Derar Zawaydeh saw the potential for craft beer earlier than most and, along with his brother, Philippe Masoud, opened Burgers and Brew in Davis in 2007.
With that success came the opening of a Burgers and Brew on R Street in Sacramento, another in Chico and one at the Sacramento International Airport. All are doing very well and have become a major driver of the regional craft beer game. They’re a simple concept done well: good burgers, a diverse beer selection, with plenty of passion and knowledge behind it. What’s not to like?
The brothers also own the successful, albeit more low-key, Crepeville restaurants – one in midtown, the other in Davis. A third Crepeville is on the horizon in Chico. While Masoud focuses on business development, much of Zawaydeh’s passion is with beer.
Indeed, he is one of the unsung heroes of the local craft beer boom. He is a proselytizer for good beer, though he doesn’t shame customers who order something a tad uninspired. His selling secret? Get those Budweiser and PBR drinkers to try a better product.
“Give them samples. Once they try the samples, they will be hooked – and they’re never going back,” Zawaydeh said. “If someone comes in and asks for a Coors Light, I’ll say, ‘OK fine, we have that, but let me have you try something else.’ I’ll bring out a Sudwerk pilsner, for example, and 99 percent of the people will opt for that.”
These days in Sacramento, craft beer practically sells itself. There’s so much good stuff out there – and the average beer consumer is knowledgeable and willing to try new things. But Zawaydeh saw the potential for making craft beer a focal point of the business several years before it was common, for example, to hear Sacramentans discussing hop varieties and yeast strains as they savored a couple of beers.
Now he and his brother are poised to take their mini empire to the next level by opening their own brewery. The brothers purchased a vacant building at 1616 J St., most recently a nightclub, near Sacramento Memorial Auditorium. They already have a brewmaster hired, have brewed several test batches (including an excellent and very nuanced barrel-aged brown ale that I tasted last week), and have architectural blueprints for a concept that will bring a new dimension in design, creativity and sense of community to the local beer scene.
The brewery, to be called Olde Ritual Brewing, will be housed in the building’s large basement. On the main street level, there will be a new restaurant and bar, Burgers and Brew House (with “House” added to distinguish it from the R Street location). A large opening will be cut in the floor to expose the brew tanks below and give the facility a dramatic visual element. There also are plans for a rooftop patio with more seating for food and beverage service.
Craft beer has become part of the city’s personality and a highlight when the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau promotes the region.
Olde Ritual is the latest move to reclaim Sacramento’s thriving beer history.
For more on that history, read Ed Carroll’s 2010 book, “Sacramento’s Breweries” (Sacramento County Historical Society, $14.95, 128 pages). Among the tidbits: Frank Ruhstaller Jr. for years ran Buffalo Brewery, which until its demise in 1942 was located on the same plot of land where The Bee stands today. In its heyday, it was the largest brewery in the West and shipped beer worldwide.
Zawaydeh took pains to trademark the name Olde Ritual several years ago.
“Ritual is something you do over and over again and it becomes part of your culture. That’s the whole idea,” he said.
He and his brother are waiting for financing and expect to start construction soon after, with a projected opening eight months away.
“The exciting thing about the brewery is the idea that we will create a place that pushes the philosophy of beer,” said Zawaydeh. “We will host meetings for beer clubs. Homebrewers can come through the brewery, look around and ask questions. We will have a lot of different programs. It will keep the brewery active.”
Finally, I asked this beer aficionado and entrepreneurial success story how his beer will stand out from the competition.
“The fact that we are brewing at our own place will make us stand out,” he said, his expression becoming more serious. “Beyond that, it’s the quality. I will not waste my name and everything I have built just to sell mediocre beer.”
A beer postscript
The long-awaited Twelve Rounds Brewing Co. on 57th Street in East Sacramento is getting close to opening.
Owner Dan Murphy said this past week that he is aiming for an early July opening. The Facebook page notes that the “brewhouse is fully functional” and that staffers are getting ready for final city inspections.
Twelve Rounds is expected to produce very good beer from the get-go. It recently lured longtime Rubicon brewmaster Scott Cramlet to head the brewing operation.