There has been plenty happening on the local craft beer scene in recent weeks. This column missed a rotation while I was on vacation (and enjoying some great beer while relaxing), but now we’re back and scrambling to play catch-up.
The much-anticipated Yolo Brewing Co. is open and picking up steam in West Sacramento. The fledgling brewery has plenty of experience and savvy. Its owner, Mike Costello, ran the former Brew It Up at 14th and H streets downtown. As of this writing, the brewery was gearing up to have nine beers on tap for the weekend, including an oatmeal stout and a saison.
When the brewery settles in and gets up to speed, I’m told it’s going to forgo bottling and instead can all or most of its beer for regional retail distribution. Yolo Brewing (1520 Terminal St. in West Sac) is open Thursday and Friday from 3-9 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Nearby in West Sac, Bike Dog Brewing is already killing it. The place is so popular that the part-time brewer-owners (with full-time non-beer jobs) added an extra day – Thursday – of operations. And they’re getting ready to brew what has the makings of a very cool coffee stout in collaboration with Insight Coffee.
I recently was a fly on the wall as Bike Dog’s A.J. Tendick did a tasting at Insight with the coffee shop’s co-owner Lucky Rodrigues. The goal: to determine which style of coffee would blend best with the milk stout beer and, further, what the proper coffee-to-beer ratio would be. At one point, Tendick tasted one sample blend and opined, “Where did my beer go.” Too much coffee.
It was a very involved process and, it turns out, the coffees were so distinctive and intriguing that Tendick opted not to opt – Bike Dog will do three small batches, each with a different coffee. Watch for the trio of coffee beers and a milk stout without coffee to be released July 20 during brunch service at LowBrau. A tasting flight will include all four beers and will give folks a chance to see the flavor nuances different coffee varietals can impose on the same beer. You’ll also be able to calibrate your palate by tasting against the regular milk stout.
Speaking of Bike Dog, I did a 40-mile ride on the American River bike trail on a recent weekday and spotted five Bike Dog bike jerseys at different points along the way. The jerseys, with that now well-known logo, stand out from the crowd and are a cool way to promote the brand.
And speaking of marketing, in a past Beer Run we told you about the Sloppy Moose Running Club affiliated with New Helvetia Brewing on Broadway. It’s open to all comers. You show up, run 3 miles at your own pace, then finish up at the brewery and socialize over a pint or two. I’ve been there when the runners are around and know how popular it is. Now, the 700,000-plus readers of Runners World know as well. The popular magazine listed Sloppy Moose as one of “11 Great Beer Running Groups” in the United States. Congrats to the group and the brewery on doing something cool while getting healthy.
In a recent cover story in Feast, I told you about the new-look Sudwerk Brewing in Davis. The longtime brewery is positioning itself for the increased competition and brewing some great new beers along with tried-and-true favorites, now called West Coast craft lagers. The approach seems to be a hit with beer judges. At the recent California State Fair Commercial Craft Brew Competition, Sudwerk earned the most medals (four) of any brewery in the lager categories, including gold for its Marzen Amber Lager. Sudwerk appears headed for big things in the months ahead.
American River Brewing continues its steady rise. Its River Bend Hefeweizen placed second at the State Fair competition in the German Weiss category. It also just celebrated getting its bottles of Hop Herd IPA in three area Total Wine locations along with area BevMos. That’s a big deal for a young brewery trying to expand its customer base.
Mraz Brewing in El Dorado Hills is also basking in State Fair glory. The brewery won two gold medals: for Window of Opportunity, a Belgian tripel ale; and for the Cardinal, a Flanders red ale. Winning is bound to enhance name recognition and get more people to make the trip to Mraz.
Finally, bottle-share groups are increasingly popular in craft beer. It’s a simple process: Get together with like-minded folks, bring some interesting beers not seen every day, then taste, talk, repeat. But how do you find such like-minded people? Longtime beer aficionado Louie Toro, best known as the guy who fixes cracked cellphone screens for countless Sacramentans, was part of a bottle share meet-up at Old Town Pizza and Tap House in Elk Grove. I asked him how it came about. Turns out, low-tech Louie is now a proponent of Untappd, a social media site for rating beer. He uses the Untappd app on his phone.
That’s how he connected with fellow beer lovers in the area (his handle, note the spelling, is “thawirelessgod”). Six of them, all strangers to each other, met, and Toro says the beers were outstanding and that he made new friends. They picked a “best in show” from that night, B.O.R.I.S. (barrel-aged oatmeal imperial stout) by Hoppin’ Frog Brewery in Akron, Ohio. Anyone interested in participating in the next round can connect with Toro via Untappd. Toro has been using the app for three months and has already rated 200 beers.