We drove up from San Francisco yesterday to spend the day beer tasting in the North Bay and this was definitely the way to go. We're not really that into guided tours, but I bought this little trip for my husband for Fathers Day (yes, we just now got around to using it) and I'm so glad we did!
We knew it would be fun -- I mean, it's a beer tour. But we had an even better time than expected. Our guide was great. He was so knowledgeable about the beers and got everyone into a friendly relaxed mood when we boarded the bus with a little welcoming talk and a cup of some obscure new beer. We didn't know anyone else on the tour, but it was a small group and we all got along great.
We took the West Sonoma County tour because it included three breweries we'd never visited before: Third Street Aleworks in Santa Rosa, Stumptown in Guerneville and HopMonk Tavern in Sebastopol. Our favorite was the first stop. We'd been to Russian River Brewing Company before, and it's excellent, but were very pleased to try its lesser-known neighbor Third Street Aleworks. Simply put -- the beers were great. We will be back.
Our laid-back, knowledgeable guide made sure we had beer and water during the bus trips to each brewery, and even gave us a brief presentation on the ingredients used in beer brewing. My husband is a home brewer and didn't think he'd get much out of a basic presentation, but even he enjoyed it!
Stumptown had a nice atmosphere but we appreciated the beers at Third Street and HopMonk Tavern more. I think if we had to do it over, we would have picked the tour that included Lagunitas, although we'd already visited on our own a few times.
Apparently, this is a pretty recent service that started in 2011 and, according to our guide, the first beer tour company to start in the area. There are a ton of winery tours, so it's wonderful that someone jumped on this opportunity to start a beer tour because there are so many great breweries in the area.
If you are a visitor to this area -- or even Bay Area locals like us -- and want to get a taste of some good, local beers, then I highly recommend going on one of these tours!
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