Although Napa Valley is famous for its award-winning wines, the beer scene is also creating a buzz.
Over the last few years, the area has opened multiple artisanal breweries that produce handcrafted IPA’s, pilsners, ambers, stouts and ales along with foodie- caliber menu items designed to pair with each brew. And what better way to suds up for spring with St. Patrick’s Day on the horizon, offering beer lovers a wide assortment of specialty brews, bites and holiday celebrations from Calistoga to American Canyon.
Michael Dunsford, co-owner of Calistoga Inn Restaurant and Brewery, welcomes visitors and locals for the Inn’s annual St. Patrick’s Day party. “We usually have several hundred people come. There’s always an Irish band and a special menu. We cook corned beef brisket, oatmeal stout braised lamb stew, fish pie, and vegetarian “no-fish” pie.” Dunsford said the brewery always makes a stout for St. Patrick’s Day, and this year, it will also brew an additional seasonal beer. “St. Patrick’s Day is about people having a good time with delicious food and great beer. Everybody loves being Irish for a day,” said Dunsford. www.calistogainn.com
Nicole Mason, Operating Partner of Trade Brewing in Napa’s Oxbow district, says Trade is planning a smaller yet lively St. Patrick’s Day party. “We usually have between 60 to 80 people come. We sell green beer and food specials such as corned beef hash sliders. We expect to have a live local band this year.” Mason said Trade is planning to brew two beers for the holiday. The first will be a Mexican-style lager. “A Mexican-style lager takes a little longer than a regular lager to brew, maybe about a month. It’s lighter than a traditional lager, with a smooth feel and a crisp taste at the end.” For the second beer, Trade is deciding between a Blonde Pilsner and a Kölsch. A Kölsch is a light pale beer fermented with ale yeast and finished with lagering. “Both are refreshing and easy on the palate. Whichever one we choose will have a brand- new recipe to commemorate the occasion,” said Mason. www.tradebrewing.com
Steve Gonzalez, senior manager of brewing and innovation at Stone Brewing in downtown Napa, said he will make an oatmeal stout called “Stone Sunday Sinner Dry Irish Stout” for St. Patrick’s Day. “We made Sunday Sinner last year and it was very popular. This year we’ll tweak it ever so slightly to get more of a coffee and chocolate cake flavor. The beer has a five percent ABV.” Gonzalez said Sunday Sinner will be released at Stone Brewing on St. Patrick’s Day and it will also be available in growler fills through Doordash. “It feels right because the stout gained popularity in Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day is an Irish holiday. Early spring is also the start of the tourist season in Napa. Having a special beer draws a good crowd.” www.stonebrewing.com
St. Clair Brown Winery & Brewery, a few blocks north of downtown Napa, is brewing a Red Ale and an oatmeal stout. Co-Owner, winemaker and brew master, Elaine St. Clair, says, “These are classic Irish pub-style beers. Since the holiday falls on a Tuesday, we will have them on tap over the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day since we’re usually closed Tuesday and Wednesday.” St. Clair said the business usually has about 60 guests for its celebration, which is decidedly low-key. She added the winery and brewery’s garden is an “excellent place to taste the new beers. It’s a time when everyone comes out all at once to celebrate the start of spring. Guests can have small bites with pickled vegetables and preserves made from plants from the garden. They’ll be right next to the fruit trees and flowers, which will be in first bloom.”
St. Clair recommends pairing the Red Ale with pork rillette spread, a slow-cooked pork confit. The oatmeal stout goes well with the cheeseboard. “The oatmeal stout is full-bodied, with nice, dark roasted malts for flavor.
The Red Ale is made with a blend of caramel malts and British aromatic hops. It is a balanced beer with subtle malt flavor and a crisp, refreshing finish.”
St. Clair advocates a sampler of three beers, so guests to taste the range of flavors.
“In our sampler, we always try to offer a dark beer, a medium- bodied beer, and a light beer. For the light beer, I recommend the honey-wheat ale, made with malted barley and malted wheat. We use honey from Lavender Beer Farm just outside Petaluma. It has a lovely fragrance.”
St. Clair Brown’s central location provides an opportunity for people getting off work to meet friends. Elaine says, “No matter where you end up, enjoying a beer on St. Patrick’s Day is a great alternative to wine tasting for locals and people visiting the Napa Valley over the holiday.” www.stclairbrown.com
Other Breweries Worth Checking Out
Lincoln Avenue Brewery
Mad Fritz Brewery & Malthouse
Tannery Bend Beer Works
Fieldwork Brewing Napa
Junction Brewery & Grill
Article By: Jessica Zimmer // Photos By: Jonathan Herre