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Choose your own adventure: Brew up a road trip

Now is the time for a semi-local brew road trip. Pick a couple of friends, find a designated driver, promise him or her a growler of choice – beer to go, fresh from the brewery tap – for the end of the trip, and visit one, two or all of the mouthwatering breweries just west of Sacramento. Road trip!

Starting from home, you might want to first hit up your favorite growler stop, though this all depends on where you plan to spend the night. Don’t let it get warm! Track 7, Hoppy and Berryessa all have growlers. Toss a cooler stocked with ice in your trunk for growlers and 22-ouncers that you pick up along the way.

Did you remember to find a designated driver? Be sure to do so – and not just your best friend’s pregnant wife, because that’s just not fair. Suck it up and take turns. Just imagine the intelligent conversation you could have sober with brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo at Russian River Brewing Company.

Head west on Interstate 80 towards Davis. Here’s where you make your first decision. You could take State Route 113 north all the way to Main Street in Woodland if you’d like to check out Black Dragon Brewery – either for the taproom or for homebrewing supplies.

Your other option is to get off in Davis and take Russell Boulevard, aka Lincoln Highway, west towards Winters. Stay glued to Russell (it becomes Grant Avenue in Winters, so no worries if it changes on you), and just after you get through town you’ll run into Berryessa Brewing Company. It’s almost impossible to get lost; there’s just not that much else around.

Your next stop depends on the car you’re driving – at least, it does for me.

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Somehow I live in the valley without air conditioning, so I hug the bay for as long as possible. If you are in a similar position or simply prefer to road trip with the windows down and the breeze on your face, I recommend heading south on I-505 to I-80 and then curving west on Route 37 in cooler air. This also adds the possibility of a stop at Moylan’s. This brewery and restaurant is located in Novato just north on U.S. Highway 101 after the junction of 101 and 37. You can even see the brew tank from the highway. Growler refill opportunity! If traffic is bad, perhaps you should stay for a bratwurst and sauerkraut as well.

“Around the World” taster at Lagunitas Brewing Co.

You are now about to enter the beer wonderland that is Highway 101. Lagunitas Brewing Company is in Petaluma – go "Around the World" with friends and try 16 of their beers as part of a lengthy tasting. After that is Santa Rosa, where you will find yourself in heaven drinking Pliny the Elder and munching on Pliny pizza bites at Russian River Brewing Company (obvious growler opportunity as part of your Pliny parade).

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2. Wait, were you totally repulsed by the idea of freeways and Marin County gated communities? There’s some relief for you on State Route 128. From Berryessa Brewing Company, Grant Avenue will become winding 128, taking you through the Putah Creek Wildlife Area and on to Lake Berryessa, where I’ve been known to seek sweet lakeside ecstasy on a 100-degree day.

After a fair to moderate amount of curving up, around and over hills, you’ll find yourself heading through vineyards, fields of wild mustard and beautiful vistas on the way to St. Helena. I know, the wineries are tempting, but remember, this is a beer road trip. Stay focused. Highway 128 gets a little messy on the way there – why weave south and then west and north? I prefer to stay northbound and simply continue on Silverado Trail. From St. Helena, go west on Route 12 to Santa Rosa. Please note: If you choose this route, you will have to (and should) hit up Lagunitas on the way home, because you will not be passing through Petaluma.

Head west out of St. Helena on Spring Mountain Road. This will meet up with Calistoga Road and feed into Santa Rosa and your subsequent Pliny parade.

Appropriate growler care

Itching to continue? Drive just a half-hour farther north to the town of Healdsburg, the home of Bear Republic Brewing Co.

Cloverdale is just past Healdsburg, yes, still on 101, and next is Ukiah, where you will find Ukiah Brewing Company’s organic brewpub and restaurant.

From there? Well, you might as well just persevere and head to the North Coast. An Old Rasputin Russian imperial stout is all the better with the rough coastal winds beating against the window panes in whatever small, cozy Fort Bragg establishment you choose for the evening.

And that’s it! You have everything you need for the beer weekend of a lifetime. Can you believe all these amazing breweries are within range? Thank you, NorCal.

Tips for a good time? Make it a long weekend, book a couple of budget hotels or campgrounds and switch drivers daily. But remember to switch. Your friend will never forgive you if you skip your turn and they miss out on Berryessa, Bear Republic and Russian River, you douche.

Good luck, and cheers!

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Editor’s note: The “News Digest” goes out every Tuesday morning and highlights our best stories, photos and videos from the week prior. Sign me up.

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