Ciders and Brews, Santa Rosa to Healdsburg

You know its famous wine scene; now dip into its foams and hops.

Sonoma Cider

SUMMER SIP COOLDOWN: A curious thing often happens when you have a sizable group of close friends, the kind of pals who'll speak frankly about each other's strengths and not-strengths. Everyone gets labeled as being a master at something, or having a special talent. Perhaps you have one friend who is the cook, one who gardens well, one who can tell a killer knock knock joke. This is a little limiting of course -- the teller of knock knock jokes also might be quite handy in the kitchen -- but it is our human way of ordering and compartmentalizing things. Same goes for places, too. If we think of a town that does right by wine, like Healdsburg, we might forever leave it strictly to that category, never considering that it has a beer and cider scene that is on the up and up (and up). But there's room for wine and beer and cider and anything else in the beverage realm that takes hold around Healdsburg, because the Sonoma County town has displayed a knack for knowing what gastronomic-minded visitors -- and locals -- are looking for, as have other towns around the region (hello Windsor, hello Santa Rosa, hello Guerneville). Ready to familiarize yourself with the foams being produced around the wine country town? Which, one day, could also be called a "beer country town," too, if breweries continue to ascend? Then make for...

SONOMA CIDER: We're already in an autumnal state of mind, but hard cider is downright refreshing come the hottest days of summer, too. The ingredients are gluten-free and the ciders run the gamut from apple to... bourbon. Oh yeah. The St. Florian's Brewery Tap Station sits south of Healdsburg, in Windsor, so stop in and try the Brown Ale or Flashover IPA. Russian River Brewing of Santa Rosa boasts a brew pub with a large assortment of beers on tap (Pliny the Elder and Perdition are two of the memorable names) as does Bear Republic in downtown Healdsburg (specialties include Transatlantic Overdrive and Hop Shovel). And if you're ever near Stumpton Brewery of Guerneville, you may want to sip a Rat Bastard Pale Ale, because that is a handle that can't be passed up. So will this slice of wine country also be called beer country or cider country one day? With craft breweries on the rise, brew buffs best stay tuned.

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