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October 2004 - San Francisco / Sonoma County Beer Run
Home » Beer » Beer Trips » San Francisco / Sonoma

Just before the big throw down that was the Maltose Falcons 30th Anniversary Party, we got a last minute announcement from the San Andreas Malts. The 26th Annual California State Competition was on for another go around. Given the unusual rules and club oriented nature of the competition, we needed extra time to arrange our entries. Instead of spending over $200 on next day shipping, the club elected to pay me for being a beer courier. So Derreck and I hopped in the Mustang at 6 in the morning and ran for San Francisco.

But once you've made that trek, why not go ahead and spend some time playing around in the many beer pools available in the area? Since I've been to virtually all of the good beer places in San Francisco, this felt like a good time to run north of town and take a swath through the Sonoma County pubs. All of the Marin and Sonoma pubs are located right off the 101 and thus easy to get to.

21st Amendment Website

After dropping the entries off around the corner, we stopped at 21st Amendment because D had a hankering for some of their brews and he wanted to figure out the secret behind his unnamed session beer. I needed a beer to make up for having to remain awake alone through the Central Valley.

DA session beer to be unnamed

Rogue Brewing Website

Sliding over a little way to North Beach and the relatively new Rogue Pub, D and I stopped here to chow down on some Kobe beef burgers and a few pints of brew.
DrewTwo Tier IPA
BothRob Pils (Sample)
Hop Heaven Harvest Ale

Had to prove that we made it over to the Marin headlands. Here you go America, your Golden Gate Bridge.
This was taken just before we ran into a bit of a traffic jam due to a Porsche driver running out of gas at the bridge end!

Marin Brewing Website

Marin Brewing is located just a little bit after the Golden Gate in Larkspur, CA near to the marina. The place is huge and decorated with stacks of various bits of memorablia. D and I had a light snack (steamed spicy mussels) at one of the longest bars I've ever seen in a brewpub. Overall the atmosphere was like a neighborhood sports bar writ large.
DrewSampler Platter (with 8 beers)
DSan Quentin Breakout Stout

Moylan Co. Brewing Website

Moylan's is just up the road from Marin (about 10 miles) in Novato, CA. They have close ties with the folks at Marin. Now honestly, I've never been a big fan of the Moylan's beers I've had in bottles. Seems that I always get the ones that reek of diacetly (the chemical that makes Chardonnay and beer smell buttery. Good in wine.. generally not so good in beer). Similiar to Marin, this place has a large resturant area (more separated and private than Marin's) and a long bar. Big sampler platters were the order of the day here, but what was funny was that all of the barley beers were virutally the same color. (I kid you not.. there was maybe 5 SRM separating the lot of them, except the wheat beers)
BothSampler Platters (with 10 beers) - Kiltlifter was the best.

By the time that we reached the next set of places, well the sun was down far enough to make pictures less than feasible. But here there are:

Bear Republic's Website

Bear Republic - Located in the 1950's feeling town of Headlsburg. This was the farthest leg of the day (~40 miles) as we actually passed through our stopping point of the night to reach this place. Given that D and I are both big Hop Rod Rye fans, this was a must.
Big clean interior space, brightly light and very welcoming, the place was bustling. The bar doesn't sell growlers anymore, but they've grandfathered old growlers in, so I was able to run the car and grab one out of the back and get it filled with Racer X!
Even better for Derreck and I was the older gentleman that we spent our time jawing at, bought all of our beers. He even tried to pay for my growler, but that wasn't going to stand. Thanks sir!
DrewSampler (12 Beers! - Jumping Joe!)
DGrandma's Homegrown Ale (Fresh Hop Ale)
Hop Rod Rye
ToGoOne nice growler of Racer X (sure to be enjoyed by the time this goes live!)

Third Street AleWorks Website

So after we were done at Bear Republic, we hauled back to Santa Rosa (12 miles) and setup base at the Motel 6 South Santa Rosa. It's cheap and it's clean and provides adequate bed rest for the weary traveller. We choose to stop in Santa Rosa since there were two brewpubs in town and I knew Russian River would be hard to leave sober enough to drive. Being safe and sane fellows, we grabbed a cab from the hotel to the 3rd Street Aleworks a brewery run by one of the few brewsters in the industry, Denise Jones.
This place was jumping and crowded with folks looking for a beer and some food. I guess it's location right next to a movie theater gives them a lot of folks wanting that "wait for the movie" meal. Dark and industrial, the place was loud, but the beer was cold and the food looked great.
DrewGoat Rock Doppelbock, Bodega Head IPA
DAnnadel Pale Ale

Russian River Brewing Co. Website

And here's where we ended the night (and started the next day) and you really couldn't have asked for better place. First, it's Vinnie's beers on tap here and if you're a strong beer fan, it's hard to find beer more appealing than what Vinnie is dishing out.

Russian River is in an old bank space, and you can certainly tell from the big square features of the facility. The corners in the space have been softened with giant burlap hop sacks hanging from various locations and the overall ambience is dim, but certainly not quiet. When we came in there was a bar band playing in the corner, keeping the place jumping. My only problem with the place? After not eating at 3rd Street, getting caught by the policy of only selling Pepperoni or Cheese pizza slices while the band is playing. All this good beer and all I get is a slice? Oh well.

We ran into Vinnie on our way at the door after midnight, but the lack of sleep and the set of strong beers I had just finished made the conversation short.
DrewDamnation, Pliny the Elder
DLittle White Lie, Sampler Platter

No Pictures.. but the next morning, D and I visited briefly with Vinnie C. of Russian River (Hence the picture above in daylight.) Vinnie was busy preparing one of his first bottling runs of Damnation and Sanctification, so there wasn't much time to talk. Vinnie did take a moment to share a bit of a laugh at the fact that his office is in the old bank vault, still complete with massive steel doors.

Also of note to those who would want to be a brewer, both Vinnie and Denise (3rd Street AleWorks) are prohibited by the town from having malt silos, so all those batches of beer are produced with 50lb sacks of malt hoisted over to the mills. That's a lot of heaving to.

MoreBeer Website

After chatting with Vinnie, it was time to out run John Law and slide over the top of the bay to Concord, CA to visit the premises of Beer, Beer and More Beer. (And hey.. driving the state highway that runs through the marshes (37?), kinda fun in a mindless way.)

We met up with Brad (wezil) from, who gifted us with a set of brews - including a mild based on my CDJK Mild Ale.

In addition, Regan, one of the guys behind the madness that is MoreBeer took all of us around the shop on a whirlwind tour. Needless to say any shop that has need for 4 separate units is doing an amazing job. In the one complex they have a retail frontend, a mail center that packs and ships over a hundred packages a day, a machine shop with all the niftiest gadgets laying around and a storage unit for holding their inventory.

Alas, while we wished we could have stayed and had a beer, but we had a 4.5 hour journey and a closing time to beat in making our last stop....

Lengthwise Website

Up over those long hills of the Angeles National Forest, lays the San Joaquin Valley and Kern County. Bakersfield is one of the largest cities in the US that isn't linked directly with a interstate. (It's still a multiple mile drive to get from the 5 to downtown.) Since the town gets hotter than a mug in the summer (over a 100 easily), beer is a good thing to have and the folks behind Lengthwise Brewing have been working hard since 2000 to bring beer other than Bud into the town.

By the time I pulled the car into the weird half industrial, half commercial lot that the brewery resides on, I needed a beer and some time out of a car seat. Derreck and I both grabbed a sampler set of 8 brews and a sandwich with "Stinky Fries", fries covered in gorgonzola. I liked them, but D's not much of a blue cheese fan.

All in all the food was good and the bartender was helpful and really knew a lot about the beers. Turns out he's a former homebrewer and the recipe for my favorite beer, the Centennial Ale was one of his recipes. He also highly recommends the trio of fried Twinkies and ice cream for dessert.

Considering that I live in Los Angeles, where it can take me 45 minutes to reach my favorite pub, it's not that far of a stretch to see me returning to this establishment, as it's only an hour and a half from town.

BothSampler Platters with a Golden Ale, Wheat, Raspberry Wheat, Triple Hop Red, Centennial Ale, Porter, Oktoberfest, Belgian

That's it! From there on out, it was a striaght shot up the ridge route to make it back to good ole Los Angeles. Total time on the road: 38 hours. Total miles: 903. Average Speed (incl time in pubs, sleeping, etc): 23.8 mph

Page Last Modified: September 15 2005 04:57:21.