Anyone surprised that Sonoma County stands out? Me either. The only surprise is that the numbers aren’t a little higher.
Lagunitas weighs in at #7, with the list authors saying:
Founded in 1993, Lagunitas Brewing Company has a core of supportive beer lovers who want to nurture the creation of consistently good beer. The brewery is willing to do anything and is “capable of making beer out of goat’s milk, brambles, and asphalt on the surface of the moon, if need be,” according to its Facebook page. And it’s the brewery’s dedication to experimentation that has won over beer lovers across the company. “Tony Magee’s vision and ‘the glass is always half full’ attitude toward life is reflected in his beer,” says Liz Garibay of the blog Tales, Taverns, & Towns. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a Lagunitas beer I didn’t like.” The California-based company recently made an announcement that it would be opening a 250,000-barrel-a-year facility in Chicago in order to cater to the Eastern U.S. With creative brews, passionate employees, and a commitment to serve, Lagunitas is definitely one of the best.
Russian River follows along at #9:
Russian River Brewing Company focuses on “traditional aggressively hopped California-style” ales, Belgians, and barrel-aged beers. Originally owned by Korbel Champagne Cellars, the brewery became its own entity in 2003. Founder and brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo came from a winemaking family, but has established himself as a craft-brewer full of innovation and willingness to share his knowledge. Today, he and his wife Natalie serve the brews fresh at their brewpub in downtown Santa Rosa, Calif. “Many credit Russian River’s founder/brewer Vinnie Cilurzo with pioneering the ‘hopped-out-of-its-mind’ West Coast Imperial that went on to set the standard that so many other breweries (like Stone) would later build their reputations on,” says Tom Brobak, of American Craft Beer. “And now he’s redefining the American Sour.” And the list of not-to-miss Russian River brews is a mile long. “The Plinys, Elder and Younger, are stunning achievements, but don’t overlook Russian River’s superb lineup of barrel-aged sour ales,” says Peter Rowe, blogger for the San Diego Union-Tribune. “One favorite: Consecration, an earthy, fruity, and dry sour red that’s aged in cabernet sauvignon barrels.”
Number 1, at least on this list, is Delaware’s eccentric Dogfish Head, which specializes in all sorts of wild brews, including one aged in tanks made from a rare South American wood, and several varieties made with wine grapes. Or as I like to say of brewmaster Sam Calagione – he does the crazy stuff so other brewers don’t have to.
California standouts Stone and Sierra Nevada also make showings: #2 and #10 respectively. That makes Sonoma County the best-represented county on the list (Ft. Collins, Colorado is the best-represented city, with two breweries listed: Odell and New Belgium) and California the best represented state, tied with Colorado at four each.
– Sean Scully