The boom time continues for local craft beer culture.
Sacramento has always been a great beer city, from its breweries and hops production of a century ago to a new wave of local brewmasters and entrepreneurs. Nearly two dozen breweries now call this area home, with umpteen more a quick day trip away.
No wonder Sacramento Beer Week has grown into one of the region's signature festivals. Now approaching its fourth year, it encompasses hundreds of happenings, including special brews made just for the week, inventive beer and food pairings and a mammoth Capital Beerfest on March 2 at Cal Expo that's expected to draw close to 100 breweries.
More than 75 area businesses are participating in Beer Week, which runs today through March 3. For a full schedule of events, visit sacramentobeerweek. com. In the meantime, here's a collection of highlights, must-tastes and other info that'll help you navigate this sudsy, festive gathering.
BEERS YOU SHOULDN'T MISS
Pliny the Younger, Russian River Brewing Co.: The most coveted beer in the craft brewing world has been featured at previous editions of Sacramento Beer Week. This small- production triple IPA is expected to return, but where exactly remains TBA. Check sacbee.com's Appetizers blog for specific locations.
Shakenbake, Knee Deep Brewing Co. with Boulder Beer Co.: Knee Deep of nearby Lincoln meets Colorado in this collaborative brew. Hops come from both Colorado and California. It debuted Feb. 8 at San Francisco Beer Week.
Apple Belgian Blonde, Rubicon Brewing Co. with Two Rivers Cider: Two longtime local brewers join forces to create an apple beer with 30 percent fresh juice. For cider fans or those with a sweet tooth, this one's for you.
California Kolsch, Ruhstaller with LowBrau: Just in time for Sacramento Beer Week, Ruhstaller releases a series of special brews in partnership with midtown's LowBrau. They've produced four Kolsch-style beers, each using California or German hops. Drop by LowBrau on Sunday to taste all four side by side.
Barrel Aged Sunrise IPA, American River Brewing Co.: This Rancho Cordova brewery takes its Sunrise English IPA to another level of flavor by aging this beer for 10 months in cabernet franc barrels. The result adds cherry overtones and a touch of sour notes for added depth.
More chefs are getting into cooking with beer and pairing their food with beer. Here are a few restaurant stops to mark on your Beer Week calendar:
Formoli's Bistro, special Tuesday dinner, 7 p.m: Chef Aimal Formoli is no stranger when it comes to showcasing beer with food. He and Bill Ngo of Kru have combined their talents for at least 10 Slow Beer Movement dinners so far. For Beer Week, Formoli is pairing a four-course dinner with Speakeasy, a San Francisco craft brewery. One of the dishes: short ribs braised in Prohibition Ale for six hours.
Magpie Cafe (all week): Looking for a special dish that just really works with great beer? Magpie has created a "pub plate" just for Beer Week. For $15, you get sausage made with hops grown at Kingbird Farms in Galt, housemade pickles, beef tongue, roasted potatoes and sauerkraut.
Hot City Pizza (today-Sunday): Pizza and beer always works, but this pizzeria in east Sacramento is offering some esoteric beers that take three to five years to make. They will have 16 sour and barrel-aged beers on tap today through Sunday and more in bottles, along with food specials made with sour beer.
Lucca Restaurant & Bar farmers market dinner with Ruhstaller (4-9 p.m. Sunday): A dinner featuring local ingredients, beef from Luck Dog Ranch in Dixon and the very Sacramento Ruhstaller beers paired with three courses.
A SAFE AND SOBER EVENT
Dan Scott, executive director of Sacramento Beer Week, knows that some folks will sink instead of swim when surrounded by oceans of beer. As a former health educator, he wants revelers to have fun, not end up as drunken-driving statistics.
"Telling people not to do something doesn't usually work," Scott said. "The other strategy is understanding some people will engage in risky behavior and figure ways to reduce the harm that may be incurred."
Scott instituted a campaign this year to promote responsible drinking at Sacramento Beer Week and its Capital Beerfest sister event, held at Cal Expo. Organizers have partnered with Uber, a town car service that recently debuted in Sacramento. Uber will offer $20 discounts during Capital Beerfest for first-time users. A free charter bus service will also be available for Beerfest, which is expected to draw thousands of people.
Scott wants to make sure attendees stay well hydrated. Capital Beerfest will include prominent water stations and dump buckets for excess beer.
"A lot of times you have beer in your cup, and if you don't want to finish it, there aren't many alternatives besides drinking it," Scott said. "That's irresponsible hosting."
For more on shuttle services and transportation discounts, go to http://sacramentobeerweek.com.