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A beer tour through wine country, Part 2: Bear Republic Brewery

January 02, 2013 By: Nate Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Travelin'

While I could have spent every day at Russian River Brewing (see part 1 of the “Beer tour through wine country”), we had more to see in Sonoma County, Calif. We drove north along the Russian River toward Healdsburg. Along the way, we encountered this impressive structure.

Walters Ranch Hop Kiln, built 1905, has since been turned into a winery.

Walters Ranch Hop Kiln, built in 1905, has been turned into a winery.

Before mechanization, Sonoma County was one of the largest hop producing regions in the country. That history is still visible in the large hop kilns scattered around the valley. While this one had been turned into Hop Kiln Winery, a few comments about homebrewing just might get you a behind-the-scenes tour of the old kilns.

Once we arrived in Healdsburg, we quickly located Bear Republic Brewery and headed in for a pint (or two).

Home of Hop Rod Rye!

Bear Republic Brewing Company’s tap room in Healdsburg, Calif.

Bear Republic is well known to craft beer lovers for its hop bombs such as Hop Rod Rye, Racer 5 and Racer X. We managed to sample all of these and more, including a few selections available only in the tap room.

In the end my favorite was still Hop Rod Rye. This was the beer that first got me thinking about brewing with malted rye and has lead to many experiments with the grain since. The beer is a great balance between malty and hoppy and the rye adds a wonderful spiciness that lends to a moderate body. It’s a must for any IPA lovers out there that still like some malt in their beer.

The draft selection at Bear Republics taproom. A lot more than just Racer 5!

The draft selection at Bear Republic’s taproom. A lot more than just Racer 5!

I had hoped to stop by Lagunitas Brewing Company to complete the Sonoma County trifecta, but alas they were closed on the day we were passing through Petaluma on our way back to San Francisco. We’ll have to stop by next time.

So my advice to all you beer lovers out there, take a trip to wine country. There’s a lot more to see (and taste) than just the wine. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…