Napa Valley's Burgeoning Beer Scene

Elizabeth Smith June 10, 2022

Napa Valley's Burgeoning Beer Scene


Most know Napa Valley for its world-class wines and Michelin-starred restaurants. However, the craft beer brewery and taproom scene from Napa to Calistoga is exploding with a post-pandemic renaissance of local favorites and the introduction of new and exciting producers. As a result, it is time for Napa’s other craft beverage to shine. Below are a few notable producers to add some wallop to any formidable Napa Valley tasting itinerary.


Founded in 1987, Calistoga Inn, Restaurant, and Brewery (Napa Valley Brewing Company) is Napa Valley’s oldest brewer and was the county’s first commercial brewery since the end of prohibition in 1933. Under head brewer Daniel Reynolds, the brewery makes five year-round beers, American Wheat Ale, Palisades Pilsner, Calistoga Red Ale, West Coast IPA, and Blue Collar Porter, in addition to unique seasonal selection. Reynolds also leads by-appointment tours, including a half-pint pour at the beginning, another at the end, and a logo Calistoga Inn pint glass. Parties of one to seven guests receive a tasting flight of six four-ounce tasters, while parties of eight or larger receive four pitchers of beers of their choice. //


Fieldwork Brewing Company’s Napa taproom highlights the West Berkeley based brewery’s large portfolio of beers. Head brewer and co-founder Alex Tweet’s intent is to make beers with a since of place and purpose. “Based on seasonality and consistent quality, Fieldwork forges its own path brewing beers we simply love to drink,” said Tweet. Since its launch in 2015, Fieldwork has brewed over 500 unique beers, recently expanding their footprint to a new location in the Oxbow Public Market Annex overlooking the Napa River and Oxbow Commons. It features both an outdoor beer garden and an expansive indoor taproom. Two flight options are available – a sampler flight of six beers or a Fieldwork Flight. Since the menu is always changing with each season’s fresh releases, it is never the same experience twice. The highly aromatic and well-balanced beers are in constant rotation and include signature IPAs, double IPAs, lagers, pale ales, sours, and stouts. //


Winemakers Nile Zacherle and Whitney Fisher – and their two children, Madeleine and Fritz – founded Mad Fritz in 2014. They farm, source, and brew beers, concentrating on 100% locally sourced and single-origin beers. Mad Fritz offers intimate brewery tours and tastings of 10-14 beers by appointment at their brewery location to educate guests on where the ingredients are grown and how they are brewed. “It’s a ‘beer in a wine glass’ experience rather than a bar-like setting. We don’t want to be a bar; Mad Fritz is an experience,” shared Zacherle. Mad Fritz brews over 36 beers in rotation, with multiple variations, including styles like English, German, Belgian, and American, although they lean toward Belgian due to barrel aging and natural carbonation. Mad Fritz also produces historical styles like Kuyt, Gruit, and Liege ales. In addition, they allocate most of their best and most unique bottlings to their beer club membership. //


Napa locals may know Napa Palisades Saloon as downtown’s friendly and fun hangout for libations, brunch, lunch, happy hour, and dinner, but “The Beer Guys in Wine Country” brew their own beer and have over 30 beers on tap at any given moment. They include Palisades brews with proprietary recipes, like Loco IPA, Crazy Hazy IPA, Hey Porter! and Pacific Pilsner, as well as collaboration projects with other local brewers. Tasting flights of four beers, four ounces each, are available daily alongside a salty snack to cleanse the palate for the next sip. Guests may choose from house beers or guest tap offerings from Barrel Brothers, Henhouse, and Tannery Bend. //


Winemaker and head brewer Elaine St. Clair and president Laina Brown founded St. Clair Brown Winery and Brewery, a tasting experience for both beer and wine lovers. St. Clair has been making wine in the Napa Valley for over 30 years, and for 10 years during the 1990s, she was co-owner and head brewer of Napa Ale Works, one of Napa Valley’s original breweries. After a hiatus of two decades, she returned to making beer. St. Clair and Brown’s son, brewer Bren Westerland, make 14 small-batch beers onsite, then they hand bottle and hand label them in 750 milliliter champagne bottles. St. Clair is a traditionalist who brings her winemaking approach to making beer. “My goal is to make balanced, food-friendly beers that elevate classic recipes rather than focus on exotic infusions or anything exceedingly experimental,” she said. St. Clair Brown offers by-appointment tasting flights of the day’s three beers on tap in their organic culinary garden and tasting room across the street from the brewery and winery. The lineup includes farmhouse saison, IPA, oatmeal stout, pilsner, porter, and a variety of ales and IPAs. A beer club is also available. //


Trade Brewing, sister company to Napa’s Jax Dining, opened four years ago in Napa’s the Oxbow District. The taproom regularly has on tap 10-14 of their own craft beers as well as a couple of local specialties, like Napa Valley Cider, M&O Wines, and Monkey Wrench Hard Seltzers, to please every palate. Some of their own brews include Bricklayer Blonde, Five Tool Kolsch, 110V Pale Ale, 220V Juicy IPA, Ten Penny Brown Ale, WTF (What the Funk) Barrel Aged Farmhouse, and Comfortably Plumb Kettled Wheat Sour. A beer club is in the works for 2022. Trade also offers live music, tap takeovers, and food pop-ups. Trade Brewing describes itself as the “Cheers!” of Napa, where they know everyone’s name (and drink). //



Hanabi Lager Company is a unique lager brewing project born from the “winemaker’s agricultural perspective” from Screaming Eagle winemaker, Nick Gislason and his wife Jennifer Angelosante. Falling outside of the realm of what’s to be expected in the craft beer genre, Hanabi’s exclusive focus is producing very small amounts of slow-fermenting “grain-forward lager” with longer maturation times. Using a hand-built, steam-fired brewhouse he built himself, Gislason’s approach is different from hop-forward beers that highlight the flavors of hop flowers and malt-forward beers, whose flavors come primarily from the malting process, “Here at Hanabi Lager, we are using lager brewing as a methodology to explore the delicious range of flavors that grains can bring to beer,” said Angelosante. “We design our processes to allow the flavors of the grains to shine, and the results are beers that are simultaneously refreshing and flavorful, distinguished by their elegance and complexity.” Hanabi (named after the Japanese word for ‘fireworks,’ an homage to Gislason’s expertise in pyrotechnics) is brewed four times per year at the beginning of each season, for which each batch is named. The 500-milliliter bottles are sold as six-packs and can be acquired in limited distribution through announcements on their mailing list. //

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