Beer Run

Lessons learned from Oak Park Brewing’s big opening weekend

Oak Park Brewing opened to the public as a brewery and full-service restaurant with a couple of high-volume days last weekend.
Oak Park Brewing opened to the public as a brewery and full-service restaurant with a couple of high-volume days last weekend. Bee staff

On Nov. 8, a sunny Saturday, an estimated 1,200 to 1,400 people flocked to a renovated warehouse space along a once-downtrodden section of Broadway to sample beer from Sacramento’s latest sudsery. Sunday also saw a sizable draw.

So what can we learn from Oak Park Brewing’s amazing opening weekend?

▪ Lesson 1: The brewery did no traditional advertising. It wasn’t in the budget. But it worked its social media strategy well, keeping folks updated about when the brewery would open, after several frustrating delays. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are great ways to make friends, tell your story, create a personality and build a foundation for a devoted customer base. Yes, the beer has to be good. But if you’re not good with social media, you’re getting thumped by the competition.

▪ Lesson 2: People started telling me about the beer weeks before the brewery opened because Oak Park Brewing participated in a nearby “Gather” street party event and served some of its beer. People started talking. Anticipation grew. You have to get out and find creative strategies to get your beer in people’s hands.

▪ Lesson 3: We’re growing as a craft beer town, but we’re not close to saturation, despite what some naysayers keep predicting. People want to support new ventures, and they’re thirsty for more.

▪ Lesson 4: Now that we’re getting more sophisticated about craft beer, it’s not enough to simply brew quality beer. The beer has to be compelling in some way. Oak Park is focusing on English and Belgian styles, which should distinguish it from the competition. Remember when craft beer was all about IPAs and a hoppy smack in the face? That’s changing.

▪ Lesson 5: Sacramentans love outdoor spaces, and this brewery has a killer patio. Lots of craft breweries don’t have patios, and it can be frustrating. Oak Park Brewing’s new patio, which has room for 80 people and will soon have a stage for live music, could rival Berryessa Brewing in Winters for best al fresco imbibing.

Rain strategy in progress

Drinking outdoors in Sacramento is great except, of course, when it’s raining.

Rain? Yeah, it’s a thing that used to happen. We’re hoping it happens on a regular basis this winter. Sean Derfield, owner of Der Biergarten, has been trying to find a solution for the rain. We told you about his efforts in an earlier column. He did a test run of a large temporary tent on Halloween, but the fire department wound up saying it was too large and too close to a neighboring structure (The Golden Bear).

So it’s back to the drawing board and, for now, Der Biergarten will be closed when it rains. Derfield says he’s looking at new designs and is not giving up.

Federalist opening nears

Another outdoor spot, Federalist Public House & Beer Garden, is getting very close to opening.

This unusual and creative venture is in a midtown alley and, like Der Biergarten, used industrial shipping containers in the design. I rode my bike past there last weekend and it looks immaculate and ready to roll. Owner Marvin Lee Maldonado says it should be up and running within two weeks, once a couple of minor permit-type issues are resolved. Federalist will have 11 beers on tap, 20-30 in cans or bottles and will emphasize local and regional breweries. There will also be wine and kombucha.

Chef Shannon McElroy will be making wood-fired pizza using the classic Old World sourdough starter method for making and fermenting the dough. That’s an impressive and ambitious approach, and we’re eager to see how it’s executed. The kitchen will also offer an assortment of small plates, charcuterie, pickled items, salads and, get this, a midtown interpretation of shawarma.

Federalist held a job fair Wednesday and expects to hire 15 folks for the front of the house and about 15 in the kitchen. The address is 2009 N St. (Matsui Alley), Sacramento.

New Mexico hops ahoy

One of the trends with craft beer is sourcing local hops. We’re seeing some of that in Sacramento, which was once considered the hops capital of the nation before Prohibition. Now comes an exciting new hop angle I had not considered. I just received a 24-ounce bottle of Sierra Nevada Wild Hop IPA, which the famed brewery calls the first nationwide release showcasing Neomexicanus, a wild hop variety found in New Mexico. The beer has an aroma of melon, apricot and citrus. Watch for this beer on store shelves this week. We’ll give you our impressions soon.

Brewing expert to talk

Most craft brewers started brewing beer at home. That goes for everyone from Dave Estis at Oak Park Brewing to Ken Grossman, the legendary founder of Sierra Nevada.

If you love beer and are looking for a new hobby – or if you’re already brewing and want to up your game – you’ll want to attend a presentation by Amelia Slayton Loftus, author of the book “Sustainable Homebrewing.” It’s set for 6:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at the Central Library’s West Meeting Room, 828 I St., Sacramento. She has been brewing organic beer for 20 years and operated a home-brew supply store from 1997 to 2011. Local home-brew supply shop Brew, Ferment, Distill will sell copies of the book at the event.

The lecture is free, and the author will answer questions afterward. This is a good chance to learn new tricks and perhaps meet other like-minded folks.

Turkey sandwich pairing?

With Thanksgiving on the way, we wondered about the best beer pairing for a classic leftover turkey sandwich. If you have an idea, let us know (you can email or tweet) and we might include it in the next Beer Run.

Call The Bee’s Blair Anthony Robertson, (916) 321-1099. Follow him on Twitter @Blarob.

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