Russian River Brewing Co. ready to break ground in Windsor

Pliny the Elder IPA and a few other select ales were flowing Friday in Windsor at the site of a second planned brewery, pub and restaurant for the celebrated Russian River Brewing Co.

In a preview of what’s to come when the facility opens late next year, Windsor officials, the brewery owners and others gathered in a field to toast the $35 million venture projected to break ground in early May.

“This is a home run for Windsor; Disneyland for adults,” Town Councilman Mark Millan said of the project, which had its ceremonial groundbreaking Friday.

“It’s something that is going to put us on the map,” said Windsor Town Councilman Bruce Okrepkie. “It will bring a lot of people.”

Located just north of Shiloh Road off Conde and Mitchell lanes, the facility will more than double the company’s production, provide a new destination for fans to slake their thirst and ease crowds at the downtown Santa Rosa pub and brewery on Fourth Street, which attracts 300,000 visitors annually.

About 16,000 of those customers come during the first two weeks of February for the limited release of Pliny the Younger, a triple-hopped IPA rated among world’s top beers.

“Our hope is we can draw a lot of the tourism from Fourth Street up to Windsor,” said Vinnie Cilurzo, co-owner and brewmaster at Russian River Brewing. “Locals in Santa Rosa can get their pub back.”

Cilurzo’s wife, Natalie, president of the company, said grading on the Windsor site is expected to start the first week of May, with construction beginning in late summer.

“If everything stays on schedule, we will open in the fall of 2018,” she said.

The Windsor facility is being touted for its state-of-the art environmental features, as well an outdoor bar that’s dog friendly. The 15-acre site will provide a large area for bicycles and motorcycles, and about a third will remain a wetland preserve.

There will be a tasting room, gift shop, brewpub and choice of guided or self-guided tours along an elevated walkway that follows the brewing process down the center of the building.

Vinnie Cilurzo said it will be “a dream brewery. It’s like building a dream house.”

Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, a self-described fan of craft breweries, praised the more than 100 jobs that will be created by the family-run operation.

Mayor Debora Fudge said the town was keen to have the company locate in Windsor, especially after an initial site to the east and closer to Highway 101 fell through.

“This is one of the most fun projects we’ve had in a long time. We will come out in force to support you,” she said.

The rock star brewery will add to a burgeoning spirits district on the west side of town that includes a cider maker, distillery, brewpub, several wineries and tasting rooms.

The beverage district is “the incubation,” said Councilman Sam Salmon. “This will be the missile that launches it.”

Despite the jump in production the Windsor facility will provide, the Cilurzos do not want to grow too big.

“The larger you get, the less involved you are with the company,” Natalie Cilurzo said. “I like to know everyone’s name.”

In 2016, the company made 17,000 barrels. The Windsor facility will produce about ?35,000 barrels to start, in addition to the 4,000 barrels at the Santa Rosa location.

That means a little more of the vaunted Pliny the Younger will be available during the two-week release in early February that draws beer pilgrims from around the country and beyond to taste the highly rated ale.

It will continue to be poured at the Santa Rosa pub as well as the new Windsor location.

Natalie Cilurzo said the Windsor facility will help provide more beer to existing accounts and wholesalers, since “they tend to run out.” It will also allow more capacity for some of the brewery’s popular choices including STS pils, Dribble Belt and sour beers.

She said it will enable Russian River to add two or three more territories within the state “but we won’t expand beyond California.”

”We are comfortable taking it to 50,000 (barrels),” but not much more production, to maintain the focus on quality, not quantity, she said.

Currently, about half its beer is sold through the downtown Santa Rosa brewpub; around 40 percent is distributed within California with “a tiny amount” going to accounts in Oregon, Colorado and Pennsylvania.

Russian River Brewery’s beers are highly sought, but it is a relatively small player - volume-wise - in the craft brewery market. By comparison, Lagunitas Brewery Co. in Petaluma is ranked the ninth-largest brewery in the country, producing about 910,000 barrels last year.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 707-521-5214 or

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