If there is one remaining impediment preventing casual and corporate beer drinkers from fully embracing craft beer, it would be the relentless trendiness.
“Old school” beer fans don’t necessarily like the nonstop turnover of tap lists, the over reliance on beer nerd-baiting styles or the way that fruit goes in everything now.
They have a point: go to any craft brewery in the area, and you’ll be lucky to find a style that isn’t some sort of IPA, pale ale, pastry stout or sour beer. However, peruse the tap list at the Crooked Lane brewery and taproom in Auburn (one of the best-looking tasting rooms in the region), and you always see traditional styles like hefeweizens and Helles lagers.
That’s not to say that Crooked Lane doesn’t crank out the west coast and hazy IPAs that the marketplace demands, but its list is balanced by award-winning, traditional European-style beers like their Wobblor doppelbock (a classic style that originated in Munich), or Veedels Brau, their renowned Kölsch (another traditional German style, this one created in Cologne).
“We wanted to design the portfolio of beers with something for almost everyone,” says co-founder Adrian Psuty, who created most of the Crooked Lane recipes. “If you like beer, there is going to be something on our board at any given time that will fit your palate.”
As the founders approach Crooked Lane's anniversary, they are preparing to expand production capacity, and have plans to dramatically increase their barrel-aging program.
Psuty resisted sour beers at first, fearful of their reputation for infection, but now Crooked Lane is clearing space to store over 120 barrels. “I really did not want to bring funk or bugs into the brewery until we had everything under control,” he says. “I was sweating bullets the day this pitch of lactobacillus came into the brewhouse.”
Through the first twelve months of operation, Crooked Lane brewed more than 40 distinct beers, and at one point had 26 different beers on their board. “The fun thing is to play with these traditional styles, then have the ability to do these trendy, one-off things,” says Psuty.
One of the trends that Crooked has embraced is releasing beer in cans. The owners already put a deposit down on a canning line. Fog of Dreams is a New England-style Imperial IPA brewed in collaboration with East Bay legends Drake’s, while Swamp Goddess is a triple IPA that blends hazy and west coast characteristics. Speaking of trends, Crooked Lane is also brewing a Brut IPAin collaboration with Mraz.
The cans will be released at the brewery in Auburn on Friday, but as part of a plan to expand distribution in the Sacramento area, 200 cases were sold to local retailers.
Crooked Lane is launching a full-scale assault during Sacramento Beer Week, with over two dozen events planned across the region. “The plan is to significantly expand on the distribution side, as well as have more frequent can releases onsite,” Psuty said.
The Auburn Party Bus, a four-pronged collaboration IPA created by the four Auburn-based breweries, will be promoted during Beer Week. The brewers used the same hop, grain and water profiles, but each fermented the beer with their own strain of yeast. Crooked Lane and Auburn Alehouse brewed their versions with lager yeast, while Knee Deep and Moonraker brewed theirs with ale yeasts.
“We’re not in competition with each other,” said Psuty. “All of us recognize that the continued growth of this industry is going to require that we touch people that have consistently been the pale, light lager drinker.”
“What’s good for one of us is typically good for all of us.”
Sacramento Beer Week
Sacramento Beer Week 2018 is in full swing, with tap takeovers, can releases, beer dinners, grand openings, festivals and other events across the region.
Events include a Mother’s Day brunches at Bike Dog, Capital Hop Shop and Kupros Craft House on Sunday ; a Monday pig roast at Dad’s Kitchen in Land Park; beer and cupcake pairings at Final Gravity in Roseville on Tuesday, and a beer dinner at Flatland in Elk Grove on Wednesday. SBW18 concludes on May 20 with the Track 7 IPA Invitational.
Visit sacbeerweek.com for information, more event.
Daniel Barnes is a freelance writer, film critic, beer enthusiast and one half of the blog “His & Her Beer Notes.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.