Food & Drink

Beer crafting goes back more than 170 years in Sacramento

Buffalo Brewery opened in 1890 at 21st and Q streets, where The Sacramento Bee is now.
Buffalo Brewery opened in 1890 at 21st and Q streets, where The Sacramento Bee is now. file photo

Key events in the history of beer in Sacramento:

1849 – A brewery and distillery begin operation at Sutter’s Fort and run for two years, catering largely to parched gold miners.

1849 – Peter Cadel (his name is also spelled Kadell) opens Galena Brewery, the city’s first commercial brewery, at 28th and M streets about 100 yards from Sutter’s Fort. The first beers were brewed and sold for 25 cents a glass (about $10 today). This marked the start of the first boom in local brewing, with a dozen or more breweries opening between 1849 and 1865.

1857 – Brothers Daniel and Wilson Flint plant the first local hops on a 16-acre parcel south of Broadway. Prior to this, breweries purchased hops, a key flavoring ingredient in beer, from Europe or upstate New York. Soon, other farmers arrived from the East Coast and Canada and planted hundreds more acres of hops.

1881 – Frank Ruhstaller opens Ruhstaller Brewery, his third brewery in Sacramento.

1890 – Herman Grau starts Buffalo Brewing at 21st and Q streets, where The Sacramento Bee is now. His stockholders include several successful local brewers, including Frank Ruhstaller, Philip Scheld and Louis Nicolaus. It was the largest brewery constructed west of the Mississippi, with an initial capacity of 60,000 barrels annually.

1897 – With brewery consolidations happening throughout the U.S., Buffalo Brewing and Ruhstaller’s Sacramento Brewing agree to a merger, though they keep their separate names.

1913 – With the death of Adolph Heilbron, who ran Buffalo Brewing and became one of the wealthiest men in town, Frank Ruhstaller Jr. takes over as president.

1920-33 – Prohibition, as embodied in a constitutional amendment, prohibited the manufacture, sale and transportation of alcoholic beverages. The law decimates the brewing industry, though Ruhstaller keeps Buffalo Brewing afloat by producing malt extracts, nonalcoholic “near beer” and retooling the brewery to manufacture ice.

1934 – Prohibition ends, and Buffalo Brewing begins producing beer again until 1944-45.

1987 – Ed Brown opens Rubicon Brewing in midtown, where it operates as one of just two craft breweries in town.

1989 – With former homebrewer Phil Moeller as brewmaster, Rubicon wins gold in the new India pale ale category at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival in Denver. Rubicon won again in 1990, paving the way for a hop-forward IPA that would evolve into the West Coast IPA style. Sudwerk Brewing opens in Davis, setting itself apart by specializing in lagers and brewing to the strict German standards known as Reinheitsgebot.

Beer flows straight from the tap at River City Brewing in 1997.

1993 – River City Brewing opens in downtown and stays until 2015, when the construction of Golden 1 Center forces it to relocate to Carmichael.

1997 – Sacramento Brewing opens and begins an influential 15-year run. The brewery won numerous major awards and hosted over 100 special beer pairing dinners.

1999 – Elk Grove Brewery wins Small Brewpub of the Year at Great American Beer Festival. The brewery closed in 2008. Its award-winning brewer, Bill Wood, now brews at Lodi Beer Co. Hoppy Brewing, which launched in the Bay Area in 1994, moves to Sacramento.

LEZLIE STERLING Sacramento Bee file
Elk Grove Brewery enjoyed a popular and award-winning run during its old-town existence from 1999 to 2008.

2005 – Glynn Phillips buys Rubicon, one of five local breweries.

2008 – Pangaea Bier Cafe (originally Pangaea Two Brews) opens in Curtis Park and begins serving top beers from around the world, especially from Belgium. In the following years, Capitol Beer and Tap Room, Final Gravity join upper echelon of beer bars.

2010 – A rare Buffalo Brewing sign, Golden Buffalo, sold at auction for $22,200.

2011 – Ruhstaller, a new brewery on the scene inspired by Sacramento’s beer legacy, opens and highlights its emphasis on brewing with local ingredients.

2011 – Beer enthusiast Dan Scott launches the first Sacramento Beer Week, which would eventually grow to 11 days and hundreds of lucrative events by 2017.

2012 – Track 7 opens a modest brewery in a small industrial center in Curtis Park and becomes a big hit, setting the stage for more industrial/warehouse breweries and tasting rooms throughout the region. New Helvetia embraces the legacy of Buffalo Brewing and opens on Broadway. Several more breweries open, including Loomis Basin, New Glory and American River.

MANNY CRISOSTOMO Sacramento Bee file
Track 7 Brewing opened in a warehouse in Curtis Park in 2012. In 2016 Track 7 launched the Brewery Invitational + Competition, with an emphasis on IPAs.

2012 – Unheralded Knee Deep, brewing out of a 900-square-foot facility in Lincoln, wins the prestigious Bistro double IPA competition in Hayward with a beer dubbed Hoptologist, beating Russian River’s renowned Pliny the Elder. In 2013, with Knee Deep suddenly in hot demand, the brewery moves to an 18,000-square-foot (now 28,000) facility in Auburn. The brewery now distributes in 28 states, Canada, Australia, Japan, Korea and Singapore.

2015 – With Sacramento emerging as a brewing center, the California Craft Brewers Association launches the California Craft Beer Summit, attracting hundreds of the state’s top brewing talent and solidifying Sacramento’s place as a force in beer. The summit will return for its third year in September.

2016 – More breweries open, including Sactown Union and Moonraker. Track 7 launches the Brewery Invitational + Competition, with an emphasis on IPAs. Moonraker’s Yojo, a hazy Northeast style IPA, is named by The Bee as “Beer of the Year.”

2017 – With 62 breweries listed on a map created for Sacramento Beer Frontier, a passport brewery concept, Sacramento beer continues to flourish. Moonraker, now one of four breweries in Auburn, is named best new brewery in California and ninth best new brewery in the world by RateBeer. A week later, Moonraker tops world famous Pliny the Younger at the Bistro triple IPA competition. During Sacramento Beer Week, Moonraker wins gold at the Track 7 Invitational, topping an all-star lineup.