• An "Innsider's" View of Napa Valley

Breaking the Beer Barrier

(Beer Blog Part 1)

In Napa, wine is king. We know this because there are more tasting rooms and wineries per capita here than any other location in the US. Even the grocery store aisles boast more rows of the local product, than beer and spirits combined. In this valley of fermentation, beer lovers might have previously felt a little under served.

In the last couple of years however, there’s a lot more on tap to appeal to the true aficionado. Downtown Napa is showing a real interest in the beer culture and several great artisan brewers have set up shop.


Napa Palisades Saloon (or just Palisades by the locals)

1000 Main Street (5 blocks north of the Inn)

Palisades is a full bar and tap room with typically up to 30 beers on tap, most of them changing every two to three days (when the keg is empty).  At any given time, you will usually find three or four house brews from the Napa Palisades Beer Company. Things like the Loco IPA, Little Loco Session IP, and the 1849 Gold Rush Red Ale. Currently, they are brewing an average of 10 barrels, but expect to expand the line-up when they bring their full brewing online.

This is a very popular bar, and frequently crowded (even when nearby restaurants are not). There’s a nice selection on the menu and the food is delicious and not an afterthought to the alcohol (think gastropub).

Why beer drinkers like it:

The beer is mostly California, focusing on West Coast craft breweries, with a couple of local, hard-to-find labels like Mad Fritz. Some of these brews you would normally have to go to the brewery to taste. You will also find many of the region’s top standbys – Lagunitas, Heretic, and North Coast – on tap.

Another reason the beer lovers like it? The good food and sports, sports, sports.


  • Full bar, good menu, long hours
  • Small outdoor seating
  • Cannot fill growlers
  • No games
  • Brewmaster: John Loman and Kevin Sprenger
  • Opened summer 2015
  • Locally owned


Tannery Bend Beerworks

101 South Coombs (9 blocks south of the Inn, about 1 mile)

This is the newest, almost the smallest, and one of the most hyper-local of the breweries. Opening in March of 2017, the first weekend they were open they sold almost all the beer they currently had brewed. They have 12 taps, with six of those Tannery beers, and the other four to six being guest taps for the likes of Napa Smith, and other friends.

This is the quintessential “neighborhood” brew pub, situated in the old tannery area of Napa (Have you ever heard of Nappa leather? This is where it came from) and adjacent to the historic abajo neighborhood.

Why beer drinkers like it:

Tannery Bend is a labor of love for the young men behind the brand. Any day you are down at the bar, you can see them literally sweating behind the scenes, hauling grains, pushing dollys, and moving hoses. Besides the good beer, it is the up-close-and-personal encounter with people who take brewing seriously. Using a 5-barrel system, they currently offer a nice variety of style with IPAs and sessions dominating. Expect to see sours and a root beer in the future.


  • Light fare offered by Oenotri catering
  • Growlers and crowlers filled
  • Small outdoor area
  • Games available to borrow
  • Dog-friendly
  • Open Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 8pm (9pm summer)
  • Brewmaster: Matt Cromwell (onsite)
  • Opened early 2017
  • Locally owned

St. Clair Brown

816 Vallejo Street (11 blocks north of the Inn)St. Clair Brown Greenhouse Tasting Room

Not so much a bar or tasting room, but an experience and a destination: St. Clair Brown is a unique combination of atmosphere and authenticity. They are a nano-sized brewery with only a 4 barrel system that they hope to grow to 10 barrels. Currently, they are offering their beer in 750 ml champagne bottles, but expect to see taps in the next month or two. What makes this place unique is a couple of things: they are located in a greenhouse and garden which imparts an air of relaxation and indulgence in things close to the earth (you can nosh from the plantings if the mood strikes you). All the items on the menu are 100% organic, built simply and created to pair with all the beer (or wine) on the menu.

Why beer drinkers like it:

Brewmaster Elaine St. Clair is a master blender. That is her strength. The beers are naturally carbonated with no filtering and bursting with a straight-from-the-garden freshness. Of Scottish decent, Elaine grew up in Britain which inspires an interesting traditional foundation to the beer. Look for beers in the future to include some original British brewing herbs. Previous head brewer at Napa Ale Works for 10 years back in the 90’s, she brings some of her original award-wining recipes to this new little project. There are usually two to four beers, typically Belgium-style, ranging from pale ale, brown ales, wheat, honey wheat, and stout. In June 2017 the two beers offered were a Honey Wheat Ale and a Black IPA.


  • Light fare offered
  • Growlers and kegs filled
  • Lovely outdoor garden area
  • Dog-friendly and Bicycle friendly (adjacent to the bike path)
  • Open Thursday – Saturday, noon to 8pm, Sundays, noon to 6pm (Opening Mondays June 19th)
  • Brewmaster: Elaine St. Clair (winery and brewery across the street)
  • Opened early 2013 for wine; serving beer 2017
  • Locally owned
  • Package available with the Inn – Something to Brew About (includes $50 gift certificate with overnight stay)

Besides these three beer experiences, there are several other locations of note in downtown Napa to grab a beer. But including everyone in one blog would make this too long to read. So, if you are still interested, please catch part two.

Melodie Hilton

View posts by Melodie Hilton
Director of Marketing and PR for the Napa River Inn, and long-time Napa resident. Hilton started her career as a journalist, working many years covering food, travel, and news.
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