By Nathan M. Barron
Brew California Correspondent
With the recent news that Jeremy Warren is leaving Auburn’s Knee Deep Brewing Company, I wanted to share a recent road trip I took through the Sacramento Valley discovering other outstanding breweries in the area that don’t get as much attention as Knee Deep (not that we should turn our focus away from Knee Deep; I’m sure Warren will leave it in very capable hands).
I left the Sacramento region incredibly impressed with the craft beer offerings. Per capita, this might be the best beer region in the state. At the very least, it’s definitely the most underrated craft beer region in the state. Take a weekend trip to California’s capital and check out these impressive breweries.
Device Brewing Company
Located in a swath of land more suited for power lines and warehouses than a brewery sits this up and comer. Founded by Ken Anthony, an avid home brewer who found his love for craft beer while attending school in San Diego, this brewery was the highlight of my trip through Sacramento. The brewery is in a nondescript business park, but is comfortable and inviting inside, complete with mash and fermenting tanks in the tasting room.
Anguish Double IPA’s aroma packs a powerful punch of dry hopped magic. Delicately balancing between earthy and citrusy notes, Anguish is a strong contender in the vast California IPA market. Their lineup of IPAs also include Integral, a traditional West Coast IPA, and Basilica 3xIPA, a smack-you-in-the-face triple that ranks up there with the Knee Deeps of the world.
Speaking of Knee Deep, Device will be introducing a collaboration DIPA with Knee Deep in August – a perfect excuse to go visit this great new brewery.
Device Brewing Company is located at 8166 14th Ave. Suite A, Sacramento CA 95826. Hours: Thursday 3-8 p.m., Friday 3-9 p.m., Saturday 1-9 p.m. and Sunday 1-6 p.m.
New Glory Craft Brewing
After visiting Device, we drove half-a-mile away to New Glory, founded by Frenchman Julien Lux. Lux’s passion for wine – and his fascination with beer – has led to incredibly well made Farmhouse and barrel-aged ales.
I started off with (but probably should have ended with) the Honey Springs Bourbon Barrel Ale. Not lacking in bourbon-oaked earthiness, this ale had delicious notes of vanilla, wildflowers and spices. The ale holds up well, but I’d be curious to try the same recipe with a heartier malt that could hold its own with the bourbon notes.
The highlight for me was the Wild West American IPA, a seasonal Brett IPA. This yeasty masterpiece might have been the best beer I had on my trip to the Valley. Unlike any IPA I’ve had, the Brett wild yeast adds a complexity to the hops that are unmatched. With notes of lemongrass, grapefruit, and caramel, the flavor complexity never stopped. A first-class IPA worth the trip to Sacramento.
New Glory Craft Brewery is located at 8251 Alpine Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95826. Hours: Wednesday 4-8 p.m., Thursday 4-9 p.m., Friday 3-9 p.m., Saturday Noon-9 p.m. and Sunday Noon-5 p.m.
Bike Dog Brewing
Located in a maze of warehouses in West Sacramento near the Port is this well-known Sacramento brewery with a nod to the cycling community (and a great logo). Founded by four cycling buddies (Raef Porter, Sage Smith, Pete Atwood and AJ Tendick), this small but impressive brewery is as clever with marketing as they are with their beer.
In typical California fashion, their lineup includes a list of IPAs that are as impressive as any in the region. Double Down Under and San Dog IPAs both shined while the Pacific Oats left us a little underwhelmed. But the highlight of the IPAs was the Lost & Found Black Session IPA. Well balanced with chocolate and caramel notes against a solid foundation of piney hops, this is an IPA that knows its role. Too often I have black IPAs that are far overpowered by the roasted malts – they might as well call them Porters. Not the case with Lost & Found. It’s the type of dark beer you can have on a 100-degree day and not feel like you ate a loaf of bread.
While at Bike Dog, try the American Wheat as well. Citrusy, floral, yet hearty – this wheat had character that holds up much better than the direction of most watered-down wheats Americans are steering towards. A perfect beer after a long ride.
Bike Dog Brewing Co. is located at 2534 Industrial Boulevard Suite 110, West Sacramento, CA 95691. Hours: Thursday 5-9 p.m., Friday 5-9 p.m., Saturday 2-9p.m. and Sunday Noon-6 p.m.
Auburn Ale House
No stranger in the Northern California beer scene, Auburn Ale House has perhaps lost local attention to its trendy neighbor. That is a shame, because Auburn Ale House makes great beer, has great food (fried pickles!) and is in a fantastic location in beautiful downtown Auburn…possibly the best brewery location in Northern California.
Right off the bat, you can’t go wrong with the appropriately named Gold Digger IPA. A solid West Coast IPA that provides all the earthy characteristics and citrusy notes of Magnum, Simcoe and Chinook hops. Another highlight was the PU240 – an Imperial IPA that packs a serious punch of hoppy bitterness (100 IBUs). This Imperial should be a household name in the beer community – a serious contender for those who love maximum hops.
I was also impressed with Shanghai Stout, an oatmeal stout that holds its own with coffee, chocolate and vanilla flavors. The creamy texture and easy-drinking balance makes this a nice contrast to the hoppy-centric beers the area is known for. Save it for last and you won’t be disappointed.
Auburn Ale House is located at 289 Washington Street, Auburn CA 95603. Hours: Monday-Tuesday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Wednesday-Thursday 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Friday 11 a.m.-Midnight, Saturday 10 a.m.-Midnight and Sunday 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Ruhstaller Farm & Yard
With the mantra “We Grow Beer” and an actual hop farm in Dixon to back up the mantra, Ruhstaller’s marketing centers around the idea that they are “farm to bottle.” Looking at the small hop farm off I-80, that may be debateable as there clearly aren’t enough hops for more than a special small batch brew. So some people in Sacramento claim they are deceiving. Perhaps, instead, they should focus their marketing on the fact that they use Northern California farmers to get their hops and grains.
That said, who cares? Perhaps the goal is to continue growing said farms and they will eventually have something that rivals the hop farms at Sierra Nevada or Rogue. You gotta start somewhere. And bringing back the tradition of growing hops in this region once known for it is admirable.
The great thing about Ruhstaller is the tasting “room” on the farm. You sit on bales of hay, enjoy the shade and heat and take in the scenery of the Dixon farm and dairy lands. They have food trucks at the ready and plenty of outdoor games such as darts, corn hole and horseshoes. It was a pleasant setting and a great way to enjoy their well-made beers.
I was most impressed with their Frank J IPA, the second of their “Test IPA” series that made it to the permanent lineup. Their most recent Test IPA (5.0) might be the next to make the permanent list. An impressive and refreshing taste of orange peel, grapefruit and honey, this IPA was perfect for sitting outside on a hot day. Their farmhouse ale, Santos, was nice as well – with crisp apple bite, floral notes and the slightest sour punch to complete the experience.
The Ruhstaller Farm & Yard is located 15 miles west of Sacramento at 8949 Olmo Lane Dixon, CA 95620 (Exit 69 off I-80 – Kidwell Rd). Hours: Thursday-Friday 4 p.m.-Sunset and Saturday-Sunday Noon-Sunset.
Nathan is a craft beer enthusiast, originally from Texas but has lived in the Bay Area for more than 10 years. He was raised by a dad who worked in the beer industry all his life, so it must be in his blood. But he credits his girlfriend and fellow homebrew partner, Alexis, for getting him hooked on the craft scene.