Russian River brewery was started in 1997 by Korbel Champagne Cellars, a Guerneville, California-based winery specializing in “California Champagne,” or sparkling wine of the méthode champenoise persuasion. Korbel’s winemaker was also a passionate homebrewer and talked his boss into opening a brewery. Vinnie Cilurzo, who had worked at Korbel for several years, was hired to do it. Immediately prior, Vinnie had been churning out double IPAs at another brewery called the Blind Pig. Those beers fell on deaf ears, but Pliny soon made its mark. In 2002 Korbel shut down the brewery and, after six years, Cilurzo lost his job. He negotiated the rights to the beer names, and he and his wife, Natalie, raised $1 million and then reopened Russian River Brewing as its own separate entity in Santa Rosa, California, in 2004 and quickly made themselves famous in the beer world. Today, after a 10-year absence, and with the help of Stoup Brewing‘s Stoup Distro, Russian River Brewing returns to Washington state, landing at 32 locations — four in the South Sound, including Peaks & Pints. Stop by our craft beer bar, bottle shop and restaurant and enjoy Russian River on tap, or from our 850+ cooler, and in a to-go flight form as Peaks and Pints Pilot Program: Russian River Beer Flight.
Peaks and Pints Pilot Program: Russian River Beer Flight
Eighteen years ago, Vinnie Cilurzo introduced Northern Californian palates to sour beers. He aged his sours in wine barrels procured from Sonoma county wineries. One of his early masterpieces, Supplication, remains at the top of its class. It’s a brown ale aged for a year in Pinot Noir barrels with cherries added. Inspired by Belgian practices used in making lambic beers, Supplication is fermented with 100 percent Brettanomyces, plus Lactobacillus and Pedicoccus bacteria. Expect delicious subtle maltiness with a bright sour cherry flavor, and just a hint of Brett.
This wild ale’s base is a pilsner aged in Sauvignon Blanc barrels with the addition of Sauvignon Blanc grape juice for a secondary fermentation. Brewed with Brettanomyces, Intinction hits the nose with big wine barrel — buttery oak and damp wood mustiness. The Sauvignon Blanc grapes give off fruity notes of pineapple, white peach, and ripe nectarine. On the tongue, expect sweet and sour. It’s slightly tannic with touches of alcohol but otherwise focuses on crushed white grape and firm nectarine flavors. There’s a sweetness that’s not overwhelmed by sharp acids and bracing tannic bitterness.
Damnation is the first official Belgian-style beer brewed at Russian River. Inspired by Duvel and other strong golden ales of Belgium. On the surface, Damnation is a mellow, Belgian-style strong golden ale, but there are enticing subtleties beneath the surface. It’s brewed with a Belgian yeast strain; American pilsner barley malt and dextrose sugar, which contributes more alcohol and a teasing lightness. Hops are Styrian Goldings for bittering, which lend an orange-citrus note that blends well with the yeast fruitiness. U.S. Sterling hops add herbal notes. This medium-bodied ale has a fruity-banana bouquet and a dry, spicy finish.
Modern brewing techniques such as open-top fermentation and old-world traditions create the distinct qualities in STS Pils. It’s a classic German-style pilsner dry brewed with a distinct water profile and hopped with a small amount of European hops. This hop-forward pilsner has a firm malt foundation, strong lager yeast characteristic, and a dry, crisp minerality, and bitter finish.
Russian River Blind Pig IPA
When Russian River’s Vinnie Cilurzo first brought wine-country Temecula his aggressively-hopped beers in the late 90s, many believe his Blind Pig Brewing IPA to be the birth of the West Coast style of IPA. His doubled rate of hopping combined with lower than usual ABVs resulted in a blistering bitterness tasted by few before he delivered to a small but fierce fan club at Hollingshead’s Delicatessen in the city of Orange, California. This West Coast-style IPA is true to its style as it is very hop-forward with orange, grapefruit, pine resin, and floral notes, plus just enough malt character and alcohol to balance it out.
In 1944, the Grace Brothers Brewery in Santa Rosa, California, brewed the original Happy Hops IPA. Their brewery went out of business in the 1960s, but Russian River Brewing wanted to resurrect “Happy” (the hop on the logo) and pay homage to the Grace Family and their beer pioneering history. Happy Hops is an incredibly hoppy IPA with intense citrus flavor and aroma with pronounced grapefruit characteristics. It’s mildly bitter with aromas of blueberry, mango, and other tropical fruits.
Pliny the Elder first appeared in 1999, and year by year it gained a following. The beer’s mighty name has almost certainly helped create the sensation. Pliny the Elder was named after the great Roman naturalist who first described, among many elements of the natural world, the wild European ancestor of hops, the plant so essential to beer making. Brewed with Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ, Cascade, Warrior, and Simcoe hops, the double IPA boasts balance and body where some other double IPAs just burn. In the glass, it glows a godly gold, smells notably of pine sap and needles, and carries a reassuring and delicious backbone of caramel.