If you’re curious what the emerging Sacramento beer scene is like and how it’s perceived elsewhere these days, you’re bound to get a good sense of what’s up on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, at the once tiny and unheralded Device Brewing.
Open since the summer of 2013, Device is now a serious player in local craft beer, and I’m not alone in ranking its Integral IPA as one of the best beers in town. And the scary thing is just how many great beers there are now in the Sacramento region, including in nearby Winters, Nevada City and Plymouth.
Little by little, the rest of the state has started to hear about Sacramento, as our breweries continue to produce new and exciting beers and win significant statewide, national and international medals. Just in the past few months, Beer Run has heard as much from the likes of Tom McCormick of the California Craft Brewers Association and Natalie Cilurzo, of Santa Rosa’s Russian River Brewing Co.
When Device owner/brewmaster Ken Anthony was at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver in September, he met San Diego-based Alpine Beer Co. co-founder Pat McIlhenney. Anthony earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in structural engineering at the University of California, San Diego, and has been a big fan of Alpine’s beer.
“Alpine was one of the breweries I really looked up to and I went there quite frequently,” Anthony said. “When I met Pat at GABF, we struck up a conversation and he said, ‘We should do a collaboration.’ I told him, ‘Don’t tease me like that,’ but he said he was serious.”
The two men coordinated via email and in late October, McIlhenney came to Device to brew for two days, working with Anthony on a special IPA. Alpine has a stellar reputation and last year merged with San Diego’s Green Flash to expand its distribution.
“When Pat was here, I asked him what made him want to do the collaboration, and he said he had heard good things about Device and good things coming out of Sacramento,” Anthony said. “It was an honor to just collaborate on a recipe, but to actually be physically brewing with him and watching the way he does things was great.
“We employed a couple of Alpine’s proprietary techniques to this beer. It was stuff we never do. There are a couple of things that I can’t really mention. The techniques make Alpine beers look and taste and smell like Alpine beers. It was really an awesome learning experience for us to try new things.”
McIlhenney didn’t just brew and dash. He’s so excited about the collaboration that he’s making a special return trip to attend the release party Wednesday. Device normally opens at 3 p.m. but will be serving from noon to 9 p.m. that day.
This very aromatic beer has the characteristic Alpine hop haze, according to Anthony, is gently bitter at 45 international bittering units (IBUs) and is 7.5 percent alcohol by volume. It is brewed with Citra and Mosaic hops, along with two New Zealand hop varieties, so expect plenty of citrus aroma, stone fruit and probably some tropical fruit. In addition to the tasting room, the collaboration will be available at select locations, including Capitol Beer and Tap Room, Pangaea Bier Cafe, Selland’s Market-Cafe and The Shack.
This is the kind of thing that elevates the profile of Sacramento beer.
“We in Sacramento are making some outstanding beers and we have the attention of a lot of other brewing communities,” Anthony said. “People often think of Portland, San Francisco, San Diego, Bend and Seattle. I think Sacramento is becoming one of those cities people think about when they think about craft beer.”
One of the signs of a successful and maturing beer scene is the emergence of secondary beer businesses. We’ve seen that with Sac Brew Bike, the fast-growing pedal-powered business that now has three vehicles and, just recently, opened its taproom on 19th Street in midtown.
Now there’s Brewery Card, which offers a host of discounts at a growing list of regional breweries. The card offers plenty of deals for consumers, who can purchase a card through the website for $50. The savings range from 10 to 50 percent off and don’t expire until Dec. 31, 2016, meaning if you return to a brewery you can get the same deal over and over.
Participating breweries can be found online. The venture is an offshoot of Sip California, founded by the husband-wife team of Dennis and Dana Hall. They started in 2012 selling discount wine cards for the Lodi region, then expanded to Napa, Sonoma and beyond.
“They essentially become part of an ale trail,” Dennis Hall said of participating breweries. “The card brings people to places they might not otherwise know about.”