Bay area beer events to enjoy this April

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If you hurry, you may be able to catch a last-minute ticket for Brewsters’ monthly beer dinner, which this month features Sonoma Springs Brewing Co. on Thursday, April 4 (today) at 6:30 p.m. This beer-accented feast starts off with a farmhouse ale, little gems salad paired with Kölsch, Nashville hot chicken legs with IPA, pork tenderloin served with imperial IPA, and fruit dessert with Plum Drunk, Sonoma Springs’ barrel-aged fruit Belgian tripel. After attending Brewsters’ beer dinners, we found that hobnobbing with the makers and other beer lovers over incredible cuisine to be well worth the $65 price tag. Email for tickets.

Beer Judging Certification Program judges are prepping their palettes to rate commercial beers behind the scenes at the epic Battle of the Brews at Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Santa Rosa, on Saturday, April 6. But all beer fans can buy tickets to Sonoma County’s largest beer festival and sample hundreds of craft beers from all over the world, paired with locally sourced food specialties. Last year, Sonoma County brewers took an impressive seven out of 11 awards (3 Disciples, Seismic, GravSouth and Barrel Brothers). For my money, this beer festival is the best way to test out Sonoma County local ales in a central location, with tastings from 101 North, 3 Disciples, Barrel Brothers, Bear Republic, Crooked Goat, Dempsey’s, Fogbelt, Grav South, Lagunitas, Old Caz, Old Possum, Sonoma Springs and Stumptown.

If you’re having trouble narrowing the field of thousands of choices, try these spring favorites: 3 Disciples award-winning hazy IPAs, Boulevard (Kansas) wheat, CaliCraft (Walnut Creek) guava fruit beer, Magnolia (San Francisco) Kölsch, Seismic (Santa Rosa) doppelbock, Trade (Napa) blonde and Stumptown (Guerneville) brut IPA. The VIP ticket gets you three hours of limited-release access to taste and tour before the general admission crowd arrives at 4 p.m. It always feels better drinking good beer for a cause, and Battle of the Brews helps Santa Rosa’s Active 20-30 Club raise money to buy school supplies, clothing, haircuts and dental checkups for 200 of our community’s youth. Tickets are $50 general, $100 VIP and available at

If you’re hopped out after the Battle, turn to San Francisco’s sixth annual Cider Summit Saturday, April 13, 1-5 p.m. at the Presidio, San Francisco (Civil War Parade Ground, Main Post). Sample over 150 traditional French and Basque dry ciders, local heirloom and artisanal varieties, and apple cocktails paired with excellent regional cuisine. Make sure to check in on our Sonoma County local cider producers, including Ethic Ciders of Petaluma; Golden State, Goat Rock and California Caboose Ciders of Healdsburg; Specific Gravity and Horse and Plow Ciders of Sebastopol; and Tilted Shed of Windsor, in addition to French, English, and Polish traditional ciders. Tickets are $40-$50 and available at

If cider suits you, gain some home-fermenting skills at Beverage People’s (1845 Piner Road, Santa Rosa) free demo, “Making Classic Cider Styles of Europe and U.S.” on Saturday, April 6, at 10:30 a.m. (before Battle of the Brews). Drop by for this fermentation talk series presented by Joe Hanson-Hirt, no reservations required. You can also sign up for more of Beverage People’s introductory and advanced classes on cheese making, wine, beer and other crafts. Learn more at

What’s brewing this spring?

Spring presents an opportunity to try seasonal varieties at home or on tap, especially strong, malty lagers from Germany like maibock, doppelbock and helles bock. Jamison’s Roaring Donkey, Speakeasy and Aqus are now pouring Lagunitas’ Secret Agenda, a mild, toasty-grainy pale bock collaboration with Moonlight Brewing crafted in the German tradition (find it in the bottle at Willibees, Charleys and Petaluma Market). Trader Joe’s surprisingly drinkable Josephsbrau Heller Bock is a malty powerhouse worthy of a spring fridge-stocking. Chili Joe’s on Petaluma Boulevard has Shiner Bock in the bottle, a favorite spring beer from Texas that is harder to find in California.

Unfiltered farmhouse beers also come out of the winter cellar in spring, like saisons, sours and the coveted “Bière de Garde” or “beer that has been kept.” This French or Belgian country lager comes in blonde, amber and brown varieties similar to a saison but are more malt forward, little hops and a rounded fruit or spice finish. Try Russian River’s Perdition, a prototype reddish-brown “Bière de Sonoma” ale with a spiced, earthy impression (only on tap at the Santa Rosa or Windsor locations).

Sweat first, then beer

Begin your spring training for the IPA10K starting and finishing at the now-dry Barlow, Sebastopol, on Saturday, May 4. The 6-plus mile, mostly-flat course meanders from downtown Sebastopol to Occidental Road, and returns along a portion of the carless Joe Rodota Trail. A post-run beer festival features refueling ales and lagers from Seismic, Crooked Goat, Woodfour, Hopmonk, Anderson Valley and HenHouse. This run offers the perfect opportunity to support the Barlow restorations after the recent flooding, while improving your personal record on the fast course. After the run, gather a few friends and compete for prizes in the Beer Mile, where team participants chug a 12-ounce beer, run a quarter mile loop through the Barlow, and return to repeat the course with three more beers. (Or a visit to Woodfour Brewing to savor a slow pint might serve your carb-reloading needs).

Petaluma Sunrise Rotary Club’s annual Sonoma County Backroad Challenge takes off from Penngrove Park on Saturday, May 18. Riders get a free pint glass filled with a Lagunitas post-ride treat or two at the barbecue festival after completing the 36-mile, 46-mile, metric (65-mile) or full century (99-mile) course through Sonoma and Marin counties with killer hills and scenic views. This raises funds for Rotary projects throughout Petaluma and the world, and is now in its ninth year. Cyclists from near and far come to explore Sonoma County’s challenging hills, enjoy barbecue supplied by the Penngrove Social Fireman, live bands, and a chance to lounge in the park with a cold Lagunitas after a good ride.

Calling all homebrewers

Have you been testing your homebrew skills all winter? Enter your favorite styles in the AHA/BJCP-sanctioned Sonoma Marin Fair Homebrew Competition to get valuable feedback and structured comments to hone your craft. Submit bottles between April 16 and May 17 at the Beverage People (Santa Rosa) for the June 2 judging. The entry fee is $14 per style.

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