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.

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BEERFEST: The Art of Beer: Sacramento

Last night, I had a great time at The Art of Beer: Sacramento, an enjoyable fundraiser for Ales for Autism held at the Aerospace Museum of California.

I was able to try many local beers:

  • Drake’s 1500
  • Bike Dog IPA
  • Mraz EDH IPA
  • Berryessa Pumpkin Death
  • Warped Crash of ’83 IPA
  • 21st Amendment Monk’s Blood
  • Track 7 Trein Wrak
  • Almanac IPA
  • New Helvetia Mystery Airship
  • Old Hangtown Black Ice Black IPA
  • Six Rivers Coffee Porter
  • Triple Rock Ipax IPA
  • Bear Republic Apex
  • Moylan’s Foggy Sunset Plum Saison
  • Heretic Evil Twin Red Ale
  • Speakeasy Black Hand Milk Stout
  • Almanac Bier de Chocolat
  • Quite a nice sampling. Northern California has some very talented brewers.

    Each brewery supplied an art auction item for bid. I was fortunate to win an airplane I bid on from Hangar 24 (although I really wanted the painting on wood from Bike Dog).

    I loved the Art of Beer beer journal provided this year.

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    My iPhone pictures suck, so check out the photo album from Hops to Table here.

    FAR NORTH: Siskiyou County

    The last day of our year-end beer trip started out with a quick stop at Caldera Brewing Company in Ashland.

    It was too early for me to drink, but I grabbed a couple 22s to go and added this brewery to my “must visit” list.

    I loved the bottle covered walls!

    20140101-102035.jpgCaldera’s bottle covered walls

    Our only real beer stop would be in Weed, CA at Mt. Shasta Brewing Company, home of Legal Weed.

    Since I had a long drive ahead, I skipped the 8-beer sampler and opted for a pint of Mountain High IPA with my lunch.

    This was the best beer I had on this three day trip. Perfectly hoppy!

    I loved the feel of this “joint.” Weed only has 3,000 citizens and I imagine this place hops on a regular basis.

    My only criticism — I felt the food was good but overpriced.

    20140101-102151.jpgInside Mt. Shasta Brewing

    Well, it was a fun few days on the road but we had to get back home for New Year’s Eve.

    Cheers!

    NORTH COAST: Humboldt County

    As an antidote for all the holiday hustle and bustle, my wife and I decided to take a quick year-end road trip. Of course, to me this means beer trip.

    I set my sites on Humboldt County and Southern Oregon, since I haven’t tasted in those regions.

    It’s a six hour drive from our house to Eureka, so naturally my first stop was in Healdsburg for lunch at Bear Republic.

    I’ve been here several times and it never disappoints.

    I love their Brewers Mac & Cheese; what a tasty lunch! I paired it with something different than my usual IPA…I tried their winter warmer Old Saint Chango. Loved the hint of Mexican chocolate.

    20131230-095622.jpgBear Republic’s Mac & Cheese

    We hit our first Humboldt destination, Eel River Brewing, at 4:20 p.m. (seemed appropriate). There was a lively crowd watching the final 49ers game of regular season.

    We chose to treat Humboldt County as a “progressive dinner,” so we ordered an appetizer (potato skins) and a sampler of five beers.

  • Acai Berry Wheat
  • California Blonde Ale
  • Organic Amber Ale
  • Organic IPA
  • Organic Porter
  • Everything Eel River brews is organic and all tasted fresh. All five beers were good, but the Porter was the best of the bunch.

    20131230-095958.jpgThe crowd at Eel River
    20131230-100006.jpgMy Eel River flight

    The next stop was Lost Coast Brewery in the heart of Eureka. This was to be the biggest disappointment of the day.

    The restaurant was busy. It’s in an old building and I noticed a variety of odd scents (non-food) as we entered.

    We ordered clam chowder and salad here. I decided against the sampler of 10 beers and instead ordered their Indica IPA.

    Oddly, I never got my beer! That was a first…going to a beer joint and the beer order disappears. Probably a good thing, as the Lost Coast beers I’ve had in the past have never ranked very high on my list.

    We finished our first course and headed on.

    20131230-100340.jpgThe crowd at Lost Coast
    20131230-100347.jpgMy empty coaster at Lost Coast

    Next stop: Mad River Brewing in Blue Lake.

    This was a nice comfortable pub, a place where a local could hang out and socialize.

    No food here, but I sampled five serviceable brews.

  • Steelhead Extra Pale Ale
  • Jamaica Brand Sunset IPA
  • Steelhead Double IPA
  • Steelhead Extra Stout
  • Gimme S’more
  • The Gimme S’more stout was a treat.

    20131230-100621.jpgMad River Brewing
    20131230-100628.jpgMy flight at Mad River Brewing

    On to our dinner course at Six Rivers Brewery, the second female-owned brewery in California.

    Even though we arrived after 8 p.m. on a Sunday, we had a 45 minute wait. There was a youthful, vocal crowd and it was trivia night.

    The service wasn’t as bad as some of the Yelp reviews suggested (although the hostess was a little sour).

    We decided to share some nachos with tri tip and I ordered a half flight of beers:

  • Six Rivers IPA
  • Sasquatch Double IPA
  • Hammond Trail Cream Ale
  • Strong Blonde
  • Yule Winter Spiced Ale
  • I was disappointed by the IPAs. Neither were hoppy at all. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the Yule Ale. It had a enjoyable blend of spices.

    20131230-100854.jpgThe crowd at Six Rivers
    20131230-100901.jpgMy flight at Six Rivers
    20131230-100908.jpgThe enormous nachos!

    We booked a room at the historic Eureka Inn.

    It’s a cool old hotel, reminiscent of the hotel in The Shining!

    Super big rooms but cold as Hell! Bring extra blankets if you stay here in winter. Although, what I found in the nightstand led me to believe they expected us to keep warm another way.

    20131230-101158.jpgAt least it was still in the wrapper!

    Cheers!

    GOLD COUNTRY: My first Father-Son tasting

    My oldest son, Nick, finally turned 21 this month. I was able to go beer tasting with him this afternoon.

    We went to New Helvetia Brewing in the Land Park area of Sacramento. I’ve been before, but this was his first time.

    We got a sampler of eight beers consisting of:

  • Buffalo Lager
  • Saison Solon
  • Red Wheat Ale
  • Zeppelbrau
  • Thunderbeast IPA
  • Rough & Ready Red IPA
  • Homeland Stout
  • Mystery Airship
  • What a pleasure it was to sit down an enjoy a few handcrafted beers with my son. We talked about beer styles, music, living regionally rather than globally. It’s amazing how we connected over beer and conversation.

    I am really looking forward to more experiences with him (and my younger son, Tony — once he hits 21).

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    20131228-181749.jpgMy son Nick

    RECIPE: Christmas Eve Chili

    1-1/4 lb ground beef
    1-1/4 lb ground pork
    1 large onion, diced
    1 15-oz can petite diced tomatoes w/ jalapeño
    1 15-oz can red kidney beans
    1 15-oz can white kidney beans
    1 15-oz can black beans
    1 package Carroll Shelby’s Chili Kit
    1 16-oz can Modern Times Blazing World Amber beer (or your favorite Amber beer)
    1 8-oz can tomato sauce
    1 tbsp brown sugar
    2 tbsp Gentleman Jack

    Brown meats and onion. Drain.

    Mix diced tomatoes, beer, chili spices packet, cayenne packet, salt packet and tomato sauce together in big kettle. Simmer for 15 minutes.

    Add meat and onion mixture. Simmer for 30 minutes.

    Add red, white and black beans. Simmer for 30 minutes.

    Add brown sugar and Gentleman Jack. Simmer for 30 minutes.

    Add masa packet. Simmer for 15 minutes.

    Serve with cornbread, sweet pickles, shredded cheddar cheese and your favorite California Craft Beer!

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    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