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Russian River Brewing Company: Touring the Santa Rosa, California Craft Beer Scene

Discover the story behind Russian River Brewing Company and take a virtual tour of their brewery and taproom in Santa Rosa, California. Learn about their award-winning craft beers and the history of the company.

Russian River Brewing Co. Touring Santa Rosa Californias Craft Beer Scene

Nestled in the heart of Santa Rosa, California, Russian River Brewing Company stands as a beacon for craft beer enthusiasts, beckoning them to explore the vibrant world of local brews. Renowned for its iconic brews including the legendary Pliny the Elder, its sought-after relative Pliny the Younger and the "-tion" series of sour brews, this independent craft brewer has become a pilgrimage site for beer aficionados in the state of California.

Here, we will guide you through the history and background of Russian River Brewing Co., its tasting room locations, hours of operation, signature beer styles, signature ingredients, must-try beers, consumer reviews, events and collaborations with other breweries in America. Cheers to an immersive exploration of the art and passion behind one of California's most celebrated craft breweries.

History and Background of The Brewery

Russian River Brewing Company was founded by Korbel Champagne Cellars in 1997, and the brewery quickly gained a reputation for producing high-quality and highly sought-after beers. In 2003, Vinnie Cilurzo, the brewery's brewmaster, and his wife Natalie took ownership of the beer business and opened their first-ever brewpub with a new business plan in 2004.

One of Russian River Brewing Company's most famous beers is Pliny the Elder, a Double IPA that has consistently ranked among the top beers in the U.S. ever since its inception. Another highly acclaimed beer from the brewery is Pliny the Younger, a limited-release Triple IPA that attracts beer enthusiasts from around the globe.

Russian River is also recognized for its sour beers like Supplication, Consecration and Temptation, which are aged in oak barrels with various fruits and wild yeast strains. Various other "-tion" beers are released on an extremely limited basis yearly.

Tasting Room Locations and Hours of Operation

With two distinct locations, Russian River Brewing Co. invites enthusiasts to savor their renowned beers, which blend innovation and tradition across the original brewpub in downtown Santa Rosa as well as the expansive Windsor facility.

1. Santa Rosa

This is the original tasting room location of Russian River Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa, California. The brewpub offers a selection of beers, including small-batch brews, and features a menu with foods such as sandwiches, pizza, salads, chicken wings, calzones, BBQ chicken and more.

  • Prior Reservation: Up to 12 Guests
  • Hours: 11 AM – 10 PM
  • Location: 725 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA, 95404
  • Website: Santa Rosa Location

2. Windsor Brewery

After a scrutinizing search for new territories, Russian River Brewing Company opened a new brewpub venture with its Windsor location in 2018. This location includes a brewpub, outdoor beer garden, gift shop, administrative offices, acres of free parking and kegs of the brewery's high-quality offerings on tap, as well as bottles of sour barrel-aged beers. It also operates a private tasting room that requires a reservation three weeks before the date of the event.

  • Prior Reservation: 16 Guests
  • Private Tasting Room: 26-35 Guests
  • Hours: 11 AM – 9:30 PM
  • Location: 700 Mitchell Ln, Windsor, CA, 95492
  • Website: Windsor Location

Russian river brewing company signature beers on bar with hops

Award-Winning Signature Beer Styles

Russian River has consistently clinched top honors for a variety of beers at renowned events including the World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Festival. Let’s now explore some notable award-winning beer styles offered by Russian River Brewing Co.

1. Double IPA (Pliny the Elder) 

Russian River Brewing's iconic Pliny the Elder redefined the Double/Imperial IPA category, which boasts a perfect harmony of hop intensity and malt backbone. It has earned three gold medals and a bronze so far, one gold coming from the World Beer Cup (WBC) and two from the Great American Beer Festival (GABF).

2. Sour Blonde Ale (Temptation)

Temptation, a masterfully crafted Sour Blonde Ale, exemplifies Russian River's expertise in barrel-aging. Its intricate blend of flavors and subtle sour notes consistently earns acclaim. This sour blonde ale has secured two gold and five silver awards from both the WBC and GABF.

3. India Pale Ale (Blind Pig)

Russian River's India Pale Ales showcase a spectrum of hop-forward delights, each carefully brewed to perfection, to offer a diverse array of aromas and flavors to please hop enthusiasts. So far, Blind Pig has earned one gold, one bronze and three silver awards.

4. Belgian-style Ale (Damnation)

Drawing inspiration from Belgian traditions, Russian River's Belgian-style ales display a marriage of complex yeast character and intricate malt profiles, which result in uniquely flavorful and aromatic brews. Among the awards the brewery's Belgian-inspired beers have won include silver and gold medals from the GABF.

5. Wheat Ale (Golden Wheat)

Russian River Brewing Co. demonstrates its versatility via the brewing of wheat ales to showcase refreshing crispness and accentuate the intricate nuances of wheat malt. These beers prove to be delightful selections and appeal to a diverse range of palates with their invigorating qualities.

Local Ingredients

Russian River Brewing Company employs unique ingredients during the brewing process differentiate itself in the U.S. craft beer industry. These ingredients represent the key components that contribute to the flavor, aroma and overall character of the beers produced by Russian River Brewing Co.

Here are some common ingredients that have brought incredible success to the Russian River Brewing Company:

1. Yeast & Water

Yeast and water are foundational elements in the beer production of Russian River Brewing Co. Yeast is used to transform sugars into alcohol to create carbonation and contribute to distinct flavors. 

Water quality directly influences beer taste and consistency which acts as a canvas for brewing. Together, yeast and water are essential partners in shaping the fermentation process and defining the Russian River beer's unique characteristics.

2. Hops

Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ, Simcoe, Cascade and Warrior are all famed hop varietals that have been employed by Russian River Brewing Co. Each varietal provides unique aroma and flavor components to the beers produced by Russian River.

3. Special Ingredients

Citrus, pine and fruity notes: These flavor notes are derived from the combination of hops used in beers to provide a diverse and layered taste profile.

Sour Cherries & Currants: Russian River Brewing Co. uses sour cherries and currants to elevate its sour beers with tart and fruity notes. Their addition, especially in barrel-aged sour brews, creates a harmonious blend of sweetness, acidity and complexity.

Brettanomyces Yeast: Brettanomyces yeast, known as "Brett," adds complexity to Russian River’s sour beers, This wild yeast imparts funky and earthy flavors to beers. It thrives in barrel -aging environments and contributes to the unique characteristics of sour and wild ales.

Lactobacillus & Pedicoccus Bacteria: These bacteria strains are commonly used in sour beer production by Russian River Brewing Company. They contribute acidity and additional complexity to beers.

Keep in mind that specific beer recipes can vary, and the company may experiment with different ingredients to create a diverse range of beer styles for new releases. 

Pliny For President by Russian River Brewing

Must-Try Beers

Russian River Brewing Company offers a diverse array of flavors for beer enthusiasts with a rich tapestry of options to explore. These are the beers you shouldn't miss when you are visiting the brewery:

1. Pliny the Elder

Russian River's flagship double IPA, Pliny the Elder, is a hop lover's dream and the most popular beer ever produced by the company. Bursting with citrus and pine aromas, it boasts a balanced malt backbone, which makes it an iconic and immensely enjoyable brew. The archetypal West Coast double IPA.

2. Pliny the Younger

A highly coveted triple IPA released annually between March and April, Pliny the Younger captivates with its intense hop complexity, elevated alcohol content and tremendously limited availability, which only adds to its legendary status among beer aficionados.

3. Blind Pig IPA

This American IPA showcases a masterful blend of hops, which imparts delightful citrus, floral and pine notes. Its well-balanced malt foundation ensures a crisp and satisfying drinking experience.

4. Supplication

Supplication is an exquisite sour dark ale aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels with currants. The result is a harmonious fusion of dark fruit sweetness, oak and a pleasantly nuanced tartness that captivates the palate.

5. Consecration

Consecration, a sour masterpiece, is a brown ale aged with sour cherries in Pinot Noir barrels. The beer unfolds with intricate layers of dark fruit, oaky richness and a tantalizing sour character.

6. Temptation

Temptation, a blonde ale aged in Chardonnay barrels, offers a unique blend of fruity sweetness and a crisp sour profile. The infusion of Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus imparts a tangy complexity that makes it a compelling choice for the consumers.

7. Pliny for President

Pliny for President is a limited-edition spinoff of Pliny the Elder which features a robust hop profile with a nod to the political arena. This brew pays homage to its predecessor and delivers the hop-forward excellence for which Russian River is renowned.

russian river brewing company barrel-aged sour beers in barrel room

Reviews and Accolades

It’s time to reveal what the consumers think about the exceptional craft beers that Russian River Brewing Company offers. Here, we have gathered ratings from three credible sources which include Untappd, BeerAdvocate and Yelp.

1. Untappd

  • Overall Rating: ⭐4.17
  • Total Ratings: 1,363,968
  • Number of Beers Rated: 217

2. BeerAdvocate

  • Overall Rating: ⭐4.13
  • Total Ratings: 63,421
  • Number of Beers Rated: 121

3. Yelp

  • Overall Rating: ⭐4.00
  • Total Ratings: 3,618
  • Number of Beers Rated: N/A

Awards Won

Russian River Brewing Company has received numerous awards and accolades for its outstanding craft beers. Here is a list of some of the notable awards won by the Company:

Collaboration and Partnerships

Collaborations in the craft beer industry are dynamic and exciting ways in which breweries can reach new audiences by partnering with local breweries around the U.S. (and beyond). Russian River often engages in partnerships with other breweries, businesses or organizations to create unique beers, expand its reach and support community initiatives.

This is a comprehensive list of the U.S. companies that have collaborated with Russian River Brewing:

Events & Community Involvement

Russian River Brewing Company has a significant reputation for its community involvement and signature events. Here are some notable events that have historically been associated with Russian River Brewing:

1. The Release of Pliny the Younger

The annual release of Pliny the Younger is a highly anticipated event in the beer world. Beer enthusiasts from around the globe often flock to Russian River's locations to get a taste of this limited-edition triple IPA in March and April.

2. Charitable Initiatives

Russian River has been involved in various charitable activities to support local organizations in California. Fundraising events and collaborations with nonprofits have been part of their community engagement since their inception.

3. Community Events

The brewery hosts community events to provide a space for locals to gather and enjoy their craft beers. This includes beer releases, festivals and other notable gatherings in their brewpubs in Santa Rosa and Windsor.

4. Beer Education and Tours

The brewery offers beer education events, tours and tastings to allow enthusiasts insight into the brewing process and the art of crafting their signature beers.


Russian River Brewing Company has become a renowned and sought-after destination for beer enthusiasts over the years. Its legendary brews such as Pliny the Elder, Pliny the Younger, Supplication and Temptation (and many others) have contributed to its iconic status in the craft beer world. 

The company’s influence and reputation make it a destination worth considering for any serious beer enthusiast. The pilgrimage to the brewery offers not just a tasting experience but a chance to be part of the wider craft beer community and culture that Russian River has helped shape. Cheers!