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“Amazing beer but avoid a weekend evening visit”

Russian River Brewing Company
Ranked #5 of 540 Restaurants in Santa Rosa
Certificate of Excellence
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Restaurant details
Good for: Bar scene
Dining options: Lunch, Breakfast, Late Night, Dinner
Reviewed August 14, 2013

6/29/13

After spending a very hot afternoon at Lagunitas, we headed to the hotel to cool off. As the heat lingered into a Saturday night, we drove to Russian River but couldn't find a spot to park in the busy downtown area, so back to the hotel for a cab. By the time we got to Russian River Brewing, it was busting at the seams and an hour wait. Luckily, a couple of seats opened at the bar just after we managed to buy our first beers from the end of the bar (on advice from Dave that we met at Lagunitas on how to negotiate the chaos).

So, the obvious to start—the beer is amazing. Because we took a cab, I bypassed the cool sampler tray for $15 for everything on tap and dove right in with a glass of Pliny the Elder and my wife did Consecration. On my pre-trip research, I found this great 12 minute documentary on Pliny beers, Younger and Elder, the engine of Russian River's success. No write up of these wonderful beers because we were hawking for a seat to avoid the one hour wait for a table. After unceremoniously pushing my way past a couple with my size to two open bar seats, we ordered some beer bites (pizza bread with mozzarella cheese and garlic), which came quickly.

Just before the appetizer arrived, we ordered Cheese Louise for dinner, a cheese pizza with mozzerella, parmesan, cheddar and marinara. We decided poorly because the Beer Bites were so large (and similar) that we took much of the pizza home. The food was fine but the meat market atmosphere made the stop uncomfortable. When one of us went to the bathroom, the youngsters immediately filled the space, clamoring for a beer. On my restroom trip to the back bar, there was at least one family and a few beer geek types, but they were overwhelmed by the young crowd. Maybe just a Saturday night, but Dave and Meredith had said pretty much the same on their trip a night or two before.

Just prior to dinner, we had received our next excellent RR drafts. Mine was Row 2 Hill 56, a 100% Simcoe Pale Ale: stark white head over an amber ale with gold highlights; bright and clean Simcoe in the nose with light, fresh breadiness; tongue follows the nose exactly. Row 2, Hill 56 is a great pale ale in spite of being the weakest beer of the night. My wife ordered Santification, a 100% Brett fermented ale: yellow with hints of gold and a thin film from an off white head; delicate Brett and underlying bready malt; clean and rich sourness on tongue. Simply an amazing beer that was nearly matched by last beer of the night, Supplication, a brown sour barrel aged Pinot Noir barrel: little head and no lace; cloying amber to brown ale; sour and wine in nose; wine, thin malt, hint of dark fruit, slightly hot alcohol and bracingly sour on the tongue. Can't beat the beer here.

Like Lagunitas earlier in the day, I again found myself dislocated from my expectation. In short, the beer is not the brewery or brewpub. While the food was fine at Russian River, I wouldn't return there just for a meal. The beers are Russian River were everything I hoped and expected to find and we even left with bottles of Pliny the Elder, Sanctification and Damnation. The local heat wave strained our drinking resources and personal patience, which may have impacted our visit as well. However, I didn't leave thinking I'd love to live around the corner. If going back again, I would definitely make Russian River an afternoon or weekday trip to avoid the crowds so that I could quietly focus on the beer.

Pictures at http://pintsizedrevelations.blogspot.com/2013/08/russian-river-brewing-santa-rosa-ca.html

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1  Thank CalVH
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed August 4, 2013

We recently spent a week on the North Coast of California with another couple. We had Napa and Sonoma wineries, amazing stretches of coastal beauty and redwood forests. My favorite thing of all....my lunch at the Russian River Brewery Restaurant in Santa Rosa.

Easy to find on 4th Street in the city center of SR, this was the apex of my trip. This place is busy day or night, so it's not about the atmosphere, the sandwiches and pub fare were excellent, but it's not about the food. The service was helpful and friendly, but I have to tell you it's about the beer.

I am a lover of exotic and unusual beers. My friends purchased an enormous flight of nearly twenty beers and each was better than the last, until we got to the sour barrel aged beers. Oh My!
I had "Beautification" aged in Cabernet barrels, "Supplication" aged in Pinot barrels with cherries added, "Temptation" aged in Chard barrels, and the it gets better from there. Each was complex and vinous, oaky and yet tasting of the wine from the barrel in which it was aged, and wonderfully sour.

I would return for the service, the ambience, the food and certainly the rest of the world class beer line up, but if you want astoundingly good sours, stop at Russian River.

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1  Thank Krista R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 2, 2013

On the East Coast, getting Russian River beer is a rare treat. When Pliny the Elder is on tap somewhere it sells out quickly. So, when I visited my brother in San Francisco, I asked him to get some Pliny for me. His response - "Why don't we go to the brewery?" Great idea!

My visit was outstanding. The atmosphere was what I hoped. Salt of the earth people enjoying excellent beer. It was not overdone in a yuppie brewpub way that you see so often now. Prices for beers were reasonable and not jacked up. Loved the fact that you get all the offerings on tap as part of the sampler. Food was decent - nothing outrageously good, but it went well with the beer which was what I was mainly there for.

Most likely, I will not get a chance to visit again. However, those that are beer lovers and are in the area for a visit, make the time to visit this outstanding brewery.

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Thank 2TravelingBs
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 31, 2013

Wrote our wedding vows here last year while enjoying their great beer and pizza, so knew we were coming back this summer during our wine tasting trip.

Stopped here twice this visit and it was packed for the 4th of July holiday! We waited a bit and then got a round table towards the front and ordered one of their excellent pizzas! Crust is perfect...not too thin or thick, toppings are fresh and each bite is a burst of great flavor.

What can I say about their beer but perfection? My husband and I are into craft beers and any afficionado will know to stop here. Good stuff. The atmosphere is very pleasant for hanging out and we caught a good band there this trip. We will be back again and again!

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Thank missprelude
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 27, 2013

Loved the atmosphere, beer and food. Lots of fun! It is very busy and packed so be prepared. The waiter was very helpful regarding the beer choices and tended to our table often.
We had a great experience and would go back.

Thank LeaBab
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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