Russian River Brewery
Their name might stir looks of confusion on the East Coast, but on the other end of the forty-eight contiguous states lies a familiar face to the beer scene; a brewery whose hoppy ales define a veritable coastline. Russian River Brewing Company, a Santa Rosa, CA establishment, is fairly new on the brewing scene, brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo gaining his emancipation by once-parent, Korbel, in 2003. Now however, Vinnie is free to do as he pleases and what he does is make damned fine beer.
One look at RRBC’s tap menu and you’ll know that what they specialize in are what California brews are typically known for, hops. Their IPA’s, Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger have dominated Beer Advocate’s Best IPA lists for years and their hold is unflinching. While the bigger bodied IPA’s may be delicious; rich in grassy hop characteristics and smooth-but-significant maltiness, their more laid back brews such as the Blind Pig, Happy Hops, Segal Select and Row2, Hill 56 (a 100% simcoe brewed ale) are all remarkable. The hoppiness can be a touch aggressive at times, but for those whose palette has grown to adore West Coast IPA’s of the likes of Stone, Bear Republic and Firestone, the flavors of Russian River brews will be right up their alley.
And while they woo with their IPA’s, they aren’t a one note brewery. The O.V.L. Stout, smooth and rich on nitro, was out of this world. Their Belgian-inspired selections were also on point from the duvel-style Damnation to the sour Sanctification all the way to the barrel-aged cherry beer, Supplication. Though the sours aren’t typically to my liking, I did try theirs and found that they were some of the best I’ve had.
And as if the beer didn’t speak for themselves, the brewpub itself is a laid-back cornocopia of everything that is wonderful in life. Good food (do the Bites), good drink, good people and beautiful Santa Rosa weather. Drink out front on the sidewalk—European cafe style—and as the day fades into night, as your glasses of delicious west coast brews go from full to empty to full again, tell me you don’t love Russian River. I dare you.
Written by Jared Pulliam