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15 facts about Sonoma County's long beer history you may not have known

The Russian River was formerly hops country. The appellation now known for its pinot noir was once covered in hops. In this photo, hop pickers near Wohler Road in Healdsburg in the 1920s. (Courtesy of the Sonoma County Library)

JANET BALICKI WEBER,

In February, beer geeks from around the globe make the annual pilgrimage to Sonoma County for a glass of Russian River Brewery’s hop-tastic Pliny the Younger. Voted the number one beer in the world by Beer Advocate in 2005, it has lingered near the top of the chart for years since.

It seems fitting that Sonoma County, now known for a hoppy beer was once known for growing hops. From the 1850s to the 1950s, hops were one of our top cash crops. The Russian River Valley now covered with grape vines was once dotted with hops, making growers rich and establishing Sonoma County as an agricultural powerhouse.

Click through our gallery above to learn more about Sonoma County’s hoppy history.

- Staff writers Bill Swindell and Gaye LeBaron contributed to this report.