There is so much beer in Wine Country we might almost consider changing our name to Beer Country. And this is serious stuff — seriously made, that is, not seriously intimidating.
After all, beer's enviable ability to connect with people has always been that it doesn't take itself too seriously, though there is much to differentiate one brew from another. Neither should you. As there's still plenty of summer left, get out there and explore the best of our local scene's seasonal brews, from Saisons to Slingshots and plenty more in-between.
<b>Bear Republic Brewing, Healdsburg:</b> There are a lot of options for summertime patio sipping here, but new and different right now is Rebellion, a single-hop pale ale, and Cher Ami, one of the brewery's lightest beers, a Belgian-style spicy golden ale screaming out for oysters or calamari. 345 Healdsburg Ave., bearrepublic.com.
<b>Calistoga Inn Restaurant and Brewery, Calistoga:</b> The first Napa Valley brewer to commercially brew beer after Prohibition has just begun a series of Brewer's Dinners, pairing six beers with six courses. If you have to pick just one for summer, though, it's got to be the fruity Saison du Calistoga, swathed in bursts of orange and peppery spice. Also good this time of year when it's available is Purple Haze, made with blackberries. 1250 Lincoln Ave., calistogainn.com.
<b>Hopmonk Tavern, Sebastopol:</b> Between the beer garden and the revolving live-music acts coming through, Hopmonk howls for a visit in summer, even if the fog might linger off the Sonoma Coast. On tap are always a selection of interesting beers but right around now, head in for Anderson Valley's Summer Solstice, a smooth, slightly sweet ale, or prepare yourself for fall by tipping back a Moonlight Working for Tips, a cask-conditioned ale brewed with redwood tips instead of hops. 230 Petaluma Ave., hopmonk.com.
<b>Hopmonk Tavern, Sonoma:</b> Many of the same beers are being poured here as in Sebastopol, but there are variations and thus reason to hit them both. In Sonoma, where the sun might shine slightly warmer, order the Brouwerij West Saison Extra, a silky, delicious Saison brewed without additional spices, bright and refreshing. Also enjoyable is the Shmaltz He'Brew David's Slingshot, a citrus-y lager with heaps of hop flavor that will really satisfy. 691 Broadway, hopmonk.com.
<b>Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma:</b> It's hard to resist the temptation to try them all, but in summer, Lagunitas' most refreshing quaff is its Pils Czech-Style Pilsner, fresh and smooth and the famous brewery's only lager. In summer it also releases its seasonal Little Sumpin' Wild Ale, a pale malt with hops galore. 1280 N. McDowell Blvd., lagunitas.com.
<b>Napa Smith Brewery, Napa:</b> The working brewery's brewpub will set up a flight of 10 Napa Smith beers to try, a good way to work through its special releases and standard-issue stuff. But in summer make sure to tap the Cool Brew, a dry-hopped ale with floral and herbal overtones. The limited-release Grateful Dog Barleywine is a nod to Napa, made from late-harvest semillon grapes, rich and big in flavor and alcohol. Get some now and store it, squirrel-like, for winter. 1 Executive Way, napasmithbrewery.com.
<b>Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa:</b> While you wait out the release of Pliny the Younger in February, settle in, sit back and imbibe Russian River's Aud Blonde, low in alcohol and bright in grapefruit, with a pretty blond hue. Happy Hops is another good choice, made from locally grown wet hops. 725 Fourth St., russianriverbrewing.com.