If you are familiar with Northern California you probably know that the city of Santa Rosa is the most populated location in wine country. As a result, if you visit Santa Rosa, you'll fine a bunch of good wineries to visit and plenty of people to talk about fermented grapes. Also nestled in the city of Santa Rosa is Russian River Brewing Company. This brewery owes its heritage to the viticulture tradition in region. Korbel, the champagne producer, originally started this brewery and began implamenting some of its wine and bubbly making techniques to beer. Thus Russian River Brewing Co is one of the few breweries that ages a majority of its beers in wine barrels. The brewery tries to match the barrels with certain styles of beer to augment the flavors and enhance the taste. For example the brewery matches Chardonnay barrels with Blonde Ales and pinot noir barrels with Brown ales. While this style of brewing is different and relatively new, most of RRBC's beers are quite tasty and worth a try.
If aged beer is not your thing, Russian River Brewing Company has a couple traditional beers that are definitely worth trying. My favorite is the Blind Pig IPA. So as not to get confused with their other offerings, Russian River prints on this bottle "Keep Cold, Drink Fresh, Do Not Age!" And that's what I did. This is a hoppy IPA that has piney, citrusy, and woody flavored hops. The hops are definitely the most prominent flavors (very strong) but there is a touch of malt lingering in the background to round out the beer.
This beer is difficult to get a hold of. RRBC is a relatively small operation and it's beer can be difficult to find. If you search BevMo or other liquor stores' websites for the term 'Russian River' you'll see that the engine brings up more wine hits than beer hits. But if you are persistent you can find Blind Pig or other offerings at a variety of NorCal locations on tap or in bottles. (City Beer, Toronado, Jackson's Wine and Spirits to name a few).
If located, Russian River beers might be a great way to cross over wine drinkers to the wonderful tastes of hops and malted barley. For those that don't care how long a beer is aged, what flavors mix well, and what temperature to store beer - you'll still enjoy this beer. It tastes good. I promise. Cheers.