SF Chronicle Announces Northern California Beer Hall of Fame 2020 Inductees

The San Francisco Chronicle began its Northern California Beer Hall of Fame in 2019, inducting craft beer staples like Anchor Steam, Lagunitas IPA, Russian River Pliny the Elder, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Trumer Pils. These were the likely choices, as each one of these beers are the foundation of craft beer in NorCal (except maybe Trumer Pils, who somehow snuck onto the inaugural list).

So with the classic beers of NorCal inducted last year, the Chronicle had to move forward into 2020 with some difficult decisions. There’s no question the first class is in the top beer tier, but deciding on the second tier would prove to be a little more strenuous.

Using a fan vote along with seven of their editors to judge the competition, they announced their second batch of Hall of Fame attendees this year. Since Active NorCal has our own list of the best beers in NorCal, we decided to check our work and see which one’s we agreed on. Here is the new class of 2020 inductees, with our take:

Anderson Valley Brewing Boont Amber Ale

What the SF Chronicle said:

This beer was the clear favorite: It earned the most reader votes (in spite of the hacks) and the most staff votes.

Since 1987, Anderson Valley Brewing has been turning out quirky beers that speak to the peculiar local culture of Boonville, in rural Mendocino County. No beer better exemplifies its style than Boont Amber Ale, with its delicious tension between sweet, malty caramel and piquant, citrusy bitterness. The beer’s name alludes to Boontling, Anderson Valley’s local dialect, spoken by a diminishing number of people but kept alive in spirit by the brewery.

What we said:

The Boont Amber Ale came in Number 5 in the Active NorCal list of Ten Best Craft Beers Brewed in NorCal:

Anderson Valley Brewing Co., located in the small town with its own language, is taking Northern California by storm with great beers with a small town finish. They’ve grown in popularity significantly over the past 20 years, most likely due to their popular Legendary Boonville Beer Festival.

Boont’s rich, crystal malts give it a deep copper hue and contribute a slight caramel sweetness with a crisp, clean finish. The bottle’s great artwork shows a bear with antlers (get it – bear + deer = beer) and gives off a distinct Northern Californian vibe. Bahl Hornin’!

Bear Republic Brewing Racer 5 IPA

What the SF Chronicle said:

When the Norgrove family first opened a brew pub in downtown Healdsburg in 1995, they probably couldn’t have imagined that by 2020 they’d rank as the 49th largest craft brewery in the U.S. Much of that success is due to Racer 5, a hoppy, full-bodied American IPA that helped propel the category to superstardom.

What we said:

Racer 5 came in Number 4 in the Active NorCal list of Ten Best Craft Beers Brewed in NorCal:

Brewed in the heart of Wine Country, Racer 5 is a beer lover’s dream. This IPA is designed to highlight the unique hops of the Pacific Northwest with a high alcohol content to boot. It’s also one of America’s most medal winning IPA’s.

This beer has won the gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival twice and its legend has grown, becoming endlessly available on seemingly every beer shelf in Northern California. Racer 5 is not only iconic in Northern California, but across the United States.

Fort Point Beer Co. KSA

What the SF Chronicle said:

Can a beer that’s less than 10 years old earn a place in the Northern California Beer Hall of Fame? Apparently, yes: Fort Point Beer Co.’s meteoric rise has made its signature Kolsch-style ale a classic in its own time. It’s also one of the only Hall of Fame candidates that most of us encounter in the form of a can, as opposed to a bottle. The sleek black can with gold geometric lines has become a ubiquitous presence throughout Northern California.

What we said:

There’s no question Fort Point KSA is a fantastic beer, but it seems a little young for the Hall of Fame. Founded in 2014, there’s no question this hip brewery has taken the Bay Area by storm, but it’s like giving Lebron James the Hall of Fame nod before he retires. There’s no question this beer deserves to be in the NorCal Beer Hall of Fame, but we would have given the nod to a Bay Area stalwart like 21st Amendment Brewery, who’s been around for 20 years, before KSA. But honestly, can’t go wrong either way.

Which Beer Deserves Next Year’s Nod?

The Chronicles Northern California Beer Hall of Fame now has 8 beers under its helm and will certainly have some more feisty competition going forward. Here are some beers that deserve the nod next year, mostly sitting higher north in California:

Fall River Brewing – Hexagenia

We know that Bay Area folk have different go-to beers than the people further north, and this beer has become one of the most talked about in NorCal. Sitting in Redding, Fall River Brewing Co. has built a booming business on the back of this beer, a bold IPA that uses a blend of five different hops to create a shifting sensation of hop flavor and aroma.

Much like how Sierra Nevada created a beer empire with Pale Ale, Fall River is making moves in the NorCal Beer scene with Hexagenia – it’s that good!

Lost Coast Brewery – Great White

This is a nostalgia pick, since Lost Coast has been doing its thing in Humboldt County since 1989. This is Lost Coast’s version of a Belgian style beer, with a hint of citrus, coriander and a secret blend of herbs.

Serving NorCal for nearly 30 years, Great White is a centerpiece in the story of craft beer in the area, and it’s got an original flavor that many breweries have tried to mimic for decades.

Mad River – Steelhead Extra Pale Ale

This beer might not have the stature of the heavily-marketed beers in the Bay Area, but if you go to the North Coast, this is what the locals drink. This American Pale Ale brewed at Mad River Brewing in Blue Lake is a staple in Northern California. It’s a bright golden hued ale of medium body with a subtle floral hop character and very mild bitterness. And the logo on the can kicks ass.

This beer is a true underdog, but it deserves the nod as a truly great NorCal beer.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


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