While driving down Highway 101 through Santa Rosa, I busted out Yelp and saw a restaurant / brewery with over 1,000 reviews and knew it had to be checked out. When I told others about it they informed me of the massive following that their main beer called “Pliney the Elder” has and how it was a must visit spot in California, so in we went.
Located in the medium-sized town of Santa Rosa, Russian River Brewing Co was settled in a pretty cool little downtown that I would love to spend more time in on another trip. If the amount of people there at 11 AM in the morning, right when they opened, was any indication then we must have stumbled onto something good (almost every seat was taken). I was excited as I placed my order and awaited its arrival.
The Russian River Brewing Company (RRBC) was originally owned by Korbel Champagne Cellars in Guerneville, California and was founded on their historic and beautiful property amidst vineyards and redwoods near the Russian River. When Korbel decided to get out of the beer business in 2003, they generously offered the brewmaster, Vinnie Cilurzo and his wife Natalie the rights to the brand.
On April 3, 2004, Vinnie and Natalie reopened RRBC as a brewpub in downtown Santa Rosa to great success and began self-distributing to nearby clients. In 2008, they opened a production brewery about 1 mile from their brewpub allowing them to triple production, take on more accounts locally, and distribute some beer in 4 more states. As of 2012, RRBC employs over 60 part-time and full-time employees and continues to grow.
The brewery has about 18 beers on tap with most being IPA’s, they also have a series of sours and some Belgians as well. It seemed like the beer drinkers were staying with the IPA’s but the sours seemed popular as well. Some friends of mine decided to get a sampler plater of the beer and they were informed it was only one per table. This was a strange request but when the sampler came out they immediately saw why. The sampler had 18 beers in it and looked like it would easily be enough for a group of four people, my friends quickly realized why it said only one per table.
Not to be outdone, they also have a wide selection of sandwiches, pizza and salads. We got two different pizzas and both were great. My favorite was the pizza called Nu Deal that had mushrooms, caramelized onions, spinach, pesto and olive oil.
Another must get is the Pliney bites. These mouth-watering concoctions are made of pizza dough bites that have pepperjack cheese and jalapeños melted on them and come with pizza sauce to dip them in. It’s great and would be a decent meal with just the beer and that.
At the brewery you can get a growler of any of the beer, shirts and hats. You can also buy bottles of Blind Pig and Pliney the Elder, which seemed to be what most people were opting for in the brewery.
I would have to say that Russian River lives up to the hype I have heard about it. It is a fun place to hang out with great food, now if only it wasn’t eight and half hours from my house…