Some things are purely subjective.
Consider popular music and art, for example. While a particular piece may be considered great by most standards, not everyone likes it. And not everyone knows what those standards might be oftentimes. As an unknown person once said back in the day, “I may not know much about art, but I know what I like.”
However, there are standards for many things that people create and it is these standards that help us recognize truly great pieces from all the rest.
For example, most Top 40 music is considered “good” – at least by a majority for a while – but the classic pieces rise above and live on for decades. Or, as in the case of Bach, Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven, and others, for centuries.
Art is similar. Many popular artists’ works fill retail galleries in malls across the country. But then there are the Rembrandts, Remingtons, Van Goghs, and Rockwells, to name just a few. Great music and great art stand apart.
As do great craft beers. And California is fortunate to have quite a few.
California and Craft Beers: The Home of the First and the Best
As we noted in a previous article, the state of California was home to the first commercial craft beer breweries in the US, and today has the largest number of craft breweries and craft beer varieties.
Officially, the craft beer movement began in California back in 1976 with New Albion Brewing in Sonoma, the first microbrewery. Another pioneer of craft brewing in California was Sierra Nevada Brewing Company which opened in 1980 in nearby Chico, California.
Today, there are approximately 1,850 microbreweries that are producing craft beers, ales, lagers, and other brewing varieties. And that’s not counting the thousands of taprooms and brewpubs proliferating across the country.
But when it comes to craft breweries, California also has the largest number of any state in the US. In fact, according to the esteemed California Craft Brewers Association,
“Today, more breweries call California home than any other state in the nation. As of March 2021, more than 1,100 craft breweries are in operation across the state, more than any other state in the nation.”
Which, while an impressive achievement in the world of craft brewing, it also means that there are literally hundreds, more likely thousands, of great craft beers to choose from just in California alone!
This means that, when you only consider California beer from the best breweries in California and from the top west coast beer brands, you’re still talking about hundreds of great craft beer choices.
And that makes choosing the five best craft beers in California a challenge.
5 of the Best Craft Beers in California
1. Napa Valley Brewing Co. – American Wheat Ale
It is only fitting that we start with a Calistoga brewery with exceptionally great craft beers. Napa Valley Brewing Company Brewmaster Shawn Seidel brews four award-winning beers that include a pilsner, red ale, and porter, along with their famous American Wheat Ale. in addition, seasonal beers are brewed throughout the year.
Napa Valley Brewing Company, founded in 1987, is nestled on the grounds of the historic Calistoga Inn. It was also the first commercial brewery in Napa County established after the end of prohibition in 1933.
2. Green Flash Brewing Co. – West Coast IPA
Generously bittered and clean drinking, West Coast IPA is brewed with a varied selection of hops. It has Columbus for hop pungency, Simcoe for tropical and grapefruit zest, Citra for citrus zest, Centennial for pine notes, and Cascade for floral aroma, all of which are layered throughout the brewing process.
Representing Southern California, Green Flash Brewing Company is in San Diego, California.
3. Russian River Brewing Co. – Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder is said to be best when it is fresh, and each limited batch comes with the bottling date printed on each bottle. Using Amarillo, Centennial, CTZ, and Simcoe hops, this IPA is well-balanced with malt, hops, and alcohol, and is slightly bitter with a fresh hop aroma of floral, pine, and citrus.
The Russian River Brewing Company is nestled among the majestic redwoods of West Sonoma County.
4. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. – Pale Ale
Possibly Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s most popular beer, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is their interpretation of a classic style. With a deep amber color, it displays an exceptionally full-bodied and complex character. Using large quantities of premium Cascade hops gives their Pale Ale a fragrant bouquet and spicy flavor.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. can be found in Chico, California
5. North Coast Brewing Co. – Old Rasputin
Following the tradition of 18th Century English brewers, Old Rasputin is a rich, intense brew with big complex flavors and a warming finish. One reviewer described its bouquet like “slipping into a wetsuit woven from toasted malts, then heedlessly cannonballing into a pool of black coffee and fudgy, dark chocolate.”
North Coast Brewing Co. is located in Ft. Bragg, California.
Cal Mart: Your Source in Napa Valley for the Best Craft Beers in California
For over half a century Cal Mart has been a family-owned and independent grocery store in Calistoga. And throughout those more than five decades, our customers have enjoyed a unique shopping experience with us and continue to do so today.
We like to think that this is why we are known as “Napa Valley’s Finest Grocery” and we believe that it is our love for what we do and our commitment to serving our customers that makes Cal Mart a favorite shopping destination.
Located in the center of beautiful downtown Calistoga, which is conveniently situated between Napa Valley’s famed Silverado Trail and State Route 128, Cal Mart is a favorite stop for our local residents as well as the many visitors to our corner of the wine country.
Cal Mart proudly features a great delicatessen, a tantalizing selection of specialty foods items that are unique and hard to find, a gourmet cheese department, as well as quality fine wines.
Of course, there are also our great selections of the best California craft beers.
Looking for that special something to give to a friend or loved one? We offer beautiful gift baskets options, and we have a fresh selection of flowers and plants for any occasion. And much, much more! We invite you to make it a point to stop by and take time to explore all that we have to offer.
And while you’re here, please feel free to talk with our knowledgeable staff and then treat yourself to one of our refreshing smoothies made with organic ingredients.