With the very successful Sacramento Beer Week in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to take stock of the beers we’ve had and the ones we’ve loved. While some have complained that Beer Week is not “Sacramento” enough, we found plenty to enjoy in the 916 and 530 as well as some from farther afield.
New Helvetia Brewing: Mystery Airship 2.0 (8.3% ABV). This big, creamy, chocolatey beer with a little heat and a touch of spice is a collaboration with renowned chocolatier Ginger Elizabeth Hahn. It’s her signature Oaxacan hot chocolate that shines through and gives an edge to this delicious brew from the Sacramento beer maker.
Track 7: Bruxy Lady (6.8% ABV) We’ve touted the Panic IPA from this Sacramento brewing company, but lately we can’t get enough of the more esoteric barrel-aged offerings. This Belgian blonde ale made with wild Brettanomyces yeast and aged in chardonnay barrels has plenty of balance, from the funky note of the yeast to a smooth citrus vibe on the finish.
Mraz: Window of Opportunity (8.3% ABV), a Belgian-style tripel, won a gold medal at the 2014 California State Fair. With plenty of complexity and finesse, this beer from the El Dorado County brewery commands attention with the heat and sweetness from the alcohol and a touch of spice before a crisp finish.
Knee Deep: Lupulin River (8% ABV). Best known for Hoptologist, the breakout double IPA that put this once-tiny Auburn brewery on the map, Knee Deep knows how to use hops to great effect to create signature beers that pack a wallop but also show a sense of balance. I had this double IPA at the Brewers Showcase, poured by the brewmaster himself, Jeremy Warren. It’s another winner, with an exquisite aroma of a vibrant pine forest with tropical fruit potpourri.
Device: Integral IPA (7% ABV). What’s all the fuss about this minuscule Sacramento brewery busting at the seams to keep up with demand from hop heads? Brewmaster/owner Ken Anthony is simply making some of the best IPAs around. If you haven’t experienced his beer, this is the way to do it – a West Coast IPA with all the citrus and resiny notes you’re after but with a deft touch that distinguishes it from the competition.
GoatHouse: Effu Bruté (11.2% ABV). I asked local beer aficionado Louie Toro to pick a recent local beer that got him jazzed. In addition to “everything by Mraz,” he picked this one, a very big stout made with organic hops grown on the GoatHouse farm in Lincoln and aged in 10-year-old bourbon barrels. It is served on nitro, which gives it an extra-creamy mouthfeel.
Saint Archer: Pale Ale (5.2% ABV). While Sierra Nevada’s version is the all-time benchmark for this style, there’s something beautiful and daring about this San Diego brewery’s pale ale interpretation, which explodes with hoppiness yet is very drinkable and an excellent beer with food (we enjoyed it at home with juicy burgers topped with aged white cheddar).
The Bruery: Sourento (7.7% ABV). If you like lemon and a touch of funk, you’ll find this limited release from the barrel-aged and sour wizards in Orange County especially appealing. It’s a take on the limoncello liqueur that originated in Sorrento, Italy. Not every beer needs to be balanced or subtle. This is a sour beer experiment worth your while because it’s fun, a tad wacky, maybe, and delicious.
Bear Republic: Pinot Kolsch (5.4% ABV). This beer had a structure and elegance that blew me away, in part because I did not anticipate the tart grape flavor with an underlying sweetness. It’s made with this Healdsburg brewery’s standard Kölsch mixed with 10 percent pinot noir juice. One of the most memorable beers I had during Beer Week.
Stone and Russian River: Enjoy By 02.14.15 vs. Pliny. I bought these two great IPAs recently at Curtis Park Market (you have to ask for Pliny, but there’s no secret handshake), which says that the local beer scene has more access to great beer now than at any time in the city’s history. It’s also a reminder that when it comes to IPAs (or double IPAs), freshness is key. Know the brew date, keep them chilled and drink them ASAP.
Revisiting beer laws
Finally, beer and the law is in the news these days. The state’s complex alcohol laws are often open to interpretation and can sometimes snare innocent people acting in good faith. That nearly happened during Sacramento Beer Week, when confusion over sponsorship issues prompted some breweries to bail out of two major events amid speculation that they were being investigated by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Many agree that liquor laws are overly complicated and outdated and that it’s time for a summit to fix the problem so that breweries and wineries are no longer subjected to fines when they unwittingly violated laws penned long before there was an Internet, let alone a plethora of social media channels.
Closer to home, the success of local breweries means more of them are canning and bottling. But the city bans single-bottle sales in midtown and downtown even though 22-ounce bottles (not 6-packs) are the most popular size in craft beer. That puts midtown and downtown bottle shops at a disadvantage. With the Sacramento Visitors & Convention Bureau marketing the city’s craft beer appeal, among other things, many believe it’s time to revisit a well-intentioned law that now seems increasingly outdated.
Call The Bee’s Blair Anthony Robertson, (916) 321-1099. Follow him on Twitter @Blarob.