Pliny the Younger – More Exciting than Santa Claus

It’s “Younger” Time!!

Pliny the Younger is to beer loving adults like Santa Claus is to children under 10.

We make our plans for the day or days we will wait in line, make lists of what we will bring to occupy our time, and tell all of our friends how excited we are for the time to finally come. Well it’s almost here, on February 3rd, a week before SF Beer Week, the amazing hoppy- Triple IPA will come back to us.

From February 3-16th the “Younger” will be on draft at the pub and select draft accounts that Russian River has been supporting over the years. That list isn’t available yet, but regardless, if you can make it out here, get out here, and if you are local then you are blessed, so get in line!

Last year RRBC implemented a new policy, they are only allowing customers 3 hours in the pub and a maximum of 3 “Youngers”. This beer is 10.25% so for most of us, 3 is plenty! Then of course they make sure to fill up their beer board with other amazing beers so take your pick after to have the “Younger”. I recommend the taster tray, it’s all 20 beers for $22, it’s such a great way to try all of the Russian River brews!


Some advice from a seasoned “Younger Experience” person:

  • Get in line super early in the morning.
  • Arrive with your entire group and stay until they check you in.
  • Don’t cut in front of others who have been waiting in line, it’s super uncool and very elementary. You will be booed worse than Yasiel Puig at AT&T Park.
  • Bring warm weather clothes and rain gear, a chair, umbrella, snacks, extra/external battery charger for your phone, and a game of some sort.
  • Eat a decent size, filling breakfast and start your day off right.
  • Buy snacks from the business you are standing in front of, get your hair cut, buy product, eat, buy coffee, make a good impression so RRBC looks better to their neighbors.
  • Chat it up with your neighbors, meet new people, have fun, it makes the time go by faster.
  • Wear comfy shoes.
  • Have your food picked out in your mind so that when you get in, you can order lunch or dinner right away. I recommend the wings, New Yorker, Mikey, Excel, grilled cheese, and the caesar salad.
  • Don’t be foolish, don’t drink in line, don’t make a “roadie” and get all buzzed before you get into the pub. Just DON’T do it. It’s actually illegal to drink in public and have an open container in the city of Santa Rosa, so just leave it at home and wait until you get in for the awesome beers. An open container ticket can just be bad news bears and totally embarrassing in front of everyone else in line. More than all of the dumb things Yasiel Puig says or does in front of the booing fans.
  • Drinks lots of water!!! Normally, you should be drinking 8-10 glasses per day, when you drink high alcohol beer you need more water. Use the 1 to 1 ol’ ratio: 1 glass of water for each glass of beer. You’ll thank me later.
  • Take pictures, for some of you, this may only happen once in your lifetime! For those that are lucky enough to come often for the release, help others have a more enjoyable time, offer to take their pictures, move out of their way so they can get a shot of the brewpub or whatever the shot may be.
  • Don’t smoke around the crowd of people. Don’t smoke in line. I don’t want cancer and neither does anyone else. You actually need to be at least 20 feet from the buildings according to Santa Rosa city ordinance, so after you get checked in, take a minute, if you must smoke, and walk to the parking lot and do your business.
  • Be polite.
  • Tip your server. GENEROUSLY. They are working extra hard and putting up with a lot over these two weeks. They’re all KICKASS , treat them well. 
  • If you do not drink your allotted “Youngers”, don’t give your tabs away to someone else, it’s not allowed, it’s frowned upon and you will be asked to leave if you are caught.


Pliny the Younger only comes out once a year, it’s well worth the plane ticket, the long wait in line, and the miles you’ll need to drive to get here. It’s heavily hopped, has lots of malts, and is high alcohol but it’s always smooth and hop-forward with hints of malt.

As a local, I wait in line every year, sometimes 3-4 times during the two week period. “Younger” comes out around my birthday so I personally feel like it’s a really great gift to me. It also holds a special spot in my heart because in 2013 my “Younger experience” dictated where I was going on my honeymoon. Vinnie and Natalie were mailed a case of Hop Slam and asked to slam one on opening day and after they did, they gave us one. We fell in love with that beer and headed to Kalamazoo, Michigan for a part of our honeymoon to visit Bell’s Brewery. If you see us at the pub, you may just hear my husband tell that story, it’s one of his favorites to tell!

Vinnie and Natalie at RRBC in 2013.




Drink Up, it’s Time for SF Beer Week

SF Beer week is one of my favorite times of the year; it’s my birthday and I get to enjoy copious amounts of amazing beers from all across the Bay Area and beyond. Beer week is an action packed week filled with beer dinners, beer pairings, educational seminars with brewers and brewery owners, sensory seminars with hops, tap takeovers at various bars and gastropubs throughout the Bay Area, and many events at the source- at the breweries. There are hundreds of options with over 100 breweries in the greater San Francisco Bay Area and the North Bay, we have a lot to choose from.

Drink up, it’s Sf Beer Week!
(Photo courtesy of SF Beer Week media kit)

So how do you pick what to do? As a seasoned beer traveler and planner, I highly recommend you sign up for the itinerary on first. This will allow you to look at each of the events that brewers chose to list and what the San Francisco Brewers Guild are promoting. Find something you like, you simple click, “add to my itinerary”. It’s a great way to be able to check out what you’re interested in each day.


Secondly, these events fill up fast so if there is a need for a reservation or to purchase tickets, do it now. There are over 100 breweries out there and even more restaurants who will be hosting dinners and tap takeovers, but there are even more beer lovers who wish to attend. Get in where you want to get in.


Buy your tickets for the SF Beer Week Opening Gala NOW. Friday, February 10th at 6PM is quite possibly the best beer event in Northern California and you want to be there. This event is well attended by all of the breweries and they have saved their special brews to be showcased that night, for you. Don’t let them down! Get your tickets.


My beer week recommendations:


Russian River Brewing Co. – February 3rd. Well if I didn’t mention this then you would think I didn’t know anything about beer because anyone who knows beer, knows that Russian River Brewing Company is releasing the long awaited triple IPA, Pliny the Younger. It’s released once a year for two weeks and they do it in conjunction with beer week. They will be releasing this delicious beer on February 3rd at the pub. The brewers will be bringing it to the opening gala as well, so there should be plenty of chances for you try it.

St. Florian’s Brewery 4 Year Anniversary – February 11th from 12-8PM, they’ll be serving up great eats from various food trucks and vendors, as well as pouring new beers, and there will be live music. More information to come, but this is a good one to get on your list if you find yourself in the North Bay.

Social Kitchen’s Friday Morning Beer Brunch – February 11th from 10:30AM-2:30PM. I LOVE this place, I love the atmosphere, I love the food, and I love the beer. I also really love brunch, it’s my favorite meal of the day and I feel like it does not get the chance to make an appearance as often as it should, so why not indulge on a Saturday?!

Monk’s Kettle: United Sours of America – February 11th from 11Am-11PM.

The Monk’s Kettle is a super cool beer bar and I couldn’t think of a better place to spend a little time sipping on one of craft beers latest favored beer style.

Swann’s Oyster Depot Collaboration with Woods Beer Co. – February 11th

12-5PM. Have you ever been to Swann’s? It’s AH-MAZ-ING! It’s a hole-in-the-wall little spot that you squeeze into, sit at the counter, and are served by all men who have worked there for generations. They serve fresh food daily and when they run out, it’s out. It’s so worth it, and paired with beer, well, duh.

Ale Arsenal’s Alvarado Street Tap Takeover – February 11th from 3-8PM.

Alvarado Street is putting out some incredible brews, this is surely not going to be a disappointing way to spend some time.

Almanac Beer Co.’s Stonefruit Night – February 11th from 3-11PM.

They will be hosting a series of events throughout the week, enjoy a walk down memory lane with the folks at Almanac as you taste through countless vintages of their special sours.

The Good Hop and Smog City’s Bay Invasion – February 11th from 5-11PM

I have enjoyed many Smog City beers down in the smoggy city of angels and I cannot wait to try this lineup!

WHAT’S ON DRAFT: Little Bo Pils, Hoptonic IPA, Sabre-Toothed Squirrel, Coffee Porter, My Tai Hop-T IPA with Coconut, Chip Shot Coffee Porter, Cuddlebug, Bourbon O.E., Buzz Worthy, Benny And The Bretts, The Nothing, Infinite Wishes, AND MORE!

Alpha Acid Brewing Company IPA Day – February 12th 1-6PM.

Because, well, duh. Single, double, and triple IPA’s will be flowing. Nuf said.

Cellarmaker and the Rare Barrel Collaboration Release – February 12th from 1-8PM.

Join in on the fun at the Rare Barrel in Berkeley. These two breweries blow my mind on their own, I cannot wait to see what they’ve come up for this!

Social Kitchen’s Brett Fest – February 13th from 4-11:30PM.

6 bretty beers tasted side-by-side. Yes, please!

Here are the beers:

  1. Day Day’s Tripel Double: Belgian Tripel, brewed with rye, aged in red wine barrels for 6 months with Brettanomyces Trois Vrai. Further aged in stainless for 10 more months.
  2. Raps on Brett: Our beloved Belgian golden ale, Rapscallion, conditioned in keg with the Brettanomyces Amalgamation blend from Yeast Bay laboratories.
  3. Cloud Cover: Belgian wheat ale conditioned in keg with the Brettanomyces Amalgamation blend from Yeast Bay Laboratories.
  4. (name still TBD): Belgian dark strong aged in red wine barrels for 13 months with Brett Claussenii.
  5. The Rice is Right, Beersel Blend: Jasmine rice Belgian Tripel keg conditioned with the Brettanomyces Beersel blend from Yeast Bay Laboratories.
  6. The Rice is Right, Lochristi Blend: Jasmine rice Belgian Tripel keg conditioned with the Brettanomyces Lochristi blend from Yeast Bay Laboratories.


Dear Mom I love Calicraft – February 15th from 4-9PM.

This just sounds intriguing and I have not been here before, so I’m gonna check it out. Sours, IPAs and secret stuff.

Rare Barrel Jester King Tap Takeover – February 15th from 7:30-10PM.

If you have not yet tried the beers from this brewery out of Texas, then get here to try them.

Fogbelt Brewing End of Beer Week Brunch – February 19th from 10Am-2PM.

Brunch will be served until 2PM for those who need a little help with the beer week hangover. I can’t wait, they do a great job in the kitchen and have some killer beers coming out, so I will be parking myself there for the afternoon!  
So you have some official SF Beer Week events and my recommendations. There are many unofficial events going on in Sonoma County, so check back with me and I’ll keep you up to date with deets.

Craft Beer + Foie Gras in Wine Country

Craft Beer + Foie Gras in Wine Country

Chef’s in amazing food areas like Manhattan have been lavishing in this mouth watering dish even while it was banned in California. So after the banned was recently lifted we saw in all of the food blogs and news publications online that Chefs all over were shouting out to their California peeps and saying congrats. It’s incredible how something so hated by so many can be so sought after for many others.

I have always loved to enjoy this fatty dish with an aged Champagne, something nutty, doughy, creamy, and yeasty or a beautiful Sauternes. Naturally everyone looks to wine to sip with this….

Being that I am a craft beer and food lover, I thought I’d share some delightful pairings for this decadent dish. We all know that foie goes really well with wine and we are in wine country, but the textures, flavors, and nuances that make up this dish also pair really well with craft beer.

Foie Gras is rich, fatty, delicate, and decadent. On it’s own can seem quite overwhelming in flavors and to be honest all of us need something to balance out those flavors on our palates. Commonly paired items one the dish are fresh, house-made, warm brioche, a sauce made from fig, blackberry, huckleberry {my favorite}, or some other sweet tasting fruit. Though it really can be prepared with anything, or even eaten on it’s own without any sauce or toast.

Whether this dish is is prepared as a torchon, terrine, or the lobe is seared whole {That’s my favorite} this mouth watering delicacy can be enjoyed with many of the wonderful craft beers you can get your hands on right here in Sonoma County at my favorite local beer shop: Beercraft.  

Photo courtesy of Huntington Post

Photo courtesy of Huntington Post

I spoke with a few local chefs in Sonoma County to see what they are doing with foie and if it will be on their menus. To my surprise, many are not putting it on the menu and did not really have it on the menu in the first place- it’s a pretty high ticket item. Sondra Bernstein, Proprietor of the famous Girl and the Fig and the Fig Cafe and Wine Bar says,  “We did not always serve foie as a regular item, price point is usually too high for both restaurants as much as I love it. -To be honest have not given it any thought lately at all, though can’t wait for some tourchon!!” Chef Josh Silvers of Jackson’s Bar and Pizza Oven doesn’t offer Foie as it’s “not a Jackson’s thing”. Chef Dustin Valette on the other hand does not even have his restaurant open yet and I could tell his mouth is watering already! He’s definitely serving Foie Gras, in fact, he was recently at the James Beard House in Manhattan and served the Foie Gras sous vide in Pinot Noir and served it with a kumquat marmalade, “it was amazing!” he says. I am sure it was, I have had a lot of Chef Dustin’s food at the Dry Creek Kitchen and it was always amazing. All of the chefs I spoke to about a beer and foie pairing said they had never even thought about pairing craft beer with the dish in any capacity but would love to experiment.

Naturally, being the foodie I am, I must experiment too. So while everyone is snacking on chips and dips for Super Bowl Sunday, I will be enjoying a little seared foie paired with several craft beers. Here is what I am going to open: A barley wine, Almanac blueberry barrel aged, and Anderson Valley Blood Orange Gose. Stay tuned for the results!


Big Island Brewhaus

Big Island Brewhaus

On a rainy drive back from Hilo to Kona we decided to take a detour and hit the big Island Brewhaus. The Overbourd IPA we had picked up from the market across from where we are staying and fell in love. Unlike a traditional “Brewhaus” this place is Santa Cruz meets Jamaica and makes a baby in Hawaii. It’s super low key, hippie-esc, down-to-earth {no pun intended} and makes some incredible beers. It’s a mexican restaurant and a brewery. The food menu is pretty extensive and inexpensive. We tried a snack: the nachos with shredded chicken. Good flavors but the chips were soggy from the juice from the chicken {they must have been built then put in the broiler to melt the cheese}, there were about 9 chips on the plate, they were big but still unlike a nacho plate… the beers: they had 14 beers on tap. They do samplers of five 3.5 ounce tastes for $6 and some change. We tried them all. The Pau Hana Pale Ale, Panilolo Pale Ale, White Mountain Porter {so odd that I would like a porter but this was light bodied, with a nice clean finish of caramel and toasted nuts. It was fantastic.}, and of course the Overboard IPA.

We sat inside and listened to the music of the live band just outside on the covered patio. We ended up chatting with a sweet couple: Sandy and “Big” Earl. Nice people. Sandy resembled my hubbies mom a lot and that was kind of a cool thing since it was always her thing to come to Hawaii as a family. And Earl was a hoot. He had clearly traveled all over and lived in many places, he had stories about it all. Nice folks, the kind I always enjoy meeting when we travel.

The Brewhaus is well worth the drive where ever you are staying on the island.


Big Island Brewhaus & Tako Taco Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Beer VS Wine


At a recent wine tourism conference we had a session about beer and wine tourism. What are these breweries doing that wineries are not doing in order to be more successful? What separates out the beer industry from the wine industry? It’s the connections. I’ve been to over 300 distinct breweries all over the U.S. and 9 out of 10 of the breweries have replied to me and engaged with me in some way on social media when I tweet or post a photo tagging them. Aside from the online connecting before and after visiting, the breweries for the most part have someone who is so insanely passionate about the beer behind the bar to explain anything and everything to me, making it more evident that this is more than just a job.

 I have seen many people in breweries: the Brewers, owners, wives, or someone highly connected to the brewery who is taking their time out of whatever it is they’re doing to respond to my messages. Its awesome. One of my favorite things about the way breweries connect with me {their consumer: the beer traveler} is they will comment on my blog and make it obvious that they took a little extra time to look me up, check out what I do, and comment on that. It shows me that they care about their consumers, they want to know who we are and because of that, I want to buy more beer!!

And we already buy lots of beer!!

Having been in the wine business for over 14 years, I ask myself, “why do I prefer to go beer tasting over wine tasting?” Being a manager of a prestigious family owned winery where our customers come first and I make it my job to ensure each guest is happy, I wonder why other wineries struggle with this when it’s so simple: be transparent, be genuine, ask questions, care about the answers, and engage. After sitting through this seminar, I realized that it is not easy to give the customers what they want because as the business, you have to ask what it is they want first and that is what the breweries do and then they listen. It cannot be a one-off thing, and that’s really where people are having a tough time in the luxury service industries because people do not have to buy from you…they can buy from a hundred other places or people like you. What can YOU do to stand out? CONNECT. I am not quite sure why the beer culture has this down so well and the wine business that has evolved over the years seems to struggle with it.

 As a consumer, I want to hear from the brewer or winemaker, I want to meet the owner, I want to see them tweeting and pouring behind the bar, I want to see that they are human. There really isn’t much that is different from hundreds of years ago in sales: know your customer, gain their trust and keep a loyal customer.It’s work, but it is possible.

 Some tips from a loyal consumer: ease up on the snobbery, engage with guests on a more intimate level: ask them about who they are and what they like, tell them about you and why you are brewing or making wine; built a familiar connection and that will make them want to know more, tell their friends, and keep coming back.


This is a comment from a brewery owner I met at a new {at the time} brewery in Sacramento. Find my write up of Bike Dog here.

AJ on said:Edit

How about a brewery owner who gets a new Instagram follower, recognizes the name as the business of two great beer travelers he met almost a year ago then hunts them down, stumbles across their blog and writes silly response like this?

PS the Mosaic Pale Ale is proving to be a customer favorite, you were onto something early :) ”

This just goes to show that breweries have a lot of power with the people and many of them use it like AJ did above: he stumbled upon me through social channels and reaches out on my blog and even remembers the beer I loved so much when I visited once. All it takes is a little effort when you are literally stumbling around on the inter-web. Thanks AJ for taking the time out!


Big Al Brewing

Big Al Brewing

Brewery number 204 was cool. It was everything a brewery should be: small, funky, serves great beers, and the local beer makers hang there. We chatted with the locals and the beer-tender about all the cool spots we were planning on visiting. They were almost more excited then we were about our adventure! We did their sampler and also tasted the trippel and the chili IPA which I was not huge a fan of, but that’s just not my style. Chili beers are a hot thing up in Seattle {no pun intended} and they are just too much for my palate.
The brewery was in an industrial area in a warehouse. It was small inside with about seven seats at the bar and a small table but plenty of room outside too. A funky little spot, decent beers, and great service. We enjoyed the Big Hoppa IPA {Of course} and I really liked the Bridge Bitter. We left with the highly recommended Winter Warmer to bring home for our soon to be planned bottle share with our beer friends. Definitely enjoyed this brewery and highly recommend it!