If you’re trying to keep up with the craft beer scene in the Sacramento region, you probably need a scorecard. So much is happening all over the place – new breweries, new beers, bottling and canning, distribution, and plenty more.
Jackrabbit Brewing (1323 Terminal St., West Sacramento) is having a two-day grand opening of its long-awaited taproom from 5 to 9 p.m. April 3 and from noon to 9 p.m. April 4. Jackrabbit is the work of four ambitious home brewers who took their passion for beer to the professional level.
The brewery is already active and selling its beer in limited release. In fact, many of you probably have encountered it at a few of the top beer pubs and eateries in the area.
I spotted some of its bottles at Curtis Park Market, one of my favorite neighborhood beer retailers, when I dropped by recently. The brewery already has planted its own hops in the Sierra foothills and plans to harvest those to use in an array of seasonal beers.
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Chris Powell, one of the partners, said that a taproom was not in the initial plans because the location is tucked away in an industrial area. Then something cool happened – Bike Dog and then Yolo Brewing opened and people flocked to their taprooms. It wasn’t long before Jackrabbit decided to join the party. Now we have a legit beer scene in West Sac. In fact, all three breweries are within walking distance and are easily accessible by bike (or car) from midtown/downtown.
The new taproom happened after Jackrabbit expanded into an adjoining space, growing its square footage from 1,500 to 5,000. The brewery, which is dog-friendly and kid-friendly (I’ll let you know when I find one that’s not) will also have a large patio. Food trucks? Of course.
“We opened up the brewery at the end of 2013,” Powell said. “The plan was to do kegs and bottles to restaurants and bars. When we hit Beer Week in 2014, we realized we should really have a taproom. There is a lot of excitement about coming out and seeing the brewery.”
Jackrabbit will have 10 tap handles for the grand opening. One of the things you’ll notice is that the lineup has its own personality. This is the kind of thing the local beer scene needs if it’s going to continue to grow. While we have several breweries doing terrific IPAs (Track 7, Device, Knee Deep, Berryessa, Rubicon) and some excellent barrel-aged brews and sours (Mraz and Sudwerk), we need more styles and options to whet the appetites of consumers and grow as an industry. New Glory, Ol’ Republic and the Monk’s Cellar are offering variety beyond the West Coast IPA. Bike Dog has found its voice with its superb milk stout.
“We didn’t want to do the standard lineup of West Coast breweries,” Powell said. “I love a good hoppy beer, but most of the breweries focus on really hoppy beers. Our focus is on traditional English, German and Belgian beers and thinking of creative ways to approach those.”
A city of beers
I recently received an email from the Santa Rosa Convention & Visitors Bureau pitching its craft breweries. I noticed on its website that, among other things, the bureau is promoting the county seat of Sonoma County with the slogan, “Where wine country meets beer city.”
So, I was curious about Sacramento’s efforts to sell its burgeoning beer reputation. Turns out, the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau is all over it.
“Obviously beer is big everywhere these days, but we feel like Sacramento is historically California’s beer capital,” said Nick Leonti, the director of tourism. “Before Prohibition, we were one of the top beer-brewing cities in America. I feel like now we are trying to reclaim our crown.”
Leonti and company often partners with other regional destinations so, for instance, someone traveling from Germany can make Sacramento part of his or her itinerary.
“Beer is a big deal in tourism right now,” Leonti said. “For a long time, it was wine. But in Sacramento, we’re having success in marketing ourselves as the beer partner to Napa and Sonoma’s wine country.” He noted that the convention bureau claims craft-beer legend Sierra Nevada in Chico, 90 miles away, saying that to tourists coming from thousands of miles away, a jaunt to Chico is nothing.
Leonti’s office supplies tour operators with a seven-day sample beer tour of Northern California. He said the response to the abundance of offerings has been positive. “We think it’s our rightful place to be the capital of beer,” he said.
If your scorecard is up to date, we’re definitely trending in that direction.
Call The Bee’s Blair Anthony Robertson, (916) 321-1099. Follow him on Twitter