Region sees increase in craft breweries

Sonoma County has recently seen a sharp increase in craft beer makers opening alongside well-established producers, helping a region synonymous with wine tap more into a business with brewing demand across California.

[caption id="attachment_72269" align="alignleft" width="360"] Petaluma's 101 North Brewing recently increased capacity and inked a deal with Morris Distributing. (image credit: Eric Gneckow)[/caption]

In recent months, a number of startup breweries have emerged while the big three -- Lagunitas Brewing, Russian River Brewing and Bear Republic -- mull over plans to expand or increase capacity.

Startups in the past year include St. Florian's Brewery and Old Redwood Brewery in Windsor, HenHouse Brewing and Petaluma Hills Brewing in Petaluma, and Beltane Brewing in Novato. That's in addition to at least 15 others that have opened across the North Bay in recent years and Ukiah's Mendocino Brewing, a publicly owned company started in 1983 and now the nation's 34th largest beer company.

Perhaps the largest of the recent entrants in the local beer market is 101 North Brewing Co. It started operations in Petaluma roughly two years ago but recently began picking up steam with its signature Heroine IPA.

The brewery officially opened to the public and for distribution about seven months ago in a warehouse at 1304 Scott St. in Petaluma. It's just blocks away from Lagunitas, which earlier this month was ranked by the Colorado-based Brewers Association as the nation's sixth-largest craft brewery and 13th-largest beer company overall based on 2012 sales. Craft breweries make less than 6 million barrels annually.

[caption id="attachment_72270" align="alignleft" width="360"] 101 North Brewing brewmaster Joel Johnson helps an employee brew a test batch of red ale. (image credit: Eric Gneckow)[/caption]

A recently installed fermentation tank will enable 101 North to increase production significantly, according to Brewmaster Joel Johnson, who previously developed award-winning suds for Bear Republic, which has breweries in Healdsburg and Cloverdale and is ranked as the country's 34th-largest craft brewery.

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