Beer column: Don’t listen to the naysayers, craft is here to stay

Customers drink some of Porchlight’s brews on Tuesday in East Sacramento. The neighborhood-style brewery’s modest location feels like an oversized garage.
Customers drink some of Porchlight’s brews on Tuesday in East Sacramento. The neighborhood-style brewery’s modest location feels like an oversized garage.

You’ve probably heard the craft beer naysayers. Every year, they get a little louder.

There are too many breweries.

The industry is all hype.

There’s going to be some bankruptcies.

Here’s the thing. Beer lovers aren’t going back to drinking Bud Light. At least, not exclusively.

For the past five years, beer fans and critics have made a sport of guessing when the explosion in craft beer will end. But in 2017, craft beer had a 5% production growth while production dropped 1.2% in the industry as a whole, according to the national Brewers’ Association.

How does that happen?

Think about this: There should be a brewery in every town with at least a few thousand people.

What would that look like?

Meet Manny and Heather Cardoza, owners of East Sacramento’s Porchlight Brewing. Since buying the spot in June of 2017, the Cardoza’s have focused on fitting in with the abutting neighborhood. There’s a Nintendo, there’s an arcade machine, there are board games for kids. When neighbors complained about noise from concerts, they switched to quieter acoustic shows.

This isn’t the kind of brewery that’s about to challenge Sierra Nevada for the No. 1 production volume in the state.

“We’ve been able to make excellent craft beers and maintain that smallness,” Heather Cardoza said. “We’re successful and living within our means and we’re excited about that.”

Craft’s explosion is fueled in part by these little breweries. Instead of taking over the state or a region, they’re focusing on maybe taking over a neighborhood.

During a recent interview while the brewery was closed, three people walked over from a neighboring antique shop to see if they could grab a pint. They were sent away with a smile and a wave, but would have been served if they’d pushed for it. Happens all the time, the Cardozas said.

“We bought it as consumers of beer,” Manny Cardoza said. “We enjoy going to breweries around here. We enjoy spending time together and trying new beers. When this opportunity came up, we thought we’d try this.

“It has a neighborhood feel, friendly staff, it’s comfortable, those are all things that are important to us.”

Everything about Porchlight is modest. The brew kettle and fermentors are on the small side. A small home that serves as the company office sits in front, while visitors wander into what looks like an oversized garage for their beverages. It feels like you’re walking into a neighbor’s house. Sierra Nevada can’t compete with that experience.

That’s the way the Cardozas like it. Sure, they’d figure out a way to make a bunch more beer if consumers were clamoring for it. But they’re certainly content to pump out good brews for their growing neighborhood fans.

“I don’t have any aspirations of this being a Moonraker or a Bike Dog, who are expanding like crazy,” Manny Cardoza said. “I don’t see us going that direction. I just want to keep it as a neighborhood-style brewery.”

To be sure, you’ll see Porchlight beers around town. Paragary’s Midtown always has Porchlight’s Hype Train IPA on tap. You might even see some at a Kings game. That’s about it.

“You’re not going to see us everywhere. We’re going to be in a few select places,” Heather Cardoza said.

If you can’t find a Porchlight beer, you’ll find a Track 7 or Sacrament or New Glory. That’s what the beer world looks like.

And if you really want one, you might even be able to find a Bud Light.

Beer for Camp Fire Victims

In this column a few weeks ago, you were alerted to the upcoming brew date of Resilience, a special beer crafted by Sierra Nevada with all proceeds going to Camp Fire victims. After a couple of weeks in the fermenters, Resilience should be hitting shelves, tap rooms and bars this week.

Local options include Porchlight, Bike Dog and Fountainhead, among many others. With over 50 breweries within an hour drive of Sacramento, you’re best served using Sierra Nevada’s online mapping tool to find a brewery you’re interested in. It’s the holidays. We’re all buying a six-pack or a growler anyway. Buy Resilience and help out mankind just a bit.

James Patrick: 916-321-1767, @mesofunblog

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James Patrick has covered the beer scene from Maine to California. (OK, mostly just those two.) He’s worked at newspapers in six states as a sports reporter, sports editor, social media editor and newspaper carrier. He’s as comfortable drinking a High Life as a wild-fermented raspberry sour.