BarWest has never been known as a craft beer hotspot, but that is changing quickly.
Owner Trevor Shults, who got his start as a bartender years ago, saw that quality beer was where it’s at in Sacramento and decided to make a change. The new concept, featuring 24 tap handles and upgrades to the food menu, just launched in conjunction with Sacramento Beer Week.
Among other events, BarWest, 2724 J St., was one of the local places that served the legendary – and limited – Pliny the Younger, a triple India pale ale.
Q: You’ve been in the bar game for several years. Describe the evolution of the beer scene here.
A: Back in 2002 when I was bartending at Blue Cue, it was Bass, Amstel Light, Michelob Ultra, Coors Light. That was kind of it.
Q: And if you went out with your buddies, you’d get the same beer every time.
A: You were that kind of drinker. You were a Miller Lite guy. Or you were a Coors Light guy. Now everything’s about trying new things. You’re still going to have the Coors Light drinker. What I see a lot of now is people trying the new beers coming in, having a Track 7, maybe trying a porter, and if they happen to be an old-school Coors Light drinker, they’ll say, “I need to wind down a bit. I’ll have a couple of Coors Lights.” You see a lot of that. You also see a lot more drinkable daytime beers. Lagunitas has a 4.3 percent lager. So they’ll switch to that because these 12 percent and 9 percent beers catch up to you.
Q: I don’t think “sessionable” was a word when you were a young bartender.
A: It wasn’t. The word did not exist. Back then, waste was a huge thing, so it was all bottled beer. Bottles were a way to control waste. A lot of places never had a draft system. The thinking was, why would they want to waste anything on foam?
Q: When did you open BarWest?
A: It was 2011.
Q: What is the change you just made?
A: We inherited an old six-handle (draft) system. We converted our three-door fridge into a couple of direct draws, and we had 12 total beers.
Q: In 2011, Sacramento was just about to boom but hadn’t gotten there yet.
A: It hadn’t happened yet. I had a big selection of bombers (22-ounce bottles) in here and they sat around, even the really good stuff. It was a tough thing to keep in my inventory and we eventually phased it out that first year. The clientele wasn’t drinking that. It was too much for them. I remember I brought in a Sierra Nevada/Dogfish Head collaboration, and it just sat there. It was a really cool beer but people weren’t drinking it yet.
Q: When did you start realizing you were ready to make a change?
A: A couple of years back, I knew we needed to expand our draft system. Our clientele started asking, “Why don’t you have more local beers on draft? When don’t you have better-quality beers on draft?” I knew it was coming, but the investment was $20,000 to put in this new draft system. It was a timing thing. When do I bite off that amount?
Q: How long did you have to shut down?
A: Permitting was a struggle. Nothing in life is easy. I’m not one to whine about it. I just wanted to get through it. We closed for four days.
Q: How much are permits?
A: $1,800 for a minor permit.
Q: Now that you have 24 tap handles and there’s a lot more competition than there used to be, how are you going to reposition BarWest?
A: We knew we had to prepare for launching all of our new beer categories, so we spent a lot of time on Beer Week. We knew it was our opportunity to say, “BarWest now has a really good beer selection.” There is a base crowd here that was already into craft beer, but there is a perception that needs to be changed. People would walk in here and say, “Man, you don’t have any good beer in here?” That perception needs to change.
Owner, BarWest, Crawdads On The River, Vanguard 1415
Shults recently decided to tweak the concept at the popular midtown bar/restaurant BarWest to emphasize craft beer.