Drink in the Beauty of California’s North Coast and Shasta Cascade Regions
Northern California is home to some of the best beer anywhere and offers some spectacular scenery as the backdrop for this brew-centric tour. A wild coastline, the tallest trees on the planet, volcanic lakes, waterfalls, mountains, pioneer history, National Parks, steam trains and frontier towns… this is one of the few places in the world where you can find it all. Our Beer-cation recommendations begin in San Francisco’s North Bay, with some heavy hitting breweries, and loops you through the greatest hits of beer in the region.
For recommendations on lodging and attractions, please visit any of the area’s fine visitors’ bureaus, listed at the end of this itinerary. Don’t forget, visiting this area offers the chance to see the tallest trees on the planet, the dramatic Pacific coastline, and for those who want to change-up your drink of choice, many places to experience family friendly artisanal wineries. Now, let’s get started…
Leave the hectic energy of the city in the rear view mirror as you head north across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Travel north along US 101 for about 40 miles and you’ll find (in order of appearance):
Lagunitas Brewing Company (Santa Rosa)
725 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Russian River Brewing Company (Santa Rosa)
725 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Bear Republic Brewing Company (Healdsburg)
345 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Continue North on Highway 101 and you will soon be in Mendocino County! Once you cross into Mendocino County, the first of five innovative breweries and brew pubs awaits you…
Hopland Tap House (Hopland)
13351 S Hwy. 101, Hopland CA
This rustic pub offers delicious food, eight craft microbrews on tap, local wines, all in the charming town of Hopland, which despite what the name implies, does not have its own brewery! (It used to, the Mendocino Brewing Company, but they’ve since moved up the road to Ukiah. More on that later.) The brewpub is housed in an historic century old brick building with original stamped tin walls and ceilings, giving the perfect backdrop to get your first taste of Mendocino County beer, while having a savory snack on the side. Owner Jennifer Sullivan, a self-proclaimed ‘city girl turned culinary country bumpkin’ has transformed the pub from a one-time hole in the wall, to an inviting place to spend some time chilling on even the hottest Hopland day.
Again, continue on highway 101 north to Ukiah, for the brewery that got its start in Hopland. You might want to stop at one of the many superior wineries along the way.
Mendocino Brewing Company (Ukiah)
1601 Airport Rd, Ukiah, CA 95482
The Mendocino Brewing Company was the very first brewpub in Mendocino County and the second in the nation! It started out as the Hopland Brewpub shortly after Prohibition ended and evolved from there, eventually finding its way to Ukiah where their facility is conveniently located off of US 101. Their taproom is comfortable and spacious enough to accommodate amenities such as a pool table and dart board. After visiting Mendocino Brewing Company, a quick drive into downtown Ukiah takes you to Ritual, until recently Ukiah Brewing Company.
Ukiah Brewing Company
102 S State St, Ukiah, CA 95482
Ukiah Brewing Company is located in the historic Marks Building in the heart of downtown. It has a gastropub on the main floor, fine dining room on the mezzanine level, a comfy lounge off the brew house, and an outdoor patio for those who like to dine al fresco. The eclectic menu changes seasonally and is based on what local farmers, ranchers and fishermen provide.
If visiting Ukiah in June, the Taste of Downtown brings together wineries and breweries from throughout the region with downtown merchants to offer tastings and live entertainment. In September, your visit may coincide with Pints on the Plaza providing a chance to sample a variety of microbrews, enjoy live music, vendor booths, food and refreshments in historic downtown.
Now, on to the next Mendocino County town on our Beer-cation, Boonville.
Double back a few miles south on either US 101 or Ukiah’s South State Street to CA Route 253, which takes you into Anderson Valley, home of amazing brews, award winning pinots and not one, but two groves of old growth redwood trees. More importantly for our purposes though, 253 will literally deposit you at the entrance of AVBC in Boonville, at the intersection of Highways 253 and 128.
Anderson Valley Brewing Company (Boonville)
17700 Boonville Rd, Boonville, CA 95415
A valley staple since 1987, the AVBC got its start in a 10-barrel brew house down the highway from its current location. In 1996, demand for their award-winning ales exceeded capacity at the brew house so they constructed their current facility. If you have extra time after sampling their stellar brews, check out their dedicated disc golf course! If you’re in town in April, AVBC hosts the Legendary Boonville Beer Festival. This annual event showcases breweries from all over the west with over 100 brews to sample and enjoy.
The Beer-cation tour then traverses northwest on CA Highway 128, one of Mendocino’s two wine regions and home of award winning pinot noir producers. This is truly one of the most picturesque drives in California which leads to the iconic Coastal Highway 1.
Traveling north on Highway 1 towards Fort Bragg, the Victorian village of Mendocino is a definite stop, with historic architecture, shopping, dining and amazing photo ops both in town and along the headlands on the west end of town. While in town, Patterson’s Pub is a good stop for a brew and bite.
Your next stop is North Coast Brewing Co. in Fort Bragg, about 10 miles north of Mendocino on Highway 1.
North Coast Brewing Company (Fort Bragg)
444 N Main St, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
This former lumber mill town is surrounded by redwood forests on one side and the mighty Pacific Ocean on the other. Between the two, in the middle of town, you’ll find North Coast Brewing Company. Aside from world famous beer, the brewery recently opened the Sequoia Room presenting jazz every Friday and Saturday and attracting nationally and internationally known acts. Things to do before or after your tasting excursion include riding the Skunk Train, a vintage steam engine, into the redwoods and touring the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens . For the more active minded, surfboard, sea kayak and diving gear rentals are available. The town also offers miles of paved coastal trails perfect for biking and for visiting world famous Glass Beach. Rentals are available at the Fort Bragg Cyclery in downtown.
Proceeding north on Highway One, the road veers inland to Leggett, and one of Mendocino County’s most famous living things, the Chandelier Tree a.k.a. the ‘drive through’ redwood Tree. While it may sound quaint, the experience is actually pretty cool! Also on the road north is Confusion Hill, in the town of Piercy. The place is home to the World-Famous Gravity House, which is really an anti-gravity house and a fun way to spend an hour.
Crossing the Mendocino county line into Humboldt County, don’t miss a drive through the Avenue of the Giants – a world-famous scenic drive made up by a 31-mile portion of old Highway 101, paralleling US 101, by far the most outstanding display of these giant trees in the entire 500-mile redwood belt. It’s surrounded by Humboldt Redwoods State Park, the largest remaining stand of virgin redwoods in the world. Take time to picnic, camp, hike, swim, fish, raft or bike ride in the cool hush of these ancient redwood forests. The place is a truly magical experience.
Along this stretch of the Beer-cation route is Scotia, Ferndale and Eureka. Scotia is one of the last “company-owned” towns in California. During the summer months, there is an historic logging museum displaying photos, artifacts and machinery used in old logging camps. Ferndale, 21 miles north of the “Avenue of the Giants”, is one of Northern California’s best-kept secrets, with pristine Victorian architecture. It is a photographer’s paradise and a shopper’s delight with old-fashioned mercantiles, antique stores, art galleries, and specialty shops.
Now back to the beer…. Humboldt County is home to no less than six microbreweries; from south to north on, or just off, highway 101, you will find the Eel River Brewery (Fortuna), Lost Coast Brewery which recently opened a new and expanded tasting room (Eureka), Redwood Curtain Brewery (Arcata), Six Rivers Brewery and Humboldt Regeneration Brewery and Farm (both in McKinnleyville). And finally, going a few miles inland off 101, Mad River Brewery (Blue Lake).
Eel River Brewery
1777 Alamar Way
Fortuna CA 95540
Lost Coast brewery
617 4th St.
Eureka CA 95501
Redwood Curtain Brewery
550 S. G St
Arcata CA 95521
Six Rivers Brewery
1300 Central Ave.
McKinleyville CA 95519
2320 Central Ave. F
McKinleyville, CA 95519
Mad River Brewing
195 Taylor Way
Blue Lake CA 95525
For those wanting to experience them all, Humboldt Beer Tours is the best way to drink and not drive. The tour includes round trip transportation to and from the breweries and beer bars. For more information visit their website at humboldtbeertours.com.
Now comes choices. You can continue north on highway 101 to the delightful town of Crescent City, with its working harbor, beaches and of course, more redwoods. This can also be called the lighthouse tour, as the lighthouse in the charming town of Trinidad is the ultimate photo op. But the most unique lighthouse is Battery Point in Crescent City. At low tide, you can actually walk to the island containing the lighthouse.
In case you missed some of the opportunities to see spectacular redwoods, you can have one more chance at the famous Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park.
Crescent City has two micro-breweries worth a visit. Port O’Pints Brewing Co., and Sea Quake Brewing. Both are in downtown Crescent City. If you choose this option, in order to get to the next group of breweries in Redding, you must backtrack to Highway 299 in Eureka or take Highway 199 into Oregon and I-5 south to Redding. See below.
Port O’Pints Brewing
1215 Northcrest Dr.
Crescent City CA 95531
Sea Quake Brewing
400 Front St.
Crescent City CA 95531
Or, if you run out of time, you can go East from Eureka and skip Crescent City. Take route 299 east from Eureka to Redding, the largest city north of Sacramento. The town is also home to the internationally renowned Sundial Bridge which leads into Redding’s National Recreation Trails, a 226-mile network of pedestrian and cycling trails. Redding is a great hub from which you can visit Burney Falls, Lassen National Park, Lake Shasta and Whiskeytown Lake.
With so much to do, let’s not forget the local breweries. Redding is fast becoming a beer mecca with four excellent choices.
Fall River Brewing Co.
1030 E. Cypress Ave. D
Redding CA 96002
Woody’s Brewing Co.
1257 Oregon St.
Redding CA 96001
Wildcard Brewing Co.
1321 Butte St. #140
Redding CA 96001
Final Draft Brewing Co.
1600 California St.
Redding CA 96001
The Beer-cation now moves down Interstate 5 to Chico, home of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, one of the bestselling craft brews in the country! Chico is just off I-5. Sierra Nevada was founded in 1970 with “a passion for the alchemy of brewing.” Take an in-depth hour and a half tour to get an inside look at the brew house, restaurant, grounds, sustainability practices and packaging facility. You’ll also learn the history of the brewery and Sierra Nevada’s role as a pioneer of the craft brewing movement. Visitors over 21 can enjoy a guided beer tasting of new and limited release beers at the end of each tour. Chico is an interesting college town and worth a visit to downtown.
Sierra Nevada Brewing
1975 E. 20th St.
Chico CA 95928
This ends our Beer-cation suggestions for now. This itinerary is not intended to be inclusive. Take some time to explore and you will find more hidden and innovative brew masters, creating state of the art brews in the region.
From Chico, continue south down I-5 to Sacramento, the state capital with many beer and non-beer options, including Old Town, the Gold Bridge and amazing train museum.
Or you can just return to San Francisco and continue to enjoy one of the world’s best cities.
We thank you for your interest in the brews and activities available along the route.
For more information on any of these locations we encourage you to contact our Northern California Visitors Bureaus:
Eureka-Humboldt Visitors Bureau
322 First Street
Eureka, CA 95501
Visit Mendocino County
345 N Franklin Street
Fort Bragg, CA 95437
Del Norte County Visitors Bureau
1001 Front St.
Crescent City CA 95531
Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association
1699 Highway 273
Anderson, CA 96007
Redding Convention and Visitors Bureau
844 Sundial Bridge Dr.
Redding CA 96001