By Craig Smith
There’s a saying that it takes a lot of really good beer to make a really good wine. In the Valley that produces some of the best wines in the world, it stands to reason that the beers made here are also as good as they get. Now, you can find out for yourself. Enjoy your next flight of beer at six Downtown Napa area tasting rooms for only half price. Then, you be the judge.
The Napa Beer 2020 card retails for $10. It’s good once time at each of six locations for the rest of the year. You can buy it online at DoNapa.com, in person at the Welcome Center at 600 Main Street, or at some of the participating breweries. Present the card, and you’ll get a half-price flight of beers at Downtown Joe’s, Napa Palisades Saloon, Tannery Bend, Trade Brewing Company, St. Clair Brown and Stone Brewing Napa. Each offers a unique experience, from traditional to something outside the tried and true.
“We emphasize style-centric beers,” said JB Leamer of Trade Brewing Company. “At Trade, a Blonde or Pilsner tastes the way it’s supposed to. We do some collaborations, but mainly we take the traditional approach, and do it really well.” Trade has been brewing beer for four years. They provide a wholesome, family oriented environment, and because of their association with Jax Diner, are able to host bigger events.
A leader on the Napa beer scene, Downtown Joe’s opened in 1993 in the historic Oberon building on Main (following Willet’s Brewery). Brew master J.J. Fittipoldi combines a passion for science and art to produce beers of high quality and satisfaction, offering a variety of pales, ambers, wheat, IPAs, stouts and porters. Stop by for their seasonal craft beers and holiday crowd favorites, or take a tour. This pub setting has a relaxed atmosphere, where you can enjoy your meal and sample tasty craft beers. Unpretentious, friendly and fun – Downtown Joe’s continues to be a place where locals meet and visitors come to feel like a local.
Tannery Bend is a casual, relaxed, neighborhood sort of place, where lots of people know each other. TV’s broadcast sporting events, and there are lots of games to play. This is a family environment – Tannery is dog friendly, and Sundays have become Stroller Sundays. “There’s usually a line of strollers outside as people bring their kids. It’s all about good, family attitudes,” said Lauren Duncan, one of the owners.
The owners of St. Clair Brown started as winemakers who love good beer. One of the key words to describe their beers and everything about them is “balance.” “Everything is in harmony,” said Laina Brown, co-owner. Winemaker and co-owner Elaine St. Clair strives for a balance of structure and flavor. Beers are more malt than hop driven, with a couple of IPAs leading the way. But it’s more than just beer at St. Clair Brown. “We’re about people coming together,” said Brown. Their approach can be described as holistic – the beer and wine is complimented by the food, the events they host, even the grounds. The whole space is designed to emulate the Napa Valley, including a garden that just begs patrons to sit and enjoy. “It’s a little respite from the city,” said Brown. In the summer, they offer music in the garden, and in the winter, the cellar is transformed to a Speak Easy (you’ll have to visit their website to get the password).
Napa Palisades Saloon will celebrate five years in business, and is retrofitting the old Gelow Building on Soscol where they will be able to brew more beer. Chuck Meyer, one of the four friends who teamed up to open Napa Palisades Saloon, talked about the concept. “We all live here in Napa, and built a place that our friends and neighbors would feel at home in,” he said. While lots of businesses say they are for locals, these guys mean it. “We didn’t want anything pretentious. If tourists want to come here, that’s great, but we want the place to be full of locals every night.”
Although multiple TV screens covering different sporting events hang on the walls, this isn’t really a sports bar. The beer and the food are too good for that moniker. “We have the best R&D you can get – we can make a beer and find out instantly if people like it.”
At Stone Brewery Napa, even those new to beer can get comfortable quickly. “It’s about education,” said GM Daniel Lowe. “We start people with lighter beers and move from there.”
Their goal is to help everyone move towards independent beers in general, and not just those they brew. “We encourage people to try something different. Many people know Stone Ale and Arrogant Bastard, but may not be familiar with some of the beers Steve (Gonzales, the Head Brew Master) makes. We expect that some of his beers will go national this year.
“While Stone is known nationally, the staff doesn’t want to assume that everyone is a seasoned beer drinker. “Our first two questions are, ‘Have you been here before?’ and ‘Are you familiar with Stone?’”
Use the Napa Beer 2020 card and expand your experience – it’s a great way to let your palate explore new delights.