Beer City Festival draws hundreds to celebrate Santa Rosa’s beer culture

“The idea of of Beer City is really to combine all of the lifestyle aspects of beer and living in Santa Rosa,” said the event’s founder.|

Spring-like weather beckoned visitors of all ages Saturday to the Beer City Festival for a celebration combining beer and running in Santa Rosa.

The event began with a half marathon at 8:30 a.m. that took participants through vineyards and other scenic views followed by a 10k, 5k, and a 1-mile “Beer Stroll” at A Place to Play off W. Third Street in Santa Rosa.

This was followed by the festival, a beer-tasting event that began at noon at Old Courthouse Square. Dozens of local breweries participated, including Cotati Home Brewing, Sonoma Springs Brewing and Cuver Belgian Brewers. Non-beer vendors also participated, such as a spice purveyor, a lemonade stand and a face painting stall for children.

“The idea of Beer City is really to combine all of the lifestyle aspects of beer and living in Santa Rosa,” said event founder and Beer City CEO, Adam Ray. He expected about 1,000 attendees between the runs and the afternoon festival events.

Though the event is based in the East Bay, the Beer City Festival started in Santa Rosa in 2021 to honor the area’s strong brewery culture, Ray said.

“Santa Rosa is the beer city,” he said, adding that if all the Santa Rosa brewers were taken out of the San Francisco Beer Fest “it would be a very sad place. There are just so many brewers out here.”

Locals and a number of tourists come to the area to partake in the beer tourism that has sprung up with this event, which is one of numerous FeBREWery events in Santa Rosa. While most race participants were local, some came from as far away as Sparks Glencoe, Maryland, Alachua, Florida, and Austria, according to the race results.

“I (live in) Salinas and there’s very few breweries. It’s just that Sonoma County has like a distinct touch when it comes to that,“ said Jocelyn Perez, who grew up in Santa Rosa and attended the beer festival last year.

Perez, who misses the beer culture that is so popular in her hometown, looked forward to trying new brews along with other longtime favorites while bonding with her 21 year-old sister, who came for the first time.

School of Rock Santa Rosa and The Ryan Woodard Band (which includes alums of School of Rock), played a number of upbeat rock songs for the crowd who bounced, sang and danced along.

The sunny, outdoor festival was the “perfect ending” for Angelica Vigil, and her husband Joseph Enea, of Santa Rosa, after they ran in the 5k a few hours prior.

“The band ties it all together because they’re so good,” Vigil said as School of Rock played a cover of Paramore’s “All I Wanted”.

Like many others, Enea was thankful for the gorgeous, sunny weather, a welcome reprieve from recent rainstorms.

Race participants milled around the festival area with medals hanging around their necks, some sipping beer or cider from their 7 oz. glasses they received at the entrance.

One such racer was Nick Reimers of San Francisco, who won first place in the male 30-39 age group for the half marathon. This was his first time participating in the Beer City race and his first time in Santa Rosa.

“It was really nice running in the shade along the river. And then this is a great after party. It feels like a celebration,” he said.

The overall winners for the half marathon male and female categories, respectively, were Jory Sandeen, 40, of Cotati, who finished the race in 1 hour, 10 minutes and 45 seconds and Kerry Gesell, 50, of Santa Rosa with a time of 1 hour, 47 minutes and 35 seconds.

Santa Rosa’s Beer City event is just one of many under the same name that happen across Northern California, including festivals in San Jose, West Sacramento and the East Bay. Ray was also behind last year’s Santa Rosa Turkey Trot, which raised money for the Redwood Empire Food Bank.

“I love telling stories of communities and the way I tell stories is – I think people make meaning through experience – so I like making experiences,” Ray said.

You can reach Staff Writer Jennifer Sawhney at 707-521-5346 or On X (Twitter) @sawhney_media.

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