If you’ve gotten into Sacramento’s thriving beer scene, you probably know about the best spots to get the good stuff. This week, however, I’m pointing you to some under-the-radar places that might surprise you, whether it’s a business better known for ice cream or a store that may have always looked more than a little janky.
Are these the next RoCo Wine & Spirits, Curtis Park Market or Hot City Pizza? It looks that way.
La Riviera Market & Spirits
9331 La Riviera Drive, Sacramento
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For years, this market in a hardscrabble neighborhood off Folsom Boulevard was perhaps best known for selling cheap booze to those down on their luck. About three years ago, owner Rahim (Ben) Khan decided to make a change.
He removed the tubs filled with ice and discount beer at the front of the store .. .and promptly started losing $5,000 a month. That was three years ago, and it was the start of a calculated risk.
“One day, I just decided to go all-out for craft beer,” Khan said. “I was afraid to sell a $10 bottle of beer, but people started buying three or four at a time.”
More beer lovers have begun to catch on that La Riviera has a large, thoughtful inventory of craft beer, including all kinds of small-batch eclectic labels from celebrated breweries near and far. His wife, Shabana, started running the store’s social media, and when she mentioned a hot new arrival on Facebook, the beer would promptly sell out.
4516 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento
On the other side of town in Land Park, this store is just beginning to experience a similar windfall. Under the former ownership, when it was was known as Come N Go, the market lost its liquor license and fell on tough times. New owner Kabul Singh did a six-figure renovation and dragged the dated convenience store business model into the 21st century. He enlisted the help of a friend, former professional beer consultant Robert Bayze, to get the store up to speed with craft beer.
That was in June. Those who stop in now are likely to be shocked by what they find – a small but mesmerizing selection of world-class beer, from local stars Track 7, Knee Deep and New Glory to rock stars like Mikkeller, Clown Shoes, Evil Twin, The Bruery and Almanac. I was blown away when I looked carefully through the refrigerated shelves – the beers ranged from really good to amazing. And the prices are often lower than many other shops.
Long’s Bottle Shop
420 Colfax Ave., Grass Valley
Known to locals for its wide range of craft beer, including hard-to-find stuff, Long’s is likely still unknown to Sacramentans visiting the area. There’s a special barrel-aged section, for instance, and all of the beers are meticulously cared for, meaning you won’t find any awesome IPAs and pale ales stored at room temperature.
“Every year, the craft beer seemed to grow and grow, but in the past couple of years it has just exploded,” said Dara Hang, whose family has owned the store since 2000. “Throughout the years, I’ve become more and more of a beer geek. I’m definitely into the craft beer community and the industry. I’m very passionate about it.”
3193 Riverside Blvd., Sacramento
Hey, we don’t mean to show a bias toward Land Park. It’s just that this well-established neighborhood has been underserved when it comes to good beer. Vic’s Ice Cream has been a local staple for years. A couple of years ago, they opened Vic’s Cafe and brought good coffee to the ’hood. To my surprise, the cafe now has a small selection of draft beer. The four taps rotate often, are mostly local and always good. And the price doesn’t disappoint – $5 for a pint.
Sutter Creek Provisions
78 Main St., Sutter Creek
Road trip, anyone? In the heart of Amador wine country, this is one terrific destination for beer lovers, set in a historic building dating to the 1860s. Darin Sexton, who owns the business with his wife, Casey, set up a small specialty foods shop (and bottle shop) on one side and a draft beer bar on the other. The 13 rotating tap handles offer a balance of styles, including a sour, something aged in barrels and a cider. Darin Sexton makes sure to have a nitro (as opposed to carbon dioxide) tap handle to provide that special textural drinking experience.
The selection rotates often. Check the Facebook page for regular live music announcements.