Beer Run

The Beer Run: a study in craft beer contrasts

Today marks the second day of Sacramento Beer Week, with a huge slate of events at pubs, restaurants and breweries throughout the region. In fact, there are so many great events (until March 9) that it’s impossible to A) attend them all and B) go wrong by attending different ones than those the experts recommend.

The only thing I want to stress is be careful about how you get to and from these venues. That means lining up safe transportation and paying attention to the alcohol content of these beers. Some are as high as 12 percent ABV.

But in this column, let’s highlight two noteworthy happenings – two grand openings – that say plenty about the new and still-improving craft beer scene. You’d do well to attend one or both of these.

New Glory Craft Brewery and Knee Deep Brewing are the two places in question, and they are significantly different in size, reputation, style and goals.

New Glory is a fledgling place, run by transplanted Frenchman Julien Lux, who wants to show people there are other styles of craft beer besides hop-forward (some would say palate-jarring) India pale ales. I’ve had his American Country farmhouse ale and was very impressed. It’s a bright, crisp and full-flavored take on a Belgian farmhouse ale, complete house yeast that give it hints of that tangy funk of a Belgian farmhouse but with more restraint, less sweetness and a cleaner finish.

New Glory, with two employees, brewed mostly for the local keg market for pubs and restaurants. Now, many months after it started brewing, and three weeks after opening its taproom to the public, it is getting focused on bottling.

Today’s grand opening will feature 12 beers. As the website says, it’s kid- and dog-friendly. Taste the beers, soak up the ambiance and get a sense of what this brewery is about.

Knee Deep is not a new brewery. It already had a growing reputation when it moved out of its minuscule digs in Lincoln to an 18,000-square-foot facility in Auburn several months ago. It has 13 employees and is expecting to hire four more this year. It started brewing in Auburn at the end of 2013. It distributes throughout California and is shipping full time to Ohio. It hopes to expand to New York, Michigan, Washington state and British Columbia in the new future.

Yes, Knee Deep is on the rise. The taproom setting is laid back and the design of the space is open, with a clear view of everything. Just the other day, several beer lovers looked on as 900 cases were bottled. Sure, they were geeks. But taprooms are all about embracing your beer geekiness.

“We had people standing there watching and asking questions and really enjoying the experience,” said co-owner Jerry Moore.

In contrast to most breweries that start small, Knee Deep focused on bottling its beer early on, when it was brewing in tiny digs in Lincoln. Local pubs often complained they couldn’t get kegs of Knee Deep’s excellent IPAs on tap because supply in kegs was limited. That’s starting to change at the new brewery.

Under brewmaster and co-owner Jeremy Warren, the brewery is winning legions of fans, and the beers – super-hoppy, bold, West Coast style IPAs with all kinds of character – have generated plenty of excitement. His Hoptologist and Simtra are getting famous. Knee Deep is about to release a triple IPA called Hopoholic that is 12 percent ABV.

The grand opening today features several new beers, including a “session” IPA with a 5 percent ABV. This style is proving to be very popular. I’ve seen session IPAs at New Helvetia and Bike Dog, among others. What’s the appeal? Big flavor, the same hoppy bitterness, without the big blast of alcohol.

New Glory wants to be a neighborhood craft brewery, and it’s gaining traction, while Knee Deep is thriving and expanding. We’ll be curious to check back during Beer Week 2015 to see how they are doing. By then, we’ll be talking about more new spots like Yolo Brewing, Oak Park Brewing and a new company called Fountainhead, whose test batches of IPAs I tried and enjoyed just last week.