Santa Rosa’s Rincon Valley Wine and Craft Beer:

“We have been very excited about several new breweries that are now available in Sonoma County. Gigantic Brewing from Portland has arrived into our area, amazing quality across the board. Getting Crooked Stave into California has been wonderful, Chad Yakobson is such a remarkable brewer. He tells us to expect more beers and styles in the coming year.”

“We love working with Almanac, they are true pros from top to bottom and make such fantastic beer, they tell us they have ramped up production of their sours. The beer is in barrels and we should be seeing quite a variety available by February.” (Beer Country note: We wrote about Almanac also last year – right here).

My own thoughts? I agree with these guys, of course. I’ve been excited to see the increasing diversity of beer venues – for all the great beer we brew here on the North Coast, I have found that outside the brewpubs, tap lists and beer stores are often fairly limited and inward looking relative to great beer cities such as Denver or Philadelphia. So to see stores such as BeerCraft and Rincon Valley open up over the last 18 months, and to see places such as Sprenger’s, Heritage Public House, and Belly opening is a great development for local beer lovers. It’s also exciting to see long-established local operations expanding – Moonlight’s new tap room, and new brewing facilities for Sonoma Springs and HenHouse, for example. And, of course, it is gratifying to see the interesting new breweries that have opened of late or are on the horizon for 2014 – Petaluma Hills, Carneros, St. Florian’s, Woodfour, Fogbelt, Warped, and all the others that I am unjustly forgetting to mention (including our new friends in the Cider and Spirits world).

So I’m eager to see what 2014 brings, and to let you know about it here on Beer Country.

– Sean Scully