We love Anchor's handcrafted brews, commitment to the community, and willingness to experiment with new ideas, including distilling gin and whiskey.
1705 Mariposa, SF. (415) 863-8350, www.anchorbrewing.com
ANDERSON VALLEY BREWING COMPANY
This pillar of the Bay Area craft brew scene has been building its reputation on balanced, drinkable options like Boont Amber since 1987. Other favorites include the nearly hopless Summer Solstice, the oh-so-hoppy Hop Ottin' IPA, and the Brother David line of abbey-style ales (named for Toronado owner David Keene). But we're particularly excited about the 2009 Estate Fresh Hop beer, produced with hops grown on brewery grounds (where, by the way, all water is taken from wells on the property and all beer is made in a facility that's 40 percent solar-powered).
17700 Hwy 253, Boonville. (707) 895-2337, www.avbc.com
Beer drinkers looking for a truly local, truly independent brewery need look no further than this Sonoma County one-man operation. Well-respected brewer Brian Hunt established the tiny business in 1992 and still delivers his keg-only offerings like Death and Taxes black beer, Reality Czeck pils, and Homegrown Fresh Hop Ale himself. Hunt also has been growing a share of his hops onsite since 2003.
Santa Rosa. (707) 528-2537, www.moonlightbrewing.com
PYRAMID BREWING COMPANY
One of the first craft breweries to appear on the public's radar, this Seattle-based company also has been operating out of its Berkeley brewery and alehouse since 1997. Until recently, Pyramid operated as a publicly-owned company; now it is part of the Independent Brewers Union. Under this arrangement, the brewery is owned by East Coast brewers Mad Hat but conducts its business as an autonomous unit. The company also has revamped its image, renaming classics like Pyramid Hefeweizen (now Haywire Hefeweizen) and Pyramid Apricot Ale (now Audacious Apricot Ale) and introducing a host of new offerings some only available at Pyramid brewpubs. But with locations in Sacramento, Walnut Creek, and Berkeley, that means plenty of access to exclusives like the nitrogenated Draught Pale Ale or the session beer Crystal Wheat Ale.
901 Gilman, Berk. (510) 527-9090, www.pyramidbrew.com
Now based in Santa Rosa, the brewery most famous for its Pliny the Elder Double IPA used to be owned by Korbel Champagne Cellars. Vinnie Cilurzo and his partner bought the business in 2003, but have continued to combine aspects of both industries, including a line of beers that are aged in used wine barrels from local wineries. Look for tasting nights of this special line, nicknamed the "'Tion" beers, at pubs like Toronado.
725 Fourth St., Santa Rosa; (707) 545-BEER, www.russianriverbrewing.com
The big news surrounding the Chico-based brewery that introduced much of America to Pale Ale is its upcoming Estate Harvest Ale, inspired by the winemaking of its Napa and Sonoma neighbors and made with hops and barley grown onsite. Also exciting? Two collaborations with Maryland-based brewery Dogfish Head Limb and Life, released on draft this month, and Life and Limb, due out in 24-oz bottles and limited draft in November.
1075 E. 20th St., Chico. (530) 893-3520, www.sierranevada.com
SPEAKEASY ALES & LAGERS
Many beer drinkers gravitate to Speakeasy because of the distinctive, noir-feeling of its packaging and stay for the big, satisfying taste of classics like Big Daddy I.P.A. and Prohibition Ale.