Sonoma County may be known for its wine, but visitors would be remiss in driving through the town of Santa Rosa without taking some time to explore the area's beer scene. This Northern California town boasts an impressive number of breweries within its borders (25 and counting), and the budding industry has done great things for the community. In 2019, more than 24,000 visitors lined up to get a taste of Russian River Brewing Company’s new IPA, contributing $4.2 million to the local economy.
What Santa Rosa lacks in size (the population is just over 177,000 people), it makes up for in both quality and quantity of breweries within its 20-mile radius. As the city has repeatedly been recognized as the beer capital of the United States by a number of research groups, there’s no doubt that Santa Rosa is a beer-brewing destination not to be missed.
Russian River Brewing Company
Unsurprisingly, Russian River Brewing Company tops the list of best breweries in Santa Rosa. The world-famous brewpub has won just about every award there is when it comes to beer, and people travel from all around to enjoy the brewery’s Pliny the Younger IPA during its annual two-week release. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this place is a one-hit-wonder, however. The brewing company rotates a wide selection of beers in its tasting room as well as a killer pizza menu. Enjoy a pint and a bite on the year-round patio or inside the one-acre pet-friendly beer garden. You really can’t go wrong.
HenHouse Brewing Company
HenHouse Brewing Company is a great option for those who want to explore outside of the downtown area. Henhouse’s founders come from some unique backgrounds—a certified herbalist with expertise in essential oils, a musician, and a national speech champion—all brought together by their love of brewing beer. Even better, the staff here is known for being friendly, helpful, and truly passionate about finding their customers the perfect brew to enjoy. They have recently expanded their outdoor seating area, and while the brewery doesn’t offer food, there are always delicious local food trucks parked outside.
Cooperage Brewing Company
Cooperage Brewing Company on Airway Ct is all about good times. The brewpub walls are full of unique, psychedelic artwork, and a seat inside comes with a selection of games to play such as darts, table football, and a variety of board games. Every Sunday, the brewery hosts a Vinyasa style yoga class that comes with a pint of beer to kick off your Sunday Funday in the best way possible. While there’s no food menu to speak of, Cooperage always hosts a variety of food trucks outside its doors.
Moonlight Brewing Company
Moonlight Brewing Company's 20 barrel brewhouse is old school; The brewers use sight, smell, and taste to determine when their beers are ready to be released to the public. Most of the beers are made with simply malted barley and hops, though different grains and herbs are sometimes used in seasonal beers. There is nothing boring about this beer list, however. Customers keep coming back to the taproom located on Coffey Lane for the great selection of unique brews. Moonlight also adds an enzyme that helps reduce the gluten in their beer, making it a great choice for gluten-sensitive drinkers.
Shady Oak Barrel House
With a chill, pet-friendly vibe that any beer-drinker will love, Shady Oaks Barrel House is known for funky, barrel-aged sour brews. If you’re not into sours, there are plenty of other fresh, modern beers to choose from to enjoy on the large beer garden patio or the barrel house taproom. The open concept inside the taproom really lets drinkers get up close and personal with their beers, with the barrels sitting just feet away from the bar. Be sure to check out the schedule for their rotation of local food trucks, as well.
Old Possum Brewing Company
Old Possum in South Santa Rosa works on a true full-circle business model. Not only do they prioritize local farmers and ranchers for their beer and food ingredients, but the brewhouse is also equipped with natural gas elements that reduce energy consumption and only use recycled barrels. Equipment and furnishings in the taproom are made using either repurposed items from closed restaurants or reclaimed wood, as well. The beer list here is great, but the food is high-quality and comforting, too, making this a perfect place for a date night or evening out with friends.
Third Street Aleworks
Known for its unique blend of different brewing styles, Third Street Aleworks offers some hybrid beers combining traditional techniques with experimentation. Best of all, Third Street is the kind of place that makes everyone feel welcome, whether you’re a beer aficionado or a novice grabbing casual dinner with the family. The place has been around since 1996, with an extensive food menu of local-favorite burgers to go along with its craft beer list.
Fogbelt Brewing Company
Fogbelt is known for its celebration of the California North Coast, sourcing local ingredients and naming its beers after coastal redwood trees found in the fog belt from Big Sur to the Oregon border. The menu rotates to include beer and food pairings from bacon and beer to macarons and beer. They also have plenty of sours and cider selections if you’re not in the mood for regular beer.
Bear Republic Brewing Co.
This friendly brewpub is technically located in Rohnert Park (less than 6 miles from downtown Santa Rosa) and its microbrewery in nearby Cloverdale. Its signature Racer 5 IPA is one of the most award-winning beers in the country, and the company was established by fourth-generation Sonoma County residents. The brewery is also committed to sustainability, investing in solar power and wastewater pretreatment systems to lower the negative impact on the environment. Spent grain from the brewing process is also donated to local cattle ranchers who provide meat to low-income families.