There’s a saying in Napa Valley that “It takes a lot of great beer to make great wine.” And it makes sense. After a hard day’s work, you’d be hard pressed to find a winemaker, vineyard or cellar worker who’s going to reach for glass of Cabernet over a cold, frothy beer. Fortunately, a number of local and specialty craft brewers have taken up the call to sate their palates. Now beer-loving visitors who find themselves marooned in wine country have a great selection of breweries in Napa to satisfy their their thirst.
Tucked in a cozy bungalow in Downtown Napa’s Oxbow District, Trade Brewing bills itself as a “small town brewery with a big passion for beer.” Trade’s name is nod to Napa’s founder, Nathaniel Coombs, whose was a carpenter… by trade.
Grab a seat on their patio and try a hard-hitting Piledriver Double IPA, a light and crisp Bricklayer Blonde Ale or the full-flavored Hatchet IPA.
Suds seekers on a quest for a truly artisanal local beer that makes no compromises along the way should make a pilgrimage to Mad Fritz Brewery in St. Helena. Brewer Nile Zacherle, who is also the winemaker for David Arthur Vineyards, sources water from local reservoirs, artesian springs and aquifers and uses locally grown hops and barleys that are farmed using organic and biodynamic principles.
True beer afficionados should make an appointment to visit the brewery for a tasting, but you’ll also find on tap or in bottles at some of Napa’s finest restaurants, including the custom Dirty Apron Chocolate Brown Ale, exclusively available at The French Laundry.
Napa Palisades Saloon
Unafraid to call themselves “Beer Guys in Wine Country,” Napa Palisades offers their local brews with a menu of mainly classic American gastropub fare with few surprises – don’t miss the chorizo fries! IPAs reign supreme, featured on four of the seven taps. Our go-to favorite is their Crazy Hazy IPA.
St. Clair Brown Brewery
St. Clair Brown Brewery is the nanobrewery sibling to the winery of the same name, which are under the same charming little roof at the foot of Vallejo Street in Downtown Napa. Beer purists will appreciate Brewmaster Elaine St. Clair’s traditionalist approach. She aims to elevate classic recipes in pursuit of an unfiltered, malt-driven style that’s decidedly more food friendly compared to hopped-up counterparts.
Visit the garden taproom – an unexpected oasis in Downtown Napa – where a rotating selection of three beers are featured at a time on tap.
Tannery Bend Beerworks
This Napa nanobrewery is poised for a big comeback in 2021 after a difficult year thanks to COVID. Set to open in a new location on Action Avenue in Downtown Napa, we’re anxiously for their return to the Napa beer scene! Until then, you can enjoy their beers at Oenotri restaurant.
To try: The Capps Belgian Dubble is a rich and sweet full-bodied beer made with locally sourced candy cap mushrooms, known for their distinctive maple syrup aroma.
Downtown Joe’s offers up a great selection of mainstay and seasonal Napa craft beers in a relaxed setting on the Napa River. Among Napa’s local breweries, this is the de facto gathering spot to watch sporting events and the place to go “where everybody knows your name.”
Our must-try beer here is the Rebob Porter, named after a popular Napa urban legend. For decades, Napa teenagers have ventured up to the dead end of the Partrick Road in hopes of sighting the elusive Rebobs – spooky winged monkeys like those in the Wizard of Oz – that allegedly live in the forest at that location.
Napa Valley Brewing Company
After a long day of wine tasting, nothing beats a cold beer on the patio of the historic Calistoga Inn, home of the Napa Valley Brewing Company. Founded in 1987, Napa Valley Brewing Company was the first commercial brewing company in Napa County since the end of Prohibition in 1933. The brewery features five principle beers and a rotating menu of seasonal favorites.
Fieldwork Brewing Company
Berkeley-based Fieldwork Brewing Company’s Napa Taproom is located in the bustling Oxbow Public Market. Saddle up to the bar or relax on the patio and try a sampler flight or beer by the glass from an ever-changing menu of fresh releases, paired with tasty provisions from any of Oxbow’s many food purveyors.
Stone Brewing Company
Housed in the historic and beautifully restored Borreo Building, Stone Brewing’s first floor includes a 10-barrel brewery operation and bar with inviting outdoor patio seating overlooking the Napa River. Or head upstairs for a full-service dining experience including an elevated and, of course, beer-friendly barbecue menu.