Napa County’s oldest microbrewery will distribute its own beer for first time

A license change will now allow the Calistoga brewery to expand operations.|

Napa Valley Brewing Co., the county’s oldest microbrewery, has completed renovations and will begin distribution for the first time in its history.

Originally founded in 1987, the brewery at 1250 Lincoln Ave. in Calistoga was bought by the Dunsford family in 1989. For many years, the brewery and its sister restaurant at the Calistoga Inn operated under a single license that prohibited distribution.

A license change will now allow the brewery to expand operations.

“This gets our beer out into the marketplace,” owner Michael Dunsford said. “If someone is drinking our beer down valley, they may want to come to the source and give it a try next.”

The biggest change for Napa Valley Brewing Co. is a new fermentation cellar that doubles the fermentation capacity of their brewery from six seven-barrel fermenters to 12.

So far, the brewery has partnered with The Kitchen Door in Napa and Erosion Tap House in St. Helena to carry its beers.

Dunsford said he wants to partner with places that do “quite a bit of volume” in beer consumption, if their clientele fits the style of Calistoga Inn.

“We really want to build a much stronger beer culture here at the Calistoga Inn, and there’s really no other microbreweries in Napa County,” Dunsford said. “A lot of them have gone out of business. I’d really like us to get into some of the big festivals like Bottle Rock, too. Most of these festivals, they want to represent local products.”

He said the brewery often hosts rehearsal dinners or private events, and mainly creates “traditionalist beers.”

The brewery carries an American wheat ale, a pilsner, a red ale, West Coast IPA, Porter, Pale ale and hazy IPAs. The brewery also creates seasonal beers like a kolsch in the summer and a double IPA at Christmas called “Blitzen.”

Customers can also try a beer tasting flight of 6-ounce pours of the brewery’s house beers and specials.

A new team completes the renovations at both the Calistoga Inn and Napa Valley Brewing Co. Chef Matt Cardona started at the restaurant three months ago, and a new brewmaster, Nick Bartlett, takes over at the brewery this week.

“I’m really excited about our new team,” Dunsford said. “Sometimes it’s nice to freshen things up with new energy and attitude. Chef Matt has a tremendous work ethic and he’s a great cook. For the brewmaster, I was looking for someone who could partner with me to build something.

“When you have that chemistry and it really comes together, that’s what makes it exciting.”

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:
  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.