Rubicon’s veteran brewmaster leaves for East Sac startup

Longtime Rubicon brewmaster Scott Cramlet is leaving for Twelve Rounds brewery, which will open in East Sacramento.
Longtime Rubicon brewmaster Scott Cramlet is leaving for Twelve Rounds brewery, which will open in East Sacramento. Courtesy of Rubicon Brewing Co.

Award-winning brewmaster Scott Cramlet, who helped lead Rubicon Brewing to prominence years ago with a groundbreaking India pale ale and a host of other popular styles, said Friday that he is leaving to join startup Twelve Rounds Brewing in East Sacramento.

Hired as a 21-year-old homebrewer, Cramlet, 46, was part of the early craft beer growth that experienced a dramatic shakeout in the 1990s and paved the way for the current boom sweeping Sacramento and much of North America.

Cramlet and Rubicon owner Glynn Phillips say they are parting on good terms.

“We’re happy for Scott. We want him to move to a place where he’s happy doing what he wants to do,” Phillips said. “He has been great for our business for a long time.”

Cramlet said he sees the new opportunity as a chance to recharge his creative impulses by being part of a small brewery that is still months away from serving its first beer.

In recent years, Rubicon has undergone a major growth spurt from its brew house and pub in midtown to a much larger production facility in West Sacramento. In 2012, Rubicon experienced a 52 percent increase in beer sales; by 2014, sales were up another 114 percent, according to Phillips.

“After 24 years of working at the same job and with all the growth and expansion Rubicon has done, I’m looking to get back to my roots of doing more hands-on brewing and more of the creative aspect of brewing,” Cramlet said.

During his long tenure at Rubicon, Cramlet made a significant impact on the craft beer scene, most notably with an IPA that, in its day, was considered shocking to uninitialized palates because of lively hop flavors and aromas and a bitterness on the finish some found jarring. But the beer changed the way many experience craft beer, and soon became Rubicon’s flagship brew long before Russian River’s Pliny the Elder and Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA set a new standard in the West Coast IPA category with much more intense hop flavors.

On Rubicon’s website, the company lauds Cramlet’s pioneering work by noting that the American-style IPA was, by 2010, the largest category at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival in Denver.

“This style of beer was introduced to the GABF in 1990, the year Cramlet took the helm, and Rubicon Brewing brought home gold medals that year and the following year, essentially defining the blossoming style for American palates,” the website states.

Said Cramlet on Friday, “Our IPA hasn’t really changed much since 1988. Back then, people said, ‘Wow! This is so crazy.’ But now people describe it now as old-school West Coast style. It’s still a good, solid beer after all these years.”

At Twelve Rounds, which has yet to announce an opening date for its brewery and restaurant at 866 57th St., Cramlet said he will be collaborating with owner Dan Murphy on a variety of beer styles.

“I’ve put my personal stamp on a lot of beers that Rubicon has done, but I’m not going to try to re-create those beers at Twelve Rounds. It just wouldn’t be fair to go to clones,” Cramlet said. “But my style and my preferences will certainly influence what we do.”

Rubicon has scheduled a send-off party at its Midtown pub (2004 Capitol Ave.) on April 30 at 6 p.m. The public is welcome. In the meantime, Phillips said he will begin looking for a new brewmaster for Rubicon. The hiring of Cramlet immediately gives Twelve Rounds an extra element of credibility as it prepares to venture into the increasingly competitive local craft beer market.

“After all these years, making a change is exciting. Lots of new opportunities to get back to my roots,” Cramlet added. “Rubicon is on a very good footing and doing tremendous things with brewing and distribution. I’m leaving behind a lot of great folks who will continue to make great beer and help grow the company.”

Call The Bee’s Blair Anthony Robertson, (916) 321-1099. Follow him on Twitter @Blarob.

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