Dan Scott was a beer enthusiast – albeit a really enthusiastic one – when he decided to start Sacramento Beer Week in 2010.
It was a grass-roots venture and, at the time, the region had about a dozen craft breweries. His idea was simple: Let’s take a week to recognize and celebrate the quality beer being brewed right here.
It was one part party and one part effort to generate more interest in a local industry that had plenty of potential for growth.
Maybe you’ve noticed: Beer Week, which starts Thursday and runs through March 9, has blown up. And so has the Sacramento area beer scene.
Craft breweries and taprooms are thriving. Local breweries are winning awards. Since last year at this time, nine breweries have opened and more are on the way.
People are toasting and tasting and filling growlers in Lincoln, Auburn, West Sacramento and Winters. They’re chasing down good beer on the grid and in the burbs. They’re pulling into industrial parks that now sport craft breweries and taprooms.
Now, instead of a dozen or so events during Beer Week, there are hundreds. And, whereas nine breweries received invites to the inaugural local brewers showcase event, this year, Scott sent out 27 invitations.
That event this year, the Sacramento Brewers Showcase (5-9 p.m. Thursday), is at the California Automobile Museum and signals the launch of Beer Week.
The Brewers Showcase comes with a challenge – the breweries have been given the same recipe for pale ale (think Sierra Nevada and its seminal beer) and have been asked to brew a batch with their spin on it. Those beers will be served at the showcase, and a prize will be awarded based on people’s choice ballots. Tickets are $40 at the door or $35 for members.
While Scott didn’t trigger the local beer boom, he did recognize earlier than most what might happen if all the pieces came together.
“It’s reflective of what’s going on across the country,” said Scott.
“Beer Week is going through another phase of enormous growth. It should give people here a sense of enormous pride. They are local businesses and that’s really cool. And they give Sacramento a new identity.”
Scott notes that the area brewery count has gone from 18 to 27 in one year, but he cautions that the growth doesn’t mean Sacramento has to strive for national recognition just yet.
“It’s possible, but I don’t think we need to go that far,” he said. “We don’t need to be Portland. We don’t need to be San Diego. We could just be Sacramento, and that’s great.”
Among the new breweries making an impact is Bike Dog Brewing in West Sacramento, run by four owners who opted to keep their day jobs.
Its grand opening party, complete with food trucks and live music, was so popular that the small brewery nearly ran out of beer for the following week.
Bike Dog’s milk stout beer has been deemed so good that venerable Corti Brothers has inquired about carrying it once the brewery starts bottling.
Device Brewing, in an industrial area just off Power Inn Road in Sacramento, has been growing its fan base since it opened the day after Thanksgiving.
“We’re selling all the beer we’re brewing,” said owner and brewmaster Ken Anthony, who was washing kegs when he answered the phone Friday.
Device doesn’t have any employees. Anthony’s wife, Melissa, also works there when she can. Otherwise, it’s often 16-hour days for Anthony, who will be at the taproom until it closes at 9 p.m., only to return the next morning at 4:45 to start brewing.
An an engineer, Anthony says he was designing bridges before he became a brewery owner. He planned to work half-time but got laid off after he opened the brewery.
Asked about his highly touted double IPA (Scott called it an excellent beer), Anthony said, “I like it to be light in color and be easy to drink, with a clean finish and nice citrus and floral aromas.” To develop the flavor he wants, he opts for Simcoe and and Mosaic hops.
Anthony plans to introduce a black IPA during Beer Week. “To me, Sacramento Beer Week is a chance to grow the craft beer community and show more people how different craft beer is from traditional domestic beer.”
At the other end of the new brewery spectrum is Out of Bounds Brewing in Rocklin. It started brewing last July, opened its taproom in September and started bottling in January. The brewery has 12 employees and plans to have 10 styles of beer in bottles by April, according to owner Eric Johnson.
“Beer Week is awesome,” said Johnson, noting he was just renting the space for the brewery during Beer Week 2013.
“It’s a chance for us to get our more unique flavors out to the enthusiasts.”
Out of Bounds will debut a double red ale called Relentless during Beer Week. The brewery will also host a beer dinner on site, complete with four 12-ounce pairings with the food for $35. It sold out in three days.
New Glory Brewing hopes to use Beer Week to expand its name recognition and show off its beers, including its popular American Country farmhouse ale, which is similar to a Belgian farmhouse ale but less sweet and with a crisper finish.
“We are trying to show people there is something else besides hoppy beers,” said owner and brewmaster Julien Lux, referring to the term used to describe the bitter hop flavor note that distinguishes India pale ales.
Lux plans to start bottling by mid-March. The brewery’s logo and label designs are done by Lux’s wife, Erica, a graphic designer.
Like the other new brewers, Lux knew he wasn’t getting into this line of work to live on Easy Street.
“We are here from 5 or 6 a.m. until we close,” he said, noting the taproom remains open until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. “But it doesn’t feel like work because I love what I do.”
New Glory (it opened as Old Glory but quickly received a cease-and-desist letter from a company that owned the rights to “Ol’ Glory”) started brewing in June but only opened its taproom three weeks ago at 8251 Alpine Ave., an industrial area of Sacramento off Power Inn Road.
It is celebrating its grand opening on Friday – the second day of Beer Week – from 3 to 11 p.m., featuring live music, the release of three new beers and a cask-conditioned beer.