With San Jose behind us we were off to the Bay area, but first we wanted to go a little north of there and hit up Lagunitas and Russian River. Both of these breweries have come highly recommended to us and the legend of Pliny the Elder was too tempting to resist.
We spent a night in a Petaluma campground before heading to Lagunitas brewery on a Saturday for some afternoon drinking and hopefully a tour. The place was super busy even though the bar tender informed us that it was actually a “slow” day. Given that they had a big outdoor beer garden and the weather was nice we shouldn’t have been surprised.
Seeing that they had 15 beers on tap we decided it would be a good idea to sample them all. My favorite’s would have to be the 2010 Brown Shugga and Lagunitas Sucks (an apology beer to make up for not making any Brown Shugga this year). Maria liked the Wet Max which was a a delicious wet hopped IPA.
We took a short break from drinking and grabbed a quick snack in the RV that we conveniently parked across the street. Upon returning we were able to hop on the last tour of the day. It was probably one of the more entertaining tours I have been on due in part to Lagunitas color full history and the humorous delivery of our guide Ryan.
While the tour was awesome we were disappointed to hear that the weekday tour at 3:00 gets free samplers of all the beers on tap. Maybe next time. Luckily we were able to hang out with Ryan after the tour and share some beers and learn a little more about the brewery.After all those beers we weren’t moving anywhere so we stayed overnight across from the brewery.
The next day we headed to Russian River which is only 12 miles away in Santa Rosa. The bar seemed packed for a Sunday night and then we learned that there is an all day happy hour on Sundays. Score! Once again we decided to try all the beers they had on tap with a giant taster trey. I have to say I was more impressed with their sours then some of the more established beers.
For those who don’t know Russian River makes a beer called Pliny the Elder which has been proclaimed by several respected sources as the best IPA in the US. I would have to say it was quite good, but I think the hype built my hopes for something transcendent. So if you run across some (not likely for the average beer drinker) enjoy it for what it is but don’t knock it for the fact that it’s name precedes it.
We ended up talking to one of the locals and it turns out he knew Vinnie, the head brewer at RR, and offered to show us around their new production facility on the other side of town. So we picked up our new friend Brendan the next morning and headed over to the brewery.
The place was pretty quiet as everyone was preparing for the holiday party that night, but one of the assistant brewers was nice enough to give us a quick tour and a couple of early morning Pliny’s. The barrel aging room was impressive and probably the biggest we had seen in all our brewery visits.
The brewer and Brendan informed us of a great bottle shop nearby so we stopped and picked up an obligatory stash of Pliny. It was a fun trip and the area was pretty RV friendly and navigable. Next stop the less RV friendly bay area.