Is Sonoma the best brewery county around?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by southdenverhoo, Apr 10, 2014.

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  1. southdenverhoo

    southdenverhoo Maven (1,341) Aug 13, 2004 Colorado

    Just back from a trip up the coast, LAX>Santa Barbara>Santa Cruz>San Francisco>Santa Rosa>SFO--did not realize how close together Lagunitas, Russian River, and Bear Republic are. Not to mention the quintessential quirky/artist operation, the proto-Hill Farmstead, Brian Hunt's Moonlight Brewing....and some other worthy smaller places, I mean Third Street in Santa Rosa for example has some GABF medal winners including a gold...

    My hometown has a shit-ton of great, good, and not-so-good retail taproom/nano breweries, one pretty damn good large brewery (Great Divide), another large brewery and brewpub assemblage (Breckenridge/Wynkoop, one excellent example of the quirky/artist meme (Crooked Stave) but we're way behind Sonoma County, I think, both in barrel production and number of world-class SKUs and just over-all level of execution. (I'm talking strictly "City And County of Denver" which eliminates, obviously, Avery and the other Boulder County beers, even though the metro area is usually referred to as the "Denver-Boulder Metropolitan Area".

    So what U.S. county does beat Sonoma? Maybe, in the same state, San Diego? Something in the Seattle (is all Seattle in King County?) or Portland area? Interested in this board's thoughts.
  2. ONovoMexicano

    ONovoMexicano Initiate (0) Jun 14, 2012 New Mexico

    Wow. No love for Denver, eh? I love that city as a beer town. Not sure what else is included in the county, but just in a 20-minute walking area I was able to hit Great Divide, Epic, Crooked Stave, River North, Jagged Mountain, Freshcraft, Falling Rock, and Wynkoop.

    That was impressive enough for me.

    Then again, I was just in DC and was blown away by the scene there. I guess this is partially because the distribution is mind-boggling, but there are some great local beer spots and both Right Proper and Bluejacket (superb beers) were top-notch.

    I think just about anywhere I go, I find plenty of good to enjoy (eg. Tucson, NYC, Paso Robles, lately). I guess the one exception was Vegas, which I found weak.

    Bottom line, for me the question is subjective since I would throw distribution and beer bars into the discussion along with breweries. But hell, I think we're spoiled rotten as beer-drinkers in the United States.
  3. southdenverhoo

    southdenverhoo Maven (1,341) Aug 13, 2004 Colorado


    Oh no I LOVE Denver. But look at the skus available from RR, Lag, BR, and Moonlight. I didn't mention the beer bars of Sonoma, just (the major) breweries.
  4. jmgrub

    jmgrub Initiate (0) Nov 20, 2010 California

    Without needing to get into too much detail, both Multnomah and Denver counties are clearly superior to Sonoma brewery-wise. You sir are suffering from "the grass is greener" syndrome.
  5. bubseymour

    bubseymour Grand Pooh-Bah (4,374) Oct 30, 2010 Maryland
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    What's an SKU?
  6. cl3

    cl3 Savant (1,208) Aug 16, 2013 Wisconsin

  7. bubseymour

    bubseymour Grand Pooh-Bah (4,374) Oct 30, 2010 Maryland
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    Stock Keeping Unit/logistics/inventory mgmt etc. Thanks for the snobby responses as expected when someone asks a question. WTF does that mean in context to "number of world class SKUs"? There still is a different meaning than that in beer talk. I've seen it in numerous posts and just can't put 2&2 together.
    lic217, cnbrown313, rozzom and 3 others like this.
  8. JamesShoemaker

    JamesShoemaker Initiate (0) Sep 21, 2012 Michigan

    All in good fun brother!
    Mongrel likes this.
  9. Five_Four_Plus

    Five_Four_Plus Initiate (0) Feb 17, 2014 California

    I would definitely cast a vote for San Diego (and I'm a Northern Californian at heart). I have yet to visit the Midwest or Northwest since earning my legal drinking age, so I can't weigh in there though...
    rgfellow likes this.
  10. rather

    rather Initiate (0) May 31, 2013 California

    I think county x is best
  11. Kinsman

    Kinsman Maven (1,421) Aug 26, 2009 Nevada

    While I see your point when it comes to Sonoma county, I think comparing counties nationwide for their beer scene isn't really a fair way to judge. As you already pointed out, the Boulder/Denver area is world class, but they're not in the same counties. Same goes for everything going on in Northern VT across Chittenden, Washington, Orleans, and other counties even though they are all relatively close together.
  12. SierraJosh

    SierraJosh Initiate (0) Aug 13, 2013 California

    simple answer...YES
    RBassSFHOPit2ME likes this.
  13. RblWthACoz

    RblWthACoz Initiate (0) Aug 19, 2006 Pennsylvania

    The grass is definitely still green in Colorado. And orange. And purple.
    cnbrown313, Skunkdrool and jmgrub like this.
  14. patto1ro

    patto1ro Pooh-Bah (1,936) Apr 26, 2004 Netherlands

    Surely it's Nottinghamshire: Warwick & Richardson, Heppenstall, Holes, Trent Brewery, Davey's - who can match that?
    maltmaster420 and jmgrub like this.
  15. DJMonroe

    DJMonroe Initiate (0) Jan 26, 2013 Washington

    No. Not even really close.
  16. BeerVikingSailor

    BeerVikingSailor Grand Pooh-Bah (3,201) Nov 19, 2009 Ohio
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    I am sure many of us would vote for our own areas as will throw Cuyahoga county (Cleveland -NE Ohio) into the are some of the highlights / breweries in this county;

    Great Lakes Brewing Co
    Fat Heads Brewing
    Market Garden Brewing
    Buckeye Brewing
    Black Box Brewing
    Rocky River Brewing
    Cornerstone Brewing
    Brew Kettle
    Indigo Imp Brewing
    Bottle Haus Brewing
    close by in adjacent counties;
    Willoughby Brewing
    Little Mountain Brewing
    Cellar Rats Brewing

    NEW breweries in the works;
    Butcher & Brewer
    Tremont Taphouse
    Brew Mentor
    Franklin Brewery
    Platform Brewery
    Palace of Fermentation
    (and several others - just in Ohio City area alone - west Cleveland)

    Yes, have been to Sonoma County, and other parts of N.CA.....great area and lots of great beer (to say nothing of the wine!)....but, NE Ohio is rocking the craft beer scene pretty hard lately!!
    Brew33 likes this.
  17. HRamz3

    HRamz3 Initiate (0) Feb 9, 2010 Pitcairn

    E-Z... Washington County, VT.
  18. miketd

    miketd Initiate (0) Mar 2, 2006 Ohio

    I agree for the most part, but Butcher and the Brewer/Tremont Taphouse are the same thing. TT is financing B&B. Franklin Brewing is already brewing and their Kolsch is awesome. Also not Cuyahoga County, but Wooster Brewing is probably the 2nd or 3rd best brewery in the state(and fairly near to Cleveland).
  19. jmgrub

    jmgrub Initiate (0) Nov 20, 2010 California

    Just another Ron induced chuckle.
  20. kdb150

    kdb150 Initiate (0) Mar 8, 2012 Pennsylvania

    Heady and Lawson's? I'd take Tired Hands and Forest & Main (Montgomery County, PA) over those two every day of the week.
    HRamz3 likes this.
  21. jivex5k

    jivex5k Initiate (0) Apr 13, 2011 Florida

    Broward County is of course:
    Funky Buddha Lounge

    What more do we even need?
  22. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Grand Pooh-Bah (3,142) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    CK21 likes this.
  23. gshak

    gshak Savant (1,174) Feb 20, 2011 Texas

  24. LankFreudRyte

    LankFreudRyte Initiate (0) Mar 13, 2008 Illinois

    So, no ma(mom, mother), Santa Rosa, CA, is a great place to start any pub crawl. W(h)ine and beer together.
  25. LehighAce06

    LehighAce06 Pooh-Bah (2,104) Jul 31, 2010 Pennsylvania
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    +1 and don't forget Sly Fox, Round Guys, Prism, Iron Hill, Manyunk, Appalachian. And if we're going off of others' suggestions to include other area breweries, Victory, Troegs, Weyerbacher, Lancaster, Triumph, Philadelphia, Fegley's BrewWorks, Stoudt's, and Free Will. The Philly area might not have too many 'world class' breweries, but a ton of really good beer is made here.
  26. mnredsoxfan69

    mnredsoxfan69 Initiate (0) Dec 27, 2013 Minnesota

    How 'bout a lil' love for Hennipen County in MN? C'mon man, we got Surly, and uh...Grain Belt.... Yeah man, let's hear it for Grainbelt, 'n' Pig's Eye...or maybe not...
    WadeBridgman likes this.
  27. 2beerdogs

    2beerdogs Grand Pooh-Bah (4,626) Jan 31, 2005 California
    Pooh-Bah Society Trader

    Sonoma Area is GREAT, but I sure love BOURBON COUNTY!!! :stuck_out_tongue:
    Morakaton likes this.
  28. draheim

    draheim Grand Pooh-Bah (3,979) Sep 18, 2010 Washington

    Multnomah, Sonoma, Denver, San Diego, and a few other counties across the country all deserve to be in the conversation. But you probably won't get more than about 30% to agree on which one is "best."
    digita7693, black13 and 2beerdogs like this.
  29. Kurmaraja

    Kurmaraja Initiate (0) May 21, 2013 California

    The two best counties are "the county I'm currently in" and "the county from which someone is sending me beer."
    jimlapaglia likes this.
  30. VashonGuy

    VashonGuy Pooh-Bah (1,930) Mar 7, 2013 Washington
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    Threads like this would be more interesting if there was a rule that you couldn't argue for your own home area, but only ones that you had visited.

    I wouldn't put Seattle (King Co.) in the top tier anyway. Among places I've enjoyed beer, my top three would be Sonoma, Multnomah (Portland), and Hennepin (Minneapolis). I was pretty impressed with the range of Wisconsin beers on a visit to Madison, but I don't know the county distribution. Denver beer is also pretty good, but if I had to pick a place for a beercation, it'd be behind Sonoma and Portland.
    rozzom likes this.
  31. ClePaul

    ClePaul Initiate (0) May 30, 2013 Ohio

    I heard Buncombe County (Asheville NC) has some real nice breweries. Cant speak from experience though.
  32. madtrixter787

    madtrixter787 Zealot (611) Oct 15, 2009 North Carolina

    Yeah, I think they'll be alright.
  33. VitisVinifera

    VitisVinifera Pundit (855) Feb 25, 2013 California

    beers is up for debate the best Zins in the world and the best Pinots on this continent come from Sonoma
    SierraJosh likes this.
  34. Great-Pyrebeers

    Great-Pyrebeers Initiate (0) Oct 17, 2013 California

    i went to school at sonoma state university and no, sonoma is not the best brewery county around. Russian river is world class but sonoma only has 7 or 8 breweries tops
  35. HRamz3

    HRamz3 Initiate (0) Feb 9, 2010 Pitcairn

    I'm a big fan of both of those and visit them regularly. As they don't package for retail, I didn't consider them. Based strictly on the beer, I still prefer Alchemist and Lawson's.
  36. SanFranJake

    SanFranJake Initiate (0) Nov 2, 2012 California

    Even though I'm a driver/three iron away from Sonoma County, everything is subjective.
    I think whatever counties Portland and Grand Rapids fall under are better as SC only offers me Bear Republic. The rest I can care less about.
    MiWolfman likes this.
  37. southdenverhoo

    southdenverhoo Maven (1,341) Aug 13, 2004 Colorado

    Interesting; I too was surprised by how good Bear Republic was in terms of beers I hadn't had and could never get in Denver, ie things other than Racer 5, Red Rocket, and Hop Rod Rye. but I am surprised you seem so dismissive of Lagunitas and Russian River, who between them have 9 of the top 250 beers on this here website. To each his own I guess.
  38. SanFranJake

    SanFranJake Initiate (0) Nov 2, 2012 California

    I stand corrected on Lagunitas (I posted at 6am and coffee hadn't kicked in yet) but RR to me is nothing more than trade bait. IMHO just average and WAYYYYY over hyped.
  39. WadeBridgman

    WadeBridgman Zealot (728) Oct 18, 2013 Illinois

    Everyone talks about counties in California being the strongest but Cook county (Chicago) should really be mentioned in this conference, breweries like FFF, Pipeworks, Revolution, and Half Acre just to name a few with pretty easy access to both east and west coast beers. Chicago is like a beer hub it's awesome.
  40. kdb150

    kdb150 Initiate (0) Mar 8, 2012 Pennsylvania

    They actually both package for retail, albeit on a very limited basis (hoping this changes some with the Tired Hands expansion). And I love Heady as much as anyone, but a brewery that makes 1 beer (yes, I know, they made many before their brewpub was destroyed) doesn't really qualify it as a beer destination. It's nice that you can visit Waterbury and find HF on tap as well, but I believe the OP was specifically asking about breweries located within a county.

    Of course, now that I think about it, both Westvleteren and Flemish Brabant (and probably any other one in Belgium you can name) have it all over any county in the U.S. I think they are considered provinces, not counties, but area-wise they are closer to a U.S. county than a state, except maybe for some of the tiny ones in the NE.
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