Beer Run

Loomis Basin looks to update old-school image without losing small-town vibe

mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

If you’ve ever been to Loomis Basin Brewing on a busy night, settled in at a table with a cold pint of beer and looked around at the bustling crowd, you’ve likely witnessed a special kind of vibe. Yes, there are plenty of very fine and very busy brewery tasting rooms around. But this is a small town throwing its support behind a small-town brewery.

It seems the entire crowd is composed of friends and neighbors, and if you happen to be an outsider, as I was, someone is probably going to make you feel like part of the family in a matter of minutes.

“A small town is like a big family. That’s Loomis’ little motto,” said co-owner Kenny Gowan. “It’s a bit of a different paradigm here. Loomis is only 6,000 people. Sometimes, if you come on a Friday night, it feels like half the town is here. I love that.”

Thursday afternoons are a different kind of special.

“I have a group that comes here every Thursday. They call it ‘going to church.’ They’re all 70 and 80 years old. Half of them have been the fire captain or the mayor once or twice. We open at 3 p.m. and they are out there every Thursday at 2:45, reading the paper until we open. It’s just a nice community feel,” Gowan said with a big smile.

“I love their beer and I love their people,” veteran beer judge Mike Moore told me. “They make solid old-school beers and they do great seasonal beers. Old school is a relative term – we could be talking five years ago. But in order to keep up, they’re going to have to make a few more new beers.”

Yes, if there is a knock against Loomis Basin, it’s that the brewery is more old-school than new and innovative. To thrive in 2017 and beyond, you probably have to be a balance of both, and Gowan doesn’t dispute this.

Gowan pointed to how Moonraker in Auburn created excitement with its Northeast-style hazy India pale ale; he mentioned his admiration for New Glory and how it recently changed course by offering a flurry of exciting small-batch releases in stylishly packaged cans.

Loomis Basin opened in 2010 and much of the brewery’s growth comes from word of mouth. That business model remains relevant, but a changing industry requires innovation, adaptation and persistent marketing. There are simply too many distractions out there to sit back and hope folks remember what you’re all about.

You can also spend so much time on customer service and brewing fundamentals that you don’t make time to grow your repertoire. Gowan and company have also been busy with the successful launch of the LBB GastroPub and Smokehouse.

Gowan, who works alongside his dad, a retired UPS employee, said he wants to reach out to other breweries and do collaboration beers. He also wants to be more nimble about producing creative small-batch offerings. He hopes to get outside of his comfort zone.

I told Gowan how much I liked his Golden Eagle Mandarin wheat ale, in large part because the infusion of Mandarin oranges makes it taste like Loomis. (The area is pretty much the mandarin capital of Northern California.) Gowan mentioned he was considering doing a barrel-aged sour version. That’s exciting.

He knows he needs to engage potential customers and the beer geeks among us on this thing called social media.

The brewery’s last message on Twitter was in June 2012. If you’re scratching your head and wondering why you’ve never heard of this place or had the pleasure of tasting the Mandarin wheat ale, that probably explains it.

Blair Anthony Robertson: 916-321-1099, @Blarob

Loomis Basin Brewing

3277 Swetzer Road, Loomis, 916-259-2739

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