Justin Chechourka says that when Sacramento craft brewers make beer, they are chasing their passions, not money. It’s about doing do something they love.
"That’s why I equate them to artists,” said Chechourka, whose book "Sacramento Beer: A Craft History" recently hit the electronic shelves of Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Chechourka started writing a blog about brewers two years ago because he wanted to tell the story of why people choose to get into the craft beer business, sometimes leaving their careers to take on the big financial risk of professional brewing, even on a small scale.
"It’s a pretty interesting cross-section of people,” said Chechourka, adding that the industry is made up of all different kinds of people with every kind of story.
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But Chechourka, who says beer is just his hobby, fits right in with them.
Chechourka was a journalist for 15 years, the last nine of which were spent at KCRA before he left the local news network three years ago. He's now a multimedia manager for the California High Speed Rail Authority. But now he can add author to his résumé as well.
Daniel Moffatt, co-owner and head brewer of Fountainhead Brewing Co., mentioned during an interview for Chechourka's blog that Arcadia Publishing had been fishing around for someone to write about the Sacramento craft beer scene.
Arcadia Publishing commissions books in craft beer hot spots all over the country, said Chechourka, and Moffatt set up the introduction.
The final contract was signed in mid-April of last year and the publishing company gave him about six months to turn in a draft, Chechourka said. Moffatt also wrote the foreword for the book.
"It was a whirlwind, for sure," Chechourka said.
His book is not the end-all, be-all for Sacramento craft beer history, said Chechourka, adding that he could have spent 10 years researching the region's craft beer industry during the Gold Rush. Instead, he set out to capture the narrative of craft beer in the region and hopes it will give people an appreciation of what it was, is and could be, along with a taste of the community it has created.
And he only had six months to do it.
Chechourka, who watched the Sacramento craft beer industry blossom during his time at KCRA, said the book is split up into the past, present and future. It also covers not just Sacramento but most of the region, including Placer, El Dorado, Sacramento and Yolo counties, along with a small portion of Solano County.
While he did use some of the interviews from his blog, Chechourka said he started from scratch when researching for his book, conducting 40 to 50 new interviews with brewers, historians and business owners.
Sacramento has a robust beer history that goes back to the Gold Rush, Chechourka says, but eventually the industry largely disappeared — until recently, that is.
The region is experiencing what Chechourka calls a craft beer renaissance, making it a perfect time to write about the industry, he said.
"The history of Sacramento beer is being made now,” Chechourka said, adding that the region has not just a craft beer industry again, but an industry that's changing the community, the region and the way people socialize.
Ten years ago we would have gone to a restaurant to do a fundraiser, but now we go to a brewery, said Chechourka, adding that people also aren't just making beer but creating businesses around the industry that don't involve brewing.
"It’s been very cool to be a small part of the craft beer community,” said Chechourka.
Chechourka will be doing a series of book signings at breweries throughout the region in the coming weeks. A full schedule can be found on his website (sacbeerbook.com).