Wine Buzz: Ruhstaller 1881 ale has Sacramento roots

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 3D
Last Modified: Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011 - 11:22 am

Once again, we'll get back to wine quicker than you can say "gewurztraminer," but right now there's some big news brewing on the local beer scene.

A new ale called Ruhstaller 1881 recently debuted, paying homage to Capt. Frank Ruhstaller, a Swiss immigrant who's considered a founding father of Sacramento's beer culture. Back in the late 1800s, Ruhstaller founded Buffalo Brewery (on a site that's now home to The Sacramento Bee) and established his self-named Ruhstaller as a premium brand.

Ruhstaller has been resurrected by Peter Hoey, former brewmaster for Sacramento Brewing Co. and co-founder of the now-defunct Odonata Beer Co. The first batch of Ruhstaller 1881, named for the year Ruhstaller launched his own label, is just about sold out, but two more batches will be ready soon.

"This particular beer isn't a historical recipe, but it's made in the spirit of what Ruhstaller did," said Hoey. "The reason he set up in Sacramento is that barley and hops used to grow here and there were excellent rail and water shipping lines. His whole thing was using local products."

Think of it as "farm to pint." For Ruhstaller 1881, Hoey sourced his barley from Northern California and some hops that hail from the Clear Lake area. Sacramento restaurants that emphasize localism are serving this beer, including Magpie Cafe, Grange and Mulvaney's B&L. It sells for about $5 a pint.

An upcoming batch will be dubbed "wet hop harvest ale," which features hops that are harvested and then put in a kettle for brewing within 24 hours. Look for this beer in late September.

"We're all about local," said John Oldham, manager of Mulvaney's B&L. "We have seasonal tap lines and thought this would be a good fit, especially with going into cooler weather and our dishes for the fall."

Hoey crafted this amber-colored beer with a sense of balance between the maltiness and hops, and a moderate 5.5 percent alcohol level that makes it refreshing like a cool Delta breeze. Give a salute to Ruhstaller himself, and then take a drink.

"He's the godfather of Sacramento's pre-Prohibition beer scene," said Hoey. "This is a very approachable beer but has enough flavor to keep the craft beer folks interested."

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