When most people think of Sonoma County, wonderful wineries pop into their heads. The area is also home to several well known microbreweries. One of these is Russian River Brewing Company (RRBC). RRBC was originally owned by Korbel Champagne Cellars in Guerneville, CA. When Korbel decided to get out of the beer business in 2003 they offered brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo and his wife Natalie, the rights to the brand.
On April 3, 2004 Vinnie and Natalie opened RRBC as a brewpub in downtown Santa Rosa. They are going strong and just celebrated their tenth anniversary. RRBC offers a great variety of brews including several tasty sours. Their food menu is not extensive, but the pizza is excellent. RRBC is a popular destination for beer lovers. If you wish to eat, there is often a wait for a table, but in the mean time, you can always taste one of their fine beers.
On my last visit I ordered a sampler (16), which consisted of pretty much everything they offered on tap. Regretfully, none of their beers are distributed locally, and some are not bottled and are only available in the tap room at RRBC. Now, on to the beers!
Row 2, Hill 56 ABV 5.8%
Brewed with 100% Simcoe hops and named after the location in the experimental hop yard where it was created. Copper/golden in color with notes of citrus and pine in the aroma. Medium bodied and medium bitterness, well balanced with a wonderful hop flavor. If you like Simcoe hops you will enjoy this beer.
Hops dominate the aroma, floral, tropical fruit with a mild biscuit malt in the background. Full- bodied with a medium bitterness, very hoppy with fruit notes, pine, citrus, with a bitter dry finish. A solid, not overly bitter, IPA. If you come across a bottle, pick it up. You will enjoy.
Pliny the Elder Double IPA 8% ABV
Arguably one of the best double IPA’s around, and one the top five in my humble opinion. Pliny the Elder is credited with creating the botanical name for hops. Brewed with Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ and Simcoe, the fresh hop aroma is quite pleasing with notes of pine, floral and citrus. Copper colored with a nice white head. Medium bodied with a lot of up front hop flavor and a high level of bitterness. The high alcohol with a malt backbone helps balance the strong hop bitterness. A crisp, elegant, refreshing and refined brew. I will have another.
Little White Lie 4.8% ABV Belgian style Wit
What a wonderful aroma. Notes of coriander, orange, cumin, citrus, wheat and light peppery spice from the yeast. Light medium bodied with flavors reminiscent of the aroma. The beer is cloudy due to the wheat and yeast, adding a pleasant sweetness. Low bitterness compliments the refreshing flavors of the fruit and spice. A refreshing, delicious, slightly tart wheat beer. This is a seasonal offering. I wish it was available year round. A very good example of a Belgian Wit.
Sanctification 6.75% ABV
The base recipe is a golden ale fermented with 100% brettanomyces (brett) which adds some funky and other quite surprising characteristics. I find the light sour/spicy aroma interesting and tantalizing. The brett adds to this medium bodied beer a mildly acidic sour mouthfeel. The favor is earthy, spicy, and tart and really very refreshing. I enjoy this style any time but especially on a warm/hot summer day. YUM!
Supplication 7.0% ABV Brown Ale
This red/amber ale is aged in used local Pinot Noir wine barrels. Sour cherries, brett, lactobacillus (a bacterium which produces lactic acid during fermentation), and pediococcus (a lactic acid bacteria) are added during the aging process. The aroma is a captivating mixture of Pinot Noir, oak, sour cherries and earthy aroma. Medium bodied and intensely sour. The brett adds a bit of funk that balances well with the oak and sour cherries. Not for everyone, but if you are adventurous and wish to experiment you might want to give it a try. I personally love this beer. I can only hope it becomes available locally.
Consecration 10% ABV Sour Dark Ale
I know you’re wondering why another sour. Two reasons, I love a good sour, and RRBC sours are fantastic. Consecration is aged 4-6 months in used local Cabernet Sauvignon wine barrels. The inclusion of Black currants, brett, lactobacillus and pediococcus creates a marvelous intriguing beer. Consecration is a rich full-bodied sipping beer. The aroma and flavor are quite similar with strong notes of chocolate truffle, spice, currant with subtle hints of tobacco and Cabernet, intensely sour. A wonderfully complex and interesting beer. RRBC has a fascinating family of sours. If you are ever in Santa Rosa, Russian River Brewing Company is well worth a visit.
Russian River Brewing Company
725 4th Street
Santa Rosa, CA
Don Williams has been a home brewer since 2002. He is a recognized BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) judge, and has taught brewing classes. Don’s job requires extensive travel, and he enjoys visiting brew pubs in various parts of the country. He and his wife live in Cottonwood, CA.