Major kudos for Auburn’s Moonraker: Best new brewery in California, ninth best worldwide

Head brewer Zack Frasher pours a glass of Yojo IPA at the Moonraker Brewing Company in Auburn.
Head brewer Zack Frasher pours a glass of Yojo IPA at the Moonraker Brewing Company in Auburn.

Moonraker Brewing, which continues to dazzle its growing fan base with new beers that draw crowds and quickly sell out, just won three high-profile awards from RateBeer, the online site that has a major impact on the craft beer industry in the U.S. and beyond.

Open for less than a year and quickly becoming for its hazy Northeast-style India pale ales, Moonraker won RateBeer’s best new beer for Yojo IPA, best new brewery in California and was named the ninth best new brewery worldwide. The awards ceremony was Sunday in Santa Rosa.

The honors promise to raise the profile of the brewery and bring more attention to the entire craft beer scene in the Sacramento region. Additionally, RateBeer named Moonraker the world’s ninth best new brewer out of 6,500 new breweries worldwide.

“Moonraker is a big deal,” said Sacramento’s Dave Prillwitz, one of the most prolific longtime beer reviewers on the RateBeer site. “They’re already well known in California, but now they will be known nationwide. It’s the place that people want to go to in the Sacramento area right now. They have a really good lineup of beer. It’s one of those breweries that came out of the gates running.”

Brewmaster Zack Frasher’s signature beer is Yojo, available in limited release in 16-ounce cans and on draft at the brewery. As luck would have it, Moonraker is releasing a new batch of Yojo for the first time since November. It will be sold at the tasting room and will likely sell out over the weekend.

The RateBeer accolades stunned owners and employees alike.

“We’ve all talked about it. It seems surreal,” said Karen Powell, who owns Moonraker with her husband, Dan. “The support we’ve had has been amazing.”

The Powells were homebrewers who met Frasher at a homebrew shop and soon pegged him as the brewer who could help set Moonraker apart when it opened in early 2016. It’s just a short walk from Knee Deep, the largest brewery in the region and a well-known practitioner of the West Coast-style IPA, which tends to have plenty of hoppy citrus and pine flavors along with a distinctively bitter finish.

Moonraker was the first brewery in the area to release a Northeast-style IPA, which is not only hazy in appearance but has plenty of fruity hop flavor notes and a softer – many call it juicy – body and is distinctly less bitter. The Bee recently named Yojo the “Beer of the Year” for the Sacramento region.

“It was Yojo that put us on the map. It was just something different and the consumers went wild for it,” Powell said.

But its popularity means Yojo quickly sells out soon after it is released, even as Moonraker has raced to triple its brewing capacity in its first year.

“We’re nearly maxed out with what we can do,” Powell said.

Asked about further expansion and possibly investing in an off-site production facility to meet demand, she said, “We’re not going to do anything drastic right now. We want to make sure we produce a quality product and keep the craft behind it.”

Moonraker just purchased a canning line and will start doing its own canning as early as March. It currently relies on a mobile canning company to do its packaging.

Referring to the global exposure RateBeer enjoys, Prillwitz said the Moonraker recognition will bring more prestige to the entire craft beer scene.

“It gives us more credence. We were already becoming known as a beer destination, but whenever something like this happens, it pushes up another notch,” he said.

To see all of the RateBeer awards, click here.

Blair Anthony Robertson: 916-321-1099, @Blarob