This week we head up the road to celebrate the harvest. ‘Tis the season.
After you’ve done justice to your local farm trails and farmers’ markets, consider celebrating the humble hop plant, which provides a key ingredient in most beers. Three of the five “natural” varieties of Humulus lupulus are native to North America. The others come from Europe and Asia. And that’s not counting the countless cultivated varieties—with more coming all the time—that keep the beer business hopping. All hop varieties are in the hemp family, the same plant family as Cannabis sativa, or marijuana—a fact that, at one point or another, probably suggests to some home brewers all kinds of crazy new recipe ideas.
The key point, though, is that Northern California is the perfect place to celebrate all things beer—especially craft or specialty local beers—because the craft beer movement took root here. And October is the traditional time to do it, thanks to Munich’s famous Oktoberfest folk festival, where only local beers are served.
September and October in the north state mean beer events are busting out all over, from the ever-popular Oktoberfest at Chico’s Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.—now with two weekends to choose from—to the long-running Humboldt Hoptoberfest in Blue Lake, a local beer showcase that benefits local. Sacramento has notable beer parties too, such as the September California Brewers Festival, a benefit for domestic violence prevention and children’s charities, and the three-day California Craft Beer Summit. Come in mid-August for Davis Beer Week, which wraps up every year with the Bike and Brew Festival, and in early September for the Yolo Brewfest in Woodland.
But plan well ahead for next year; most of those events are either sold out or over already. Which means the best way to celebrate the north-state beer experience right now is to head up the road for a leisurely tour or tours of all that’s on tap. (Designated driver essential, folks.)
Possibilities close to home in Shasta County include Fall River Brewing Company, officially at home in Burney but with a very nice taphouse in Redding. Kilty Pleasure Scotch Ale, anyone? Also in Redding: the Wildcard Brewing Company and California Brewing Company out on Deschutes Road in Palo Cedro. Not far north along I-5 is Dunsmuir Brewing Works, a brewpub. Next north, fun Mt. Shasta Brewing Co. in Weed serves house brews such as Lemurian Lager and Shastafarian Porter. Etna Brewing Company was honored at the 2016 World Beer Championships for its Blackberry Blond Wheat Ale. Whether here (limited hours) or at Yreka’s Etna Brewery and Taphouse, raise a glass of Double-Crossed Imperial IPA in the liberty-loving spirit of the State of Jefferson.
Far, far south, in and around Davis and West Sacramento, the Yolo County Visitors Bureau has made craft beer touring a breeze with its new Yolo Craft Beer Map & Guide, covering the territory from the 20-barrel Berryessa Brewing Company in Winters and Blue Note Brewing Company in Woodland to more famous destination breweries and brewpubs in Davis and West Sacramento. Baseball fans, note that Sacramento River Cats Triple-A baseball, a San Francisco Giants farm club, is also conveniently located in West Sacramento.
Kim Weir is editor of Up the Road, a nonprofit public-interest journalism project dedicated to sustaining the Northern California story. A long-time member of the Society of American Travel Writers, Weir is also a former NSPR reporter.