Let’s face it, sometimes you’re stuck with the odd duck who’s visiting Napa, but doesn’t really enjoy wine. Lucky for us, the alcohol production doesn’t end in the vineyards and there are plenty of microbreweries in Northern California, some of which even extend their roots in our backyard, like Lagunitas and Russian River Brewing. If you’re more of a beer fan, or you’re just looking to switch things up after a few days of wine tasting, here’s our suggestions your best bets.
Bilcos – Napa
With 60+ beers on tap, this is arguably one of the best bars in Napa for true beer connoisseurs. With pool tables, darts, a couple tvs, and a small selection of very unhealthy food they have everything you need.
The Green Door – Napa
A true definition of a dive bar, The Green Door is a dimly lit place where you can light up a smoke, order a “one and one” for a couple bucks, and sit down with a few scratchers. This is one of the few places left where you can smoke indoors because they were grandfathered in when the smoking ban came. You might get a few sideways looks if you’re an outsider stepping in, but as long as you aren’t talking about the next port to dock your yacht things should be alright.
Panchas – Yountville
After you finish deciding whether or not you can detect a hint of tobacco in your Cabernet, visit Pancha’s for an eye-watering reminder of exactly what tobacco tastes like, looks like, and smells like. Hidden in plain sight just down from Yountville’s Michelin star restaurants and upscale tasting rooms you’ll find a true dive bar where you can choose from a vast selection Pabst Blue Ribbon, Pabst, PBR, and Budweiser. This place is a favorite of old-time locals, industry workers, and blue collar folks, this nodescript bar is decidely not. There’s a good reason this place showed up on Playboy’s list of the best bars in America (dive bar category).
Carneros Brewing Company – Sonoma
Carneros is definitely more well known for its ability to grow fantastic cool weather varietals like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay than it is for anything to do with beer. Carneros Brewing Company is looking to make a small dent in that definition with their new brewery. Post up in the taproom or enjoy some of their delicious house brews in the sprawling beer garden outside.
Hopmonk – Sonoma
Hopmonk has three locations in the North Bay, and this one is located just off the square in Sonoma. This dog-friendly joint is host to a bunch of tasty house and local brews, live music, and a full pub style menu.
Lagunitas Taproom – Petaluma
Lagunitas has blown up into a huge craft brewery known far and wide for their hoppy brews, and last year they expanded that reach beyond California and opened a second facility in Chicago. But the Petaluma taproom is still the place where it all started, and a perfect spot to enjoy a 16 oz pour of Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale.
Ernie’s Tin Bar – Petaluma
As you drive into Petaluma you might notice the ubiquitous $1.75 Beer sign on the side of Ernie’s Tin Bar. This classic institution is found at the corner of Route 116 and Lakeville Highway. With bottomless peanuts, 20 brews on tap, and a strict “no wine” policy, they have their priorities straight. Oh, and don’t even think about using your cell phone, unless you enjoy buying a round for everyone.
Ana’s Cantina – St. Helena
Every town in wine country needs a place for locals and industry folks to congregate and enjoy a brew, and this is the place in St. Helena. In a place where most menus include some sort of $15 “Wine Country Pink Cadillac Margarita” on the cocktail menu, it’s refreshing to find a place where the only choice is which shelf your liquor of choice resides. At some point during your visit be sure to ask the bartender how they get all those dollar bills stuck to the ceiling. It’ll cost you a buck, but the answer is worth it!
Russian River Brewing – Santa Rosa
This list wouldn’t really be complete without proper mention of Russian River, creator of perhaps the best beer on earth – Pliny the Elder. Of course if amazing hop-loaded beers aren’t your thing, they have dozens of other options, including some interesting oak barrel aged sour beers. They also have a terrific menu which includes some very tasty pizzas.
Stones Sports Bar – Napa
Tucked away in a strip mall off Imola Ave in Napa you’ll find a discreet place that’s on the friendlier side of the dive bar spectrum. There aren’t many places to settle down with a drink and watch sports in Napa, but with plenty of big screen televisions and a terrific bloody mary, you don’t need to look any further for one.
Palisades Saloon -Napa
Speaking of the lack of sports bars in Napa, there’s a new player to fill the void. The Palisades Saloon is located in downtown Napa and they’re setting a new high beer mark with a killer selection of suds (including some delicious house offerings), plenty of big screen tvs, and a seriously delicious pub menu. The fried chickpeas are finger-licking good, and the reuben croquettes are a must have as well.