It’s not much of a stretch to put Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino counties on the short list of the most beautiful places on earth. Mountains, ocean, farms, pastures, vineyards, impossibly steep potholed roads, blue skies unhurriedly flowing into gorgeous sunsets—that’s Northern California wine and beer country.
The devastating fires that are still burning out of control and unspeakably altering so many lives in the North Bay will certainly alter the stunning beauty. Visually. What will not diminish or change, though, are the resilience, dedication and beauty of the residents of the affected cities and towns: Santa Rosa. Sonoma. Calistoga. Geyserville. Glen Ellen. Kenwood. Napa. Ukiah. Larkfield-Wikiup. Boyes Hot Springs.
Russian River Brewing Company announced late Thursday, October 12, that they were partnering with the King Ridge Foundation to raise money for the victims of the multiple fires still threatening wine and beer country. Santa Rosa-based Russian River should be a household name to beer nerds worldwide as the brewers of Pliny the Elder, Pliny the Younger, and a whole host of inexplicably underrated Belgian-style masterpieces with names ending in –tion.
The King Ridge Foundation was started by Bike Monkey, another Santa Rosa-based company with headquarters in spitting distance to Russian River that initially put on some bicycle races in one of the most beautiful cycling regions on earth, even with (or probably because of) the impossibly steep potholed roads and trails. Bike Monkey, in concert with former professional cyclist Levi Leipheimer, started the King Ridge Foundation to benefit at-risk children in Sonoma County around the turn of the decade, and has expanded to advocate and assist at-risk children nationwide since then.
Within twenty-four hours of their late-night Facebook post, Russian River and the King Ridge Foundation raised over $67,000, illustrating the strength and reach of a fantastic brewery that is wholly committed to their Sonoma County roots.
Russian River Brewing Company will be brewing a beer called Sonoma Pride for release before the end of October. All of the funds raised through sales of Sonoma Pride will be donated to the King Ridge Foundation. Healdsburg’s Bear Republic and Sebastopol’s Crooked Goat immediately signed on to assist Russian River and the King Ridge Foundation to brew and release their own versions of Sonoma Pride.
By Sunday, October 15, Santa Rosa breweries Henhouse, Moonlight, Cooperage, Plow, and Fogbelt joined the Sonoma Pride brewing movement, along with Windsor’s St. Florian’s (named for the patron saint of firefighters), the town of Sonoma’s Sonoma Springs Brewery, Petaluma’s 101 North, and Placer County’s Auburn Ale House. Keep an eye out, as this list will surely grow.
Hopefully there’s a lot of people out there like me who are just about the most annoyingly Sonoma County people you ever meet. How annoying? Look at my picture posted in the announcement from when I got this beer writing gig: the ridiculously bearded me is riding my bike in a Bike Monkey/King Ridge Foundation event on a beautiful, impossibly steep potholed road called Coleman Valley on the western edge of Sonoma County, in a Bear Republic jersey. If all of your annoyingly Sonoma/Napa/Mendocino County-loving friends are feeling anything like me right now, they are stunned, heartbroken, furious, anxious, crushed, and helpless at what to do.
Here’s an idea. Donate here: www.sonomapride.com. Get a chance to cut in line next February when Russian River releases Pliny the Younger!
Here’s another idea. Buy (and drink, of course) as much Sonoma Pride beer from Russian River, Bear Republic, Crooked Goat, and all of the other #SonomaPride breweries when you encounter it in the next couple months. It will be delicious, and your heart will know it tastes like home.
Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino Counties will never stop being one of the most beautiful places on earth, even in what must appear to be some of the ugliest, desperate times the North Bay has ever known. Beer and wine nerds, please consider helping our beautiful, caring, and strong NorCal friends.