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Sonoma Mountain Brewery & Hopyards


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Sonoma Mountain Brewery and Hopyards
14355 Hwy. 12, Glen Ellen

Hours: Daily, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Credit Cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express
Parking: Large lot provided

SONOMA MOUNTAIN is not fooling around here: They produce just two beers, both of them lagers, both brewed along the mandates established by Germany's purity law of 1516. The Estate Golden Pilsner is a light and crisp brew with a deep finish, while the Estate Amber Lager is caramel-smooth and rich with what the bartender described as a "long finish." Both are made from on-property water that is filtered through volcanic rock and from hops grown on-site, lending both brews a first-ever "estate" designation for beer.

Seasonal: An Oktoberfest brew will be available in the tasting room only.

Brewmaster: Chris Atkinson.

Take-out/Keg Availability: Available in six-packs around the county already, Sonoma Mountain Brewery lagers are offered on tap in many restaurants. At the tasting room, 10-oz. glasses are $2.50; pints, $3.50; 22-oz. schooners, $4.50. Quarter-kegs are $65; half-kegs, $119.

AS CEO TIM WALLACE stresses (the place is crawling with the Benziger family and Sonoma Mountain staff), this is not a restaurant where they make their own beer--this is a brewery that offers a small selection of food for those who are not famished. The limited menu features such local products as Mary's pizzas ($3.95-$4.75); warm salt pretzels ($2.50); jalapeño poppers filled with cream cheese and served with a popper jam ($3.75); fried mozzarella sticks ($3.75) with ranch dressing for dipping; and a grilled sausage sampler ($4).

THIS IS THE PLACE to taste beer the way you taste wine: with a knowledgeable staff who understand the brewing process from the ground up.

BRAND-SPANKING NEW, this large room is airy and light, with a big stone fireplace dominating one corner, a comfortable bar, comfortable chairs, and roomy tables. An outside patio is extremely pleasant and accommodates smokers. An additional outside area near the hop gardens sometimes doubles as a performance arena for planned upcoming shows and for private parties. The path from the driveway leads the visitor through an upscale agricultural display that delineates the beer-making process and the building of the facility (the tanks were brought over from a German brewery), as well as demonstrating how the water is filtered and the barley tended. A self-guided tour of the brewing process is also available.

Din: As quiet as a tasting room.

Restrooms: Large, new, and clean--you could live in them.

Non-drinkers: A large selection of drinks--including Calistoga water, Henry Weinhard root beer, Benziger wine, and Ace hard cider--is available for those who disdain beer or alcohol in general. The atmosphere is friendlier and more down-home than a winetasting room, as many locals go there for an after-work beer from the surrounding wineries. Nothing stuffy about this place.

THE BEER IS QUITE GOOD, the people friendly, the ambience welcoming and comfortable.

WE LOOK FORWARD to a time when they might serve a greater selection of food.

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From the Oct. 16-22, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

© Metro Publishing Inc.

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