On Tap: Sonoma County Hops & The Beer Revolution

April 20 – September 1, 2024


Something revolutionary happened in Sonoma County in 1977. Using discarded dairy tanks and other cast-off equipment, New Albion Brewery started making beer in the town of Sonoma, launching the first modern microbrewery in the United States. Today, we take microbreweries and world-class beer for granted. Every year, thousands of people descend on Sonoma County for the release of internationally renowned beers. But how did it come to be? Why Sonoma County?


Hops, the plant crucial to the flavoring of beer, was first established as an agricultural crop in Sonoma County in the 1850’s. On Tap traces the rich history of hop farming in the region, exploring the historical rise of hops as a local crop, the diverse participants who cultivated and harvested hops, and the notable reemergence of current hop farmers in Sonoma County decades after the demise of the local crop.


On Tap also explores microbreweries, both past and present. The 19th century was a time of numerous local breweries, but when Sonoma County saw a decline in regional hops farming, small breweries disappeared and national, mass-produced beers came to dominate the marketplace. In the 1970s, a new generation of craft brewers bucked this trend, with the widely acknowledged first microbrewery, New Albion, starting in the town of Sonoma. Today, Sonoma County is a productive hotbed of small batch brewers and entrepreneurs experimenting with different styles, flavors, and innovative approaches. Their brews, in turn, have encouraged the return of some local hop growing.


Virtual Experience

Explore the exhibition through 360° imaging! 

This virtual experience is generously provided by Steve Vargas, VARGAS XR "Mind Over Matter."


This exhibition is generously supported by  Lemonstrike Creative Studios, Belly Left Coast Kitchen & Taproom, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Russian River Brewing Company, Veale Outdoor Advertising, Wine Country Radio, Staci Pastis, and David Salm.

Special thanks to our Beer and Museum Matchmaker, Herlinda Heras, co-host of Brew Ha Ha on 95-5 Wine Country Radio!


Thank you to our SpringFest at MSC! on April 27, 2024 Event Sponsor:

Museum of Sonoma County
425 Seventh Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 579-1500

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The mission of the Museum of Sonoma County is to engage and inspire our diverse community with art and history exhibitions, collections, and public programs that are inclusive, educational, and relevant.