There have been so many intriguing developments in local beer lately, but one that stands out for me is the announcement of the inaugural Track 7 IPA Invitational on Feb. 28.
With invitations going out to many of the greatest craft breweries in the West, along with heavy hitters from our region, Sacramento will play host to a competition that has the potential to become a force in craft beer. If that happens, and if winners of the event cite the victory in marketing and promotional material, and if ambitious upstart breweries start vying for an invite, it’s bound to bring more attention and prestige to the local beer scene. Tickets are $50 and will sell out, so act quickly.
Is Sacramento ready for the spotlight? Definitely.
I detected a shift locally more than a year ago with that lingering and sometimes bewildering inferiority complex replaced by newfound confidence. Craft beer drinkers here no longer think they have to go elsewhere or buy beer made somewhere else to have a top-notch drinking experience. They’re supporting local and, more and more, they’re learning that our best beer stacks up to the competition.
Look at what happened to Knee Deep founder Jermemy Warren after his Hoptologist bested Pliny the Elder at the 2012 Bistro Double IPA. The brewery went from 1,000 square feet in Lincoln, where you could get Warren himself to fill your growler at the loading dock, to 18,000 square feet in Auburn, a major bottling operation and distribution in 15 states and counting. Last summer, of course, Warren split with business partner Jerry Moore to start Revision Brewing, which should open in West Sacramento sometime this year.
“We wanted to do something similar to the Bistro Imperial IPA competition but do it in our own way,” said Track 7 co-founder Ryan Graham. “It was a matter of trying to do an event that we could help anchor Sacramento Beer Week with.
“I think we’ve got a really great list of breweries participating, making some of the best IPAs on the West Coast, so winning something here would make a statement as to the type of beer that’s being made. When you have Societe, Cellarmaker, you have Firestone Walker bringing rare and exclusive IPAs, you have Marble, which was the Great American Beer Festival mid-sized brewery of the year last year – we’ve got some heavy hitters in hoppy beers, and we’re excited.”
The IPA is a fascinating beer style, partly because it continues to evolve based on customer demand and changing expectations. In other words, brewmasters keep pushing the envelope with hops, balance and boldness. Before you know it, a cutting-edge, aggressively hopped beer that broke onto the scene three or four years ago now seems like an old-school IPA.
That’s what we found during a lengthy blind tasting I conducted last week, where benchmark IPAs by Lagunitas, Sierra Nevada and Stone were overshadowed in some ways by newer, more invigorating IPAs from Knee Deep (Breaking Bud) and, yes, Rubicon (Grapefruit Hopsauce). I’ll have full details and plenty of analysis next week.
Fieldwork coming to midtown
I’ve known about this for more than a week, but was unable to tell you until now: Fieldwork Brewing, one of the hottest craft breweries in the game, just signed a lease to open a taproom in midtown. It will be at 1805 Capitol Ave., sandwiched between Zocalo and Press Bistro.
“Sacramento is a fantastic city. We heard it over and over again that the craft-beer community there is sophisticated and engaged,” said Fieldwork co-founder Barry Braden. “We thought it would be a great fit for us.”
Braden said plans are still being formulated for the 1,434-square-foot space, but expect about 20 tap handles, all featuring Fieldwork beer.
This news has all kinds of implications.
First, Fieldwork, which launched just a year ago in Berkeley, already has a terrific reputation.
“What they’re doing, coming out with new beer virtually every week, is really exciting and the quality is right at the top,” said Capitol Beer & Taproom owner Ken Hotchkiss. CapTap will get a Fieldwork tap takeover during Sacramento Beer Week, so watch for that.
“I love their beers. Fieldwork has earned the respect of the Bay Area and for them to come to Sacramento is awesome,” said Rob Archie, owner of Pangaea Bier Cafe.
Second, having a red-hot brewery seek out Sacramento for expansion says a lot about our market. It’s also a sign of the times in Sacramento, where urban life is more vibrant than ever, despite a recession that stalled all kinds of development projects for five years.
“I think it’s a great fit for Fieldwork and a great win for Sacramento,” said Aaron Marchand, vice president of Turton Commerical Real Estate, who handled the deal. “We went through many, many offers before the ownership decided who was the right fit to raise the bar of the project and make the neighbors happy.”