While Napa Valley is known for producing world-renowned wines, the agricultural heart of Northern California first grew the makings of a different adult beverage: beer. Barley and hops were cultivated in the mid-1800s and shipped down the Napa River to San Francisco to help satisfy the thirst of the Gold Rush’s minors. As grapevines replaced hop vines, the area became known more for its wine, but there’s still plenty of great craft beer to be found in the valley. When your tastebuds need a break from all that wine, seek out these three breweries in and around Napa:
A short drive from downtown, Napa Smith has a great taproom and beer garden for kicking back and enjoying the wide variety of beers available. Sample 10 beers in a flight, choosing from several IPAs, pale ales, and even a pilsner for the lager-lovers. Try Crush, an amber lager brewed with Sauvignon Blanc grapes, which add a fruity flavor. The taproom is open from 11am to 8pm with tours offered at 4pm daily.
Originally the home of a historic saloon, Downtown Joe’s is located, as the name suggests, in downtown Napa, a short walk from the White House Inn. The brewery makes mostly British-style ales, from the classic Tantric IPA to Catherine the Great, an Imperial Stout. You can enjoy a meal with your beer at this riverfront brewpub.
This brewery, started by a winemaking couple in 2014, is a short drive from Napa in St. Helena. Visits are by appointment only, but are well worth the effort. The beers are brewed with the same care as the owners apply to their winemaking, using unusual ingredients like single-variety barley and then aging in oak barrels. The beers are labeled with hand-drawn illustrations and named after Aesop’s Fables—try the Fool and the Cart IPA, the brewers’ favorite.