Fog Belt Brewing Company: Hoppy Beers in Santa Rosa

Fogbelt Brewing Company has opened the tap, introducing a few new microbrews to the Bay Area craft beer scene. This 2-month-old Santa Rosa brewery and taproom is as much a place to enjoy a pint and a bite as it is an homage to Northern California terroir. Hops are grown in Fogbelt's own hopyards or sourced from local producers. Not to mention, each brew is named after one of the Northern California redwoods that tower above the surrounding landscape.

The venue is not large, but it's contemporary and industrial-sleek. From the main bar, a glass wall offers a view into the tank rooms, where the brewing takes place. An adjacent wall-hung chalkboard menu clues people in to what's being poured. Three communal tables and benches on the outdoor patio have more of an in-your-own-yard feel than a larger biergarten might. Fair to say the laid-back spot is quickly becoming a local's haunt, while also a welcome retreat for brewery aficionados throughout the wider Bay Area.

On the dining menu, you'll find standard taproom fare — small bites like a beer cheese crostini ($6), grilled sandwich paninis ($7-8), and a grill selection of sausages. The Smoked German ($7) is served on a crusty, floured bun with sauerkraut and a fresh baby kale side salad tossed with pepitas and a light vinaigrette. The real menu standouts are, of course, on the tap list: Lost Monarch (wheat beer), Atlas (blonde ale), Del Norte (India Pale Ale), Hyperion (red ale), and Armstrong (stout). All are a reasonable $4.50/pint. Two seasonals are also on the board: Sonoma Fresh Hop (a saison) and Screaming Titan (a double IPA, at $5.50/pint).

Taste the two seasonals while the kegs last. Hop notes are the star of the Sonoma Fresh Hop saison, which has a fragrant, sweet floral aroma and an almost-grassy astringency that balances a sweet finish. The Screaming Titan is rich and bold. Any double IPA is sure to please hop fans, and in contrast to a lighter saison, its hefty 8.7 percent ABV may be an encouragement to sip and savor it.

Citrus flavors are prominent in Lost Monarch wheat beer, which is made with cilantro leaf and kefir lime, and hop notes jump off the palate — a welcome surprise for this style of brew. The Atlas blonde ale is crisp and fruity. For an IPA, the Del Norte is surprisingly mellow on the hops, has a nice amber hue and a malty finish. The Armstrong stout, on the other hand, packs rich chocolate and coffee flavors, its bold aromas wafting into the nose even before your first sip. Hyperion red ale has pine and citrus aromas.

Fogbelt's beer is a must-try, and you can easily order a flight to taste them all ($1 per 4-ounce sampler). Since the February debut, the tap list continues to grow so you are sure to discover something fit to your taste here.

Pro tip: Make it a day trip. The small corner of Santa Rosa that Fogbelt Brewing Company occupies has been called “Vintner's Square,” as it's already home to three neighboring winery tasting rooms: D'Argenzio Winery, Sheldon Wines, and Krutz Family Cellars. And there is of course the grandaddy of them all, Russian River Brewing Company.

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