CAPITAL: Sacramento’s Beer Scene Worthy of Attention

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.

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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.

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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.

SOCAL: 1st Anniversary Celebration at King Harbor Brewing Co. on April 11

King Harbor Brewing Co

King Harbor Brewing Co. will celebrate its first anniversary on Saturday, April 11

Tickets include eight 12oz pours with access to all beer tents, cask beers procured by Cask Ale LA, commemorative anniversary mug, photo booth, dunk tank, live music, and all ticket holders will go home with a bottle of King Harbor Brewing Co. Anniversary Ale.

The Anniversary Ale is an Imperial Brown Ale brewed with Graham Crackers and has been aging in Corsair Whiskey Barrels.

Tickets can be purchased on eventbrite.com for $50.00 or on-site at the tasting room located at 2907 182nd St., Redondo Beach, CA 90278.

A portion of proceeds will benefit local non-profit, Richstone Family Center.

OREGON: Southern Oregon

We started day two of our journey with a scenic drive up California’s rugged North Coast from Eureka to Crescent City, before we cut across the mountains to Oregon and found ourselves in Grants Pass.

My wife loves to make beaded jewelry, so our first stop today was Fire Mountain Gems, a huge mail order gem and bead company. We took a tour of their facility.

This may sound lame, but it was a fantastic tour. They do everything at their facility but make the product and print the catalog!

If you’ve ever wondered how catalog sales works, take this tour. Stop by at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. on weekdays.

20131231-101248.jpgMy wife was in heaven!

Following the tour, we drove down the street to Wild River Brewing and Pizza Company.

Good pizza and decent beer.

  • Kolsch
  • Honey Wheat
  • Bohemian Pilsener
  • IPA
  • ESB
  • Raspberry Brown
  • Surprisingly, my favorite here was the Pilsener.

    20131231-101445.jpgMy flight at Wild River

    Next, we headed off to Central Point, home of the Rogue Creamery and some awesome Blue Cheese!

    We traveled a short distance down to Medford and the Southern Oregon Brewing Company.

    Nice pub atmosphere with a small crowd gathered to watch the Oregon Ducks take on the Texas Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl (spoiler – Ducks win).

    I tried a sample of eight beers:

  • Na Zdravi
  • The “Pale”
  • Nice Rack IPA
  • Woodshed Red
  • Redwood
  • Pinup Porter
  • Old Humbug
  • Holy Water
  • Another surprising favorite for me here — Holy Water, a maibock, was crisp and refreshing and had a wonderful hint of honey.

    20131231-101607.jpgMy flight at Southern Oregon Brewing

    After a quick stop at Harry & David‘s for some post-holiday bargains, we headed on to Ashland.

    Arriving in Ashland, we checked into the historic Ashland Springs Hotel.

    This 88-year-old hotel has been lovingly restored and we enjoyed a comfortable, European-style stay. The room was comfortable and warm and the hotel was within walking distance of our dinner destination…Standing Stone Brewing Company.

    20131231-101943.jpgThe lobby at Ashland a Springs Hotel

    This was, by far, my favorite brewery so far on this trip. Standing Stone lives up to their website description:
    “Standing Stone Brewing Company is a family-owned, full-service restaurant-brewery committed to craft beers, great food, happy customers, fulfilled employees, community and sustainable business. We seek to ensure customers feel like friends, employees feel like family, our community values us as good neighbor and we leave the world a better place. Handcrafted beer is our passion and we love to share it!”

    Our dinner was fantastic. I had top sirloin (SSB raises it’s own beef one mile away) and my wife had trout. Presentation, flavor and service was flawless (this place feel like an Oregon version of Stone Brewery World Bistro in Escondido).

    The beers were the best of the day as well:

  • Barley Wine
  • Farmer Brown Ale
  • I (heart) Oregon Ale
  • Amber Ale
  • Twin Plunge 2IPA
  • Steel-Cut Stout
  • Noble Stout
  • My favorites we the stouts and the I (heart) Oregon Ale.

    20131231-101741.jpgStanding Stone
    20131231-101749.jpgMy flight at Standing Stone

    SHREVEPORT: Great Raft Brewery

    So, I’ve spent the last 6 months working a great job in Shreveport, LA. But life has its twists and turns and I will be returning to my native California next week.

    Since I arrived here in June, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the opening of two craft breweries. Now that Red River Brewing and Great Raft Brewing have launched, Shreveport can boast being the only city in Louisiana to have two craft breweries.

    I had the pleasure of sampling some of Great Raft’s beers tonight. During a “Keep the Pint Glass” event at PieWorks in Shreveport, I tried Reasonably Corrupt, a tasty black lager, and Commotion, an enjoyable, well-crafted pale ale.

    I also enjoyed chatting with Lindsay Nations who, with her husband Andrew, is a co-founder of the brewery. Read more about their story here. I have great confidence that their worthy beers and enthusiasm can help transform this community into a craft beer haven.

    Great Raft’s tasting room opens on Friday, December 20. It’s located at 1251 Dalzell Street, Shreveport.

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    The enthusiastic crowd at PieWorks enjoys beers from Great Raft Brewery

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    Great Raft’s pale ale, Commotion

    GOLD COUNTRY: Mraz Brewing now open

    Mraz Brewing in El Dorado Hills opened its doors on May 1.

    I was able to try it out today. I liked what I tried. The Pale Ale was great; I also enjoyed samples of the Saison and Belgian Brown.

    Really wanted to try the IPA, but they ran out opening night. More IPA will be on tap in 7-10 days.

    No flights or growlers yet, but they’re coming soon.

    Give them a try and let me know what you think!

    Located at 2222 Francisco Drive #510, El Dorado Hills, CA

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    San Clemente Beer Festival

    I  drove down to San Clemente this weekend for the 3rd annual San Clemente Micro-Brew Festival hosted by Left Coast Brewery and the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce.

    The 17 participating breweries were:

    This was my second time at this festival. It’s becoming an annual tradition as I get to spend a day with my sister (I can’t say her name or show her face because her school district has a very prudish social media policy…that’s another story).

    The crowd definitely seemed bigger than last year and I’m afraid they’re going to outgrow the Left Coast location very soon (actually, I’m not afraid…I hope they can move it somewhere closer to the beach that allows for a nice breeze and wider spaces).

    My one big bitch with this festival is the food. There was only one vendor which had a very long line the whole event. I would add a couple additional food options in the future.

    There were two fun bands (I really liked the second one), but their names escape me!

    Since I love hoppy beers, I used all my tasting tickets on IPAs I’d never tried. All were good, but two really stood out:

    • Pizza Port El Camino IPA – what a great aroma!
    • Beachwood Pole Position IPA – hoppy and citrus!
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    My sister and I at the San Clemente Micro-Brew Festival on April 20, 2013.
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    The crowd enjoys the beer and music.