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A beer tour through wine country, Part 1: A visit to Russian River

December 31, 2012 By: Nate Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Travelin'

During a recent trip to Sonoma County, Calif., I was able to squeeze in some brewery visits amongst the wine tasting. Yes, it’s OK to enjoy both wine and beer, one just has to keep his priorities in order…

We were staying in Santa Rosa, so the very first item of business upon arrival was a stop at Russian River Brewing Company, one of my absolute favorite craft brewers.

Russian River!

Russian River’s brewpub in downtown Santa Rosa, Calif.

So many choices!

Currently on tap a Russian River: A lot.

I should say up front that I will not be going on and on about Pliny the Elder. This is not because I don’t think it is a great beer — I do. And we drank a lot of it on this trip. No, the reason is that I had come to Russian River seeking barrel-aged sour beer, and Russian River makes some of the best in the world.

Where the magic happens!

What’s living in these barrels is the key to Russian River’s unique Belgian-style beers.

So I started out with their Belgian-style sampler which included (below, left to right): Redemption, Little White Lie, Damnation, Erudition, Perdition, Benediction, Salvation, Temptation, Brux, Supplication, and Consecration

Also needed is more than one trip

With so many beers on tap it is difficult to try them all, so thoughtful planning is needed.

The sour beers in the sampler (below) were: Brux, a collaboration between Russian River and Sierra Nevada; Temptation, a blonde ale aged in old Chardonnay barrels; Supplication, a brown ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels with sour cherries; and Consecration, a dark ale aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels with currants.

Sour! Yum!

In all their sour glory: Consecration, Supplication, Temptation, and Brux.

The collaboration beer, Brux had a very soft sour note and a rich mouthfeel. It was more funky than sour. The remaining three were much more intensely sour, with the acidity increasing as the beers got darker. These were extremely complex beers, and were a tough sell for those in the crowd not already fans of the sour (read: everyone but me… Ah, well, more to myself!). Owner/brewer Vinnie Cilurzo’s background from a wine-making family really shows through in these beers.

Even though Russian River is one of the more famous craft breweries in American and a mecca for beer nerds everywhere, it just feels like a neighborhood brew pub, with great pizza and live music.

Who wouldn't want this place as their local...

Who wouldn’t want this place as their local?

The pub is decorated with lots of old signs and breweriana. One of the best examples is the original sign from New Albion Brewery, the first craft brewery in America.

Lots of history here!

The brewpub now houses the original sign from New Albion Brewery

After working our way through a couple of pizzas, the sampler (and a few other selections), it was time to call it a day. But don’t worry we were back a few days later to work our way through the hoppy side of the menu, listen to some live music and even drank a few Pliny’s…well more than a few!

Carnage!

The carnage. We did our best to taste everything on the menu. I think we did a pretty good job.

Next in this series: More beer in wine country as we move on to Bear Republic.

 

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2 Comments to “A beer tour through wine country, Part 1: A visit to Russian River”


  1. Great post. What I would do for accessible sour beers in the Memphis market (BRUX was available here but sold out quickly). I have to rely on a San Diego friend to mail me something from RR every once in a while.

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