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2017 BEST Local Brewery: Russian River Brewing Company

Author: William Rohrs
June, 2017 Issue


We are always focused on quality, from the beer we make to the service we provide at our brewpub and everything in between—Natalie Cilurzo

There are many flavors in a beer. There are toasty beers, skunky beers, hoppy beers and citrus-y beers. The list goes on forever. But at the end of the day, nobody comes back if they don’t think it’s a tasty beer. And nobody knows how to brew tasty beers better than Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo, the husband-wife pair who own Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa.


Named “Best Local Brewery” by readers in NorthBay biz magazine’s reader poll, the Santa Rosa brewery started on its namesake river as an arm of Korbel Winery. In 2003, Korbel decided to opt out of the beer market, and offered Vinnie (who managed both the production and sales of the beer at the time) the Russian River brand.


In February 2010, Russian River Brewing Company released its first Pliny the Younger to the public. “That was a game-changer for our Pliny the Younger releases,” says Natalie. “Since that fateful day, we’ve seen a steady stream of visitors from all over the world.”


 Today, the Cilurzos produce enough beer to satisfy full houses at their brewpub every day, with barely enough leftover to ship to four different states. The brewery’s Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger have attracted an international following, and lines go through the door and around the block when the latter brew goes on limited release. The Sonoma County Economic Development Board reported the 2016 two-week Pliny release contributed $5 million to the local economy.


“It is an honor to be voted Best Local Brewery by NorthBay biz readers,” says Natalie. “We appreciate our customer’s loyalty and support all these years as we get ready to break ground on our new brewery in Windsor.”  Scheduled for a summer 2018 grand opening, the Windsor extension of Russian River boosts the local economy with 100 new jobs and the tourism impact. The outside pub will be pet friendly, and will offer guided and self-guided tours of various beer-making machinery and techniques squirreled inside will be available for visitors year round. Pliny fans, rejoice—Younger will also be available at this second location, with bathroom access outside to relieve the stress of waiting in line for a glass.


Though it’s one thing to be successful at selling beer to a thirsty population in the North Bay, but Russian River is no longer just a creator of delicious beverages: the downtown brewpub has become a beacon for gathering the community. More often then not during peak times, lines form out the door just to get a seat at the bar or a table for a small group. But nobody’s angry at the wait. Instead, patrons on the patio chat with the folk in line, and everyone licks their lips in anticipation for the first beer with their names on it.


“We are always focused on quality, from the beer we make to the service we provide at our brewpub and everything in between,” says Natalie. “We hand select the hops that go into our beers. Our food ingredients come from various local vendors and are of high quality. And we strive to provide the best customer service possible at all times.”


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