Food & Drink

Beer Run: Burned out on beer fests? Take it up a notch with Art of Beer

This year’s Art of Beer will have 37 breweries from the Sacramento region and well beyond.
This year’s Art of Beer will have 37 breweries from the Sacramento region and well beyond. Art of Beer

If you’re one of those craft beer fans who’s burned out on beer festivals in the Sacramento area – too many tiny plastic souvenir cups, too many long lines for beers you’ve already seen all over town – maybe what you really need is something a bit more focused.

That’s where the Art of Beer Invitational on Friday, Jan. 29, fills a void. It targets the aficionado.

Now in its fifth year, it’s designed for people who are looking for a more refined beer experience. No guzzling a brew from a thimble and getting in a long line for the next one. And especially: no more commonplace beers everyone has already tasted.

The Art of Beer is intentionally smaller, more expensive ($55 general admission) and more selective about which breweries come, what is poured and what kind of vibe there will be.

It’s basically what happens when thoughtful people attend plenty of other beer events and figure out A) what should be eliminated; B) what needs to be added; and C) what can be improved.

Art of Beer features 37 breweries, many from outside the Sacramento region, with a balance of newcomers, rising stars and established brewers and a few craft beer pioneers. There will be unlimited 4-ounce pours as well as food pairings featuring top local restaurants.

And, yes, there is art – 36 or more pieces by multitalented brewers and beer reps, along with plenty of fine art on display. Much of the art will be up for (silent) auction, with proceeds going to Ales for Autism, a charity that gets involved in beer-centric events to raise money for research, support and awareness efforts.

This year, Art of Beer for the first time will also have an educational component, with seminars on the ins and outs of brewing science, along with a panel discussion on women in beer for an additional $25. Barrelworks founder Jim Crooks will discuss acidity in beers and lead a tasting; and Tony Rau of Odell will take participants through a tasting of wild ales.

These hourlong events take place at 5 p.m. and involve an additional charge – $33 for a seminar, $25 for the panel talk. The main event is from 6-10 p.m. at McClellan Conference Center, 5411 Luce Ave., North Highlands.

“We’re never going to get 5,000 people in a room for the night. We don’t want that,” said Jennifer Irwin, co-owner of Art of Beer. “We’re inviting specific breweries that our audience has said they are excited about. We’ve listened to our guests about who they want to meet and how they want to experience that.”

The panel on women in brewing should inspire plenty of discussion. Irwin herself has a noteworthy craft beer trajectory. She attended the first Art of Beer five years ago to observe (she was pregnant with twins). The next year, she helped with social media. Her background is in nonprofit marketing.

By 2013, she was asked to become a partner.

“I went from a person who could not even tell you the difference between an IPA and a stout to in two years being co-owner of a beer festival and immersing myself in the craft beer industry,” Irwin told me. “It was an amazing time to do that. So much has happened in the industry in the past five years.”

Pizza Port arrives

Pizza Port has arrived. One of California’s most coveted craft breweries has made a retail foray into the increasingly crowded Sacramento craft market. I spotted Pizza Port’s distinctive cans recently at Curtis Park Market and Capitol Beer & Taproom. The latter will host a Pizza Port launch party/tap takeover Feb. 11. Hook & Ladder has it on draft. If you’re curious about a brewery that has won numerous medals at World Beer Cup and twice captured “Small Brewpub of the Year” at the Great American Beer Festival, be sure to check out these beers.

“Pizza Port is incredible,” said local beer aficionado Louie Toro when I mentioned the Southern California brewpub (it has five locations). “Their beer is extremely consistent for being as small as they are, and typically every beer is spot on to the style.”

“They have a great stable of beers and are definitely one of the forefathers in San Diego,” said Todd Fancher, beer buyer at Corti Brothers. “Since they’ve been here for a week, it has been my best-selling SKU (or bar code). It’s great beer at a great price point.”

The 16-ounce cans sell for $1.99 to $2.49, depending on the style. Corti is carrying the IPA, double IPA, amber and Pilsner. These are hot – the DIPA has already sold out – so you’ll want to act fast.

Yes, it’s great to support local, but it’s also necessary to see what the top breweries from outside the area are producing. When you do, you calibrate your beer palate and, more than likely, you’ll have a better understanding of how the local breweries stack up.

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