My friend Charles Bockway at Wine Country Beer did a nice writeup on Bear Republic Brewing, a brewery located in Healdsburg, California, in the heart of Sonoma Wine Country. I have been wine tasting in Russian River Valley, the part of Sonoma vitacultural area centered by Healdsburg, on a mission to find great Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. At the time I was there I did not realize Bear Republic was crafting delicious beers right underneath my nose. Thankfully, they are available here in Chicago in substantial quantities, although not as frequently as two or so years ago.
Bear Republic has cool logo packages, especially those tap handles, and makes beer worthy of the coolness. Their Racer 5 IPA is a solid gateway beer to the brewery, and their other offerings, generally on the hoppy side, include the rugged Red Rocket Ale, the Hop Rod Rye, and a delicious, dry stout, the Big Bear. I'm curious to try their small production specialty beers that appear to be brewery only or California only.
The article focuses on Bear Republic brewmaster Richard Norgrove and his efforts to educate the local community on beer appreciation. Good stuff.