When Der Biergarten opened in midtown last January, it had a novel and highly anticipated concept. Not only would it be focusing on mostly German beer for its 32 tap handles, it would serve its beer and food outdoors.
Using shipping containers to build its structures, and leaving the picnic benches out in the elements, owner Sean Derfield was taking a calculated risk that there would only be so much rain – and only so many days the business would be forced to close for the day. As he rightly thought, no one likes to drink beer while shivering in a chilly mid-winter deluge.
So far in 2014, Der Biergarten has closed for just nine days. But as we all know, we’ve been in the throes of a serious drought. But Derfield is preparing for the possibility of an El Niño situation for the coming winter, meaning there could be much more than the typical 35 days of annual rainfall (although the chances of that are looking less likely).
Still, even a slim chance of a heavy-rain season is a daunting forecast for a bar and eatery that depends on sunshine. Not only is there a potential loss in revenue, but how do the employees pay bills when they could be off work for days on end?
So Derfield, who also owns the River City Saloon in Old Sacramento, looked into a couple of tent options. One, a 40-by-40-foot option, would cover the entire seating area and would cost $3,000 a month to rent, essentially doubling Der Biergarten’s rent. The other, two 20-foot pop-up tents, Derfield would purchase for $2,000 each.
Problem is, the city isn’t exactly making things easy. The tent company says there’s no way he needs a new building permit. The city tells Derfield he just might.
I stopped by Der Biergarten on a recent evening and had a great time. There was a steady crowd, the beer was superb – I had a Maui Oktoberfest (6.3 percent alcohol by volume) and a Clown Shoes Hoppy Feet black IPA (7.1 percent ABV) – and there were even a few dogs snoozing at the feet of their owners.
Derfield has already had his setbacks when it comes to being new and different. Those much-ballyhooed shipping containers that were supposed to cut building costs and give midtown a touch of progressive architectural panache were not so well-received by the city Planning Commission or the county’s Health Department. As a result, those rustic steel boxes you’d find on cargo ships have been covered up with a standard building facade.
Nevertheless, the place has found an audience and is generating excitement. That lot had been vacant for years. Derfield is banking on fewer city-imposed roadblocks when it comes to his tent solution.
“I’m very optimistic the city is willing to work with us,” he said. “We just have to find out how to do this in the best way possible.”
Ruhstaller’s open, indeed
If you’ve gone downtown to watch the dramatic demolition of the mall to clear way for construction of the new arena, you may be wondering what’s up with the cool Ruhstaller taproom at 630 K St. There may be clanging, smashing and bashing all around it, but it’s still open from 3-9 p.m. Thursday to Saturday. Ring the buzzer outside the doors near the Seventh Street bus stop to be let in.
Ruhstaller also just opened its hop farm tasting facility near Dixon. You can drop in for a beer and sit outdoors amid a field of hops. It’s open noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through the fall. Coming from Sacramento on I-80, it’s the Kidwell Road exit.
Speaking of local hops, Ruhstaller will soon be launching its 2014 iteration of Hop Sac, a wet hop ale using whole cone hops. There will be two bottlings. One with hops from Dixon, the other featuring a Sloughhouse crop.
Local beers gain hold
It wasn’t so long ago that you could stop in at some of our better local restaurants, scan the beer list and not find anything local. Those days are all but long gone, reports Dave Gull, one of the owners of New Helvetia Brewing.
“We see the conversations that are happening, people just constantly talking about craft beer,” said Gull. “It’s hitting the media. The biggest proof of this is how the central city restaurant operators have reacted. Several of them are now exclusively carrying local craft beer.”
Award-winner for sale
Fans of Mike Mraz of Mraz Brewing in El Dorado Hills know he has a talent for Belgian-style beer. If you’re curious, leave time open on your calendar on Sunday. That’s when he starts selling bottles of his Flanders Red Ale, the beer that won him the Maltese Falcon Award for best homebrewer in California. The momentum helped launch his brewery. This recipe went on to win a gold medal at the 2014 California State Fair Craft Brew Fest in the sour beer style.
A batch of this will also be entered in the upcoming Great American Beer Festival, Oct. 2-4, in Denver. Mraz is at 2222 Francisco Drive, Suite 510, El Dorado Hills. Tasting room hours are 3-10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 3-11 p.m. Friday, noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.