The unstoppable force that is Sacramento Beer Week kicked off Feb. 25 with the Brewers Showcase and has continued unabated, with more events scheduled through this weekend. If you’re counting the days on your fingers, you’ve already noticed that it’s an absolutely plus-sized week – 11 days of tap takeovers, beer dinners, tasting flights, rare beers, pairings, sours, IPAs, funky barrel deliciousness, collaborations and much more.
Here is just some of what I witnessed and heard about so far:
Brewers Showcase: I don’t know about you, but I have Cal Expo-phobia, starting with the parking. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth from the get-go when you have to fork over $10 for parking at an event that already costs $40. Let’s hope organizers can find a more budget-friendly, charming and accessible locale for next year.
That said, there were several excellent beers (and, yes, a couple of unfortunate ones) at the event. It was also great to chat with all kinds of beer folks, including Ken Anthony of Device, Brian Ford of Auburn Alehouse and Steve Sartori (a Sac State grad) of Altamont Beer Works out of Livermore. Uber-beer geeks Louie Toro and Sam Blackmon? Yes, they were there, too, and had plenty of opinions about what they were tasting.
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The beer highlights for me included a terrific barrel-aged beer from Twelve Rounds. Auburn Alehouse is known for its quality and consistency, and if you wanted an example of that, look no further than its Old Town Brown Ale. At 3.8 percent ABV, it’s a low-alcohol (a.k.a. sessionable) beer that exhibits a smooth, malty elegance, a touch of chocolate and a sprinkling of hops on the finish.
I also really liked the Device/Track 7 collaboration, an IPA featuring a new and exciting hop variety, Idaho 7. Keep an out of for more beers brewed with this hop, which shows plenty of fruit aroma and bright flavors of orange, apricot and more.
There were 51 breweries at the Showcase, though not all of them were local. How many breweries does the Sacramento region have now? Depends what day you’re asking. Let’s go with 40-plus. Watch for a handful of new ones opening very soon.
Sante Adairius and Hoeybier: If you were lucky enough to be at Pangaea on March 1 for the Sante Adairius night, you probably were as blown away as I was by the quality of the beers on offer, including the great West Ashley, a tart barrel-aged saison that’s rife with apricot and all kinds wonderful and mystical microbes that swim around and stir things up during the months spent aging in barrels. The lighter/brighter Hoeybier was a collaboration between the Capitola brewery and Peter Hoey, a former brewmaster at Sacramento Brewing and now in sales for BSG CraftBrewing, whose saison was aged in his brother’s white wine barrels. It was a packed house and the room was full of people who truly love great beer.
American River Brewing: Not an actual event but eventful nonetheless. American River Brewing stepped it up in time for Beer Week and showed off its sparkling new tasting room. The 3,200 square foot room in Rancho Cordova is the result of taking over the warehouse space next door, knocking a hole in the wall doing plenty to make it warm and inviting. There’s now room for 195 people. The original tasting room was just 600 square feet. The tasting room is open 4-8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and 2-7 on Saturday. Owner David Mathis said those hours will continue for now, but he might look at expanding the hours in the months to come.
Grange/Track 7 dinner: What happens when you pair an outstanding chef with a superb craft brewery that continues to raise its game? Oliver Ridegway, the executive chef at Grange, really loves good beer, and it shows. Here’s a chef who epitomizes Sacramento’s farm-to-fork ethos, but it’s his skill and range that make his food something special.
Highlights of the March 3 event included a chicken tikka masala and basmati rice dish paired with Track 7’s coveted Bloomer’s Cut IPA. Chef Ridegway was kind enough to provide an alternative vegan menu, which allowed me to enjoy the same exotic spiciness as mushroom tikka masala. It was first-rate. The dessert course was also a tour de force – tiramisu paired with Venus Venom Imperial Chocolate Cherry Stout. My dessert was a delicious vegan brownie with stout fudge and salted caramel. If you didn’t leave that dinner full, happy and encouraged about the future of Sacramento’s beer and dining scenes, you were doing it wrong.
Track 7 IPA Invitational: T7 has stepped into a leadership role in all kinds of ways, from its continued growth to its range of quality beer styles and willingness to push the envelope. This time, the Curtis Park/Natomas brewery hosted the inaugural IPA contest that will likely take hold as a significant event for hop houses near and far.
The Feb. 28 invitational, held at its Natomas taproom, included some of the best craft breweries on the West Coast and had several categories. The main category, “Best Use of Hops,” saw Saint Archer of San Digeo claim first place with its double IPA, followed by local favorite Device with its Anguish DIPA. Kern River was third. This confirms what many of us have been suspecting for a while now – some of the best IPAs are being brewed in the 916. Fieldwork took the People’s Choice award.
“It was very exciting,” said Device’s Ken Anthony. “I thought it was an extremely well organized and executed event. The entire team over there really put a lot of thought and effort into putting on a world-class event.”
It looks like the IPA Invitational will be back for 2017. Track 7 co-owner Ryan Graham said tickets were capped at 500 and sold out quickly.
“The general consensus was that the event was the proper size, the lines were good and short and it didn’t feel crowded,” Graham said. “We definitely could have sold more tickets, but we would have lost the intimacy of the event.”
And so much more: We’re not done. There’s still the Mikkeller tap takeover at Hot City Pizza (5642 J St., Sacramento) on March 5 and, of course, the grand finale with the Capitol Beer Fest (on Capitol Mall) from 1-5 p.m. March 6. General admission is $40.
I have spoken with numerous people about this year’s Beer Week and the consensus is that there was more great beer and more excellent events than ever. If this keeps up, will this thing eventually become Sacramento Beer Month?