Beer Run: Corti Brothers quietly leading the way on craft brews

Corti Brothers has long been an arbiter of taste when it comes to fine – and hard to find – foods. It is also a trusted source for wine.

And these days, Corti Brothers is a true leader in the craft beer movement, reflecting the boom and guiding us to best-sellers, newcomers, exotic choices and, really, an array of options at every price point and in every style.

If you thought this quintessential Sacramento grocery store was behind the times and not exactly hip, you’ve allowed appearances to deceive you – and you surely haven’t walked down the refrigerated aisle at one side of the store.

If you had, we might still find you there, mesmerized.

The colors, the sizes, the styles, the shapes, the names and all those flavors. If the store has opted to expand linear shelf space devoted to craft beer by 25 percent, you can bet it’s because it can see where the market is headed.

The demand is growing. The calls about Pliny are daily. The customer is more enthusiastic, more discerning. And beyond all that, beer is no longer taking a back seat to wine.

I caught up with Rick Mindermann, the store director, to ask about the evolution of the store’s beer selection. And he’s certainly witnessed it – he’s been there since 1978 and has a deep personal interest in the subject.

“When I started, the landscape for imported beer in most places in the country was very limited,” said Mindermann.

Then came the groundbreaking beers of Anchor Steam and Sierra Nevada. That leveled off before a resurgence in the 1990s. Corti Brothers’ small beer selection expanded. In the late 1990s, the grocer recast its marketing plan, and craft beer was part of that.

The store placed less emphasis on the sale of six-packs, noticing that the new consumer was mixing and matching.

“In the last five to seven years, we’ve seen an amazing renaissance. My take is that beer was viewed as beer in a can. It was a six-pack. It was viewed as something that wasn’t sophisticated. But the microbrew trend and the marketing has created a situation where brews are treated like wine,” he said.

Mindermann says he has been blown away by what’s happening locally. He recently visited the new Bike Dog Brewing in West Sacramento and, once he got past the idea that it was only open Fridays and Saturdays, said, “The place was packed. I tried their milk stout and was amazed. I talked to one of the owners and said this is something I can’t wait for you to bottle because we will put it on our shelves.”

Props to Bike Dog.

Mindermann also sings the praises of Ruhstaller and owner J-E Paino for promoting locally grown ingredients — a reach back to a time when Sacramento grew more hops than any place in the world.

The Ruhstaller black IPA? “I was amazed,” Mindermann said.

Mindermann holds to a theory that the slow-food mindset took root here and in much of America after 9/11.

“A little bit of that European mentality has started to grab hold here,” he said. “It’s a movement where people want to be richer and have more meaning in their daily lives, and I don’t think there is a better way than a good meal and a good beverage with family and friends.”

I encourage you to check out the beer selection at Corti Brothers. But there’s so much more to the area, too. East Sacramento is now a beer destination. There’s Hoppy Brewing and its 15 years on Folsom Boulevard. There’s The Shack, with its emphasis on Belgian beers (and more). Clark’s Corner is a neighborhood eatery with great beer options. And Hot City Pizza is a tiny shop with a really cool attitude about serving beer with its food and curating an excellent and edgy inventory for its tiny bottle shop. Coming soon to 57th Street is Twelve Rounds Brewing. And just minutes beyond east Sac’s boundaries are newcomers Device Brewing and New Glory Brewing.

“It’s a good thing,” said Troy Paski, owner of Hoppy Brewing.

“The more people that know about good beer, the better. The old analogy is you can sell more gas if you have four gas stations on four corners, because now you become a destination.”

East Sacramento has become a destination.

Bigger and better: Watch for the kitchen expansion coming soon to craft beer destination Pangaea Two Brews in Curtis Park. Owner Rob Archie tells me the new menu will launch the second week of January. The kitchen will be headed by chef Robb Venditti, perhaps best known for his stint at Formoli’s Bistro.

Sacramento BaconFest, Jan. 19-26: What does bacon have to do with craft beer? Well, duh! You eat a dish with bacon and wash it down with craft beer. Pretty much everyone who’s on board with BaconFest is already on board with good beer. BaconFest moves the needle. It means big business for many local eateries during an otherwise quiet time in the industry.

5th Annual Sacramento Beer Week: It’s coming in February, and we hope to have plenty of details soon. This event has become a big deal on the local calendar, and you can expect there will be plenty of excitement because the Sacramento beer scene continues to grow and flourish. Beer Week will include dozens of events at restaurants, bars, breweries and more, and we’re excited about what Dan Scott and company have in store this year.