Beer Run

Feast Q&A: Troy Paski on his Hoppy Brewing Co. turning 20

In a town full of burgeoning breweries, Sacramento’s Hoppy Brewing Co. is celebrating its 20-year anniversary.

Hoppy’s owner, Troy Paski, has had a front-row seat to the Capital City’s evolving (and now exploding) beer scene, and while the competition has increased, Paski sees the rising tide of craft beer as lifting all breweries.

It also helps that Hoppy – as its name indicates – was ahead of the curve when it came to celebrating the ingredient that’s become inseparable from the now-famous “West Coast IPA” style.

The company’s logo, a smiley-face sun with rays shining below it, also has helped define the brewery.

“We try to be fun, we try to be friendly,” Paski said. “We try to ensure that you have a good time when you’re drinking our beer.”

Paski said he’s received some negative feedback on the logo at beer festivals, but “the only thing I can tell these people is almost everyone who sees our logo will remember it.

“You’ll either like it or you’ll hate it, but you’ll remember it,” he said. “I think that’s one thing that separates us from other people.”

Your company was a front-runner in the IPA scene.

We were making hoppy beer before people knew what hoppy beer was. Our beer was a precursor to the West Coast IPA, which is now not-so-much of an IPA style. The IPA category now is a huge canvas, and you just throw a dart at it and pick wherever it lands and call it an IPA. IPA is just a good buzz word right now. People don’t care who’s making it, they just want to think it’s an IPA.

Has the emergence of so many new breweries over the past few years changed how your company does business?

No, not at all. We get people who are looking for new beer, so our bartenders have to be more aware of where the new breweries are located so they can tell people where to try new beer. People are looking for new and different, and we have two brewer specials that are new and different, but our customers, our regulars, like coming in a knowing they can get their burgers, their ribs and their pint of Hoppy Face (Amber Ale). That’s important to them.

So loyalty is pretty important for you?

It’s incredibly important. Having regular, loyal customers is bread and butter. They’re your foot soldiers out in the field telling their friends and business partners about us. Getting somebody across the threshold and through the door is a big challenge for not just us, but for all bars and restaurants.

What are some emerging trends in the Sacramento beer scene?

Well, there’s a lot of people getting into canning beer. It’s a big trend for craft beer all over and we’ve toyed with the idea off and on. We haven’t ruled out going into cans, but right now I’m comfortable with our production. Other trends, there’s just a lot of people opening breweries, and just like with the real estate boom-and-bust cycle that California has, there are definitely people around now who won’t be around in five years.

So do you have any advice for new brewers?

If you were brewing as a hobby and now you’re doing this as a job, you’re going to have to find a new hobby. You have to find something else to do with your time when you’re not working, because if you take your hobby and make it your job, what are you going to do in your free time?

What do you do with your free time instead of making beer?

I play a lot more chess than I used to. I read all the time, not just books, but news. I see a lot more sports than I ever did. I’m kind of a baseball junkie, not just for the game itself but for going to different parks.

When people talk about old-school Sacramento craft beer, they usually mention Rubicon. Why do you think Hoppy doesn’t get as much recognition, even though it’s been around for decades?

That’s true, and Rubicon is awesome. I think they get a lot because they get a lot of influence with the hipster midtown people. We get more starter families that moved from midtown to Tahoe Park, Elmhurst, east Sacramento and River Park. It’s a more established customer base. We’re not a starter bar. There are other bars that are training people to drink, but we get more experienced beer drinkers.