When Wine Is Not Enough...

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By Deirdre Bourdet

I love wine. But sometimes only a beer will do.  Here are a few places to slake your beerish thirst around wine country and not feel like a heathen for ordering the pint.

Oxbow Wine Merchants.  Despite the name, the Wine Merchants are much beloved by locals for their draft beer selection, excellent back deck, and televised sports inside in the air conditioning.  Tuesday locals' nights and weekend happy hours from 2-5pm bring the already affordable brews to the very quaffable $3.50 range.  Don't miss the watermelon beer from 21st Amendment... not sweet, not fruity, just really refreshing--and it's got something in it that might be good for you.
Pica Pica Bar.  Pica Pica has been taking the Oxbow Public Market scene by storm with their weekly promotions at the centrally located bar.  Each Wednesday a new beer of the week is revealed to the marketgoers, priced to sell at $3 per pint, all day long.  From 3-6 on weekdays, all drinks are $3, and the tasty ceviches and bar nibbles can also be had for that price.  The "Meet the Brewer" sessions on the last Thursday of each month help you put a face to the taste.  Looking for music? Come the first Friday night of the month, when live bands and salsa dancing push the previously sleepy evenings into overdrive. Those trying to entertain the younger crowd should come the first Tuesday of the month for Popo the Clown and facepainting.

bistroSabor.jpgBistro Sabor.  This newcomer to downtown Napa already has a loyal local following hooked on its tacos, pupusas, and other Latin street food favorites.  The crowd also comes for the beer, though.  Interesting brews on tap and by the bottle complement the food and the international sports scene playing at appropriate moments (meaning in the middle of the night if necessary, as it was during World Cup) on the flat screen.  Watermelon beer is also available here, for those newly addicted souls.

Ana's Cantina. 
Ana's has the dubious honor of being the only bar in downtown St. Helena.  Despite the lack of competition, though, people like to come here for its unpretentious scene, live music, dancing, and occasional karaoke. Cellar rats rub shoulders with visitors in search of upvalley nightlife, locals on benders, and everyone in between. Though beer isn't necessarily their specialty, order whatever you want at Ana's--no one will judge you.

Sonoma Springs Brewery.  Sonoma's only downtown brewery rocks the Sonoma attitude and seriously delicious craft brews without a trace of self-consciousness. The European style beers rotate seasonally, and the brewery's online updates aren't always up to the minute, so there's no sure way to know what's on tap until you belly up to the bar--a good thing. Chill people, chilled beer, and knowledgeable staff will teach you more about wine country in an hour than any winery tour could.

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Pica Pica is one of my all time faves! Great article.

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