Beer Run

Beer Week event: Nine collaboration beers pay homage to Sacramento Brewing Co.

New Helvetia brewmaster Brian Cofresi (left) collaborated with Peter Hoey to brew a batch of River Otter Ale, a popular English pale ale from now-defunct Sacramento Brewing Co.
New Helvetia brewmaster Brian Cofresi (left) collaborated with Peter Hoey to brew a batch of River Otter Ale, a popular English pale ale from now-defunct Sacramento Brewing Co. brobertson@sacbee.com

Peter Hoey no longer earns a living as a professional brewer, but somehow he keeps brewing – and brewing – professionally.

In recent weeks, he has become a phenom of collaboration beers in a whirlwind brewing schedule that saw him make beers at nine breweries, eight of them regional. The beers will pay homage to Sacramento Brewing Co., an influential craft brewery from 1994 until it closed in 2009.

All nine beers are Sacramento Brewing recipes and will be served from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, March 5, during Sacramento Beer Week at Rubicon Brewing, 2004 Capitol Ave. A special Facebook page has been created about the collaboration effort, and it includes a list of participating breweries and the beers they’ve made. The participating breweries are New Helvetia, Rubicon, Track 7, Loomis Basin, Auburn Alehouse, New Glory, Device, Monk’s Cellar and Noble Aleworks (Anaheim).

These collaborations are not just a show of respect for a craft brewery that didn’t quite make it into the new Golden Age of American craft beer but nonetheless had impact. I stopped in at New Helvetia, where Hoey and brewmaster Brian Cofresi were making the best-selling River Otter Ale; and at Rubicon, where pub brewer Chris Keeton worked with Hoey on Sac Squatch Scotch Ale.

“It was really wonderful,” Hoey said of the collaboration brewing. “Working with all the brewers, we got to share stories about their experiences at Sacramento Brewing. It was good for me because I put my heart and soul into that place, and when it closed it was tough. I was doing everything I could to draw attention to the fact we were brewing great beer, and when it happened it was very sudden. This was the first time I had been able to talk about it without feeling sad.”

“It’s a great honor,” Keeton said of the collaboration. “I wasn’t living here when Sac Brewing was around and I don’t think I was of drinking age when they closed down. … I’ve heard nothing but good things. For the chance for me to be a part of it, I’m extremely honored to do so. Not to mention the style of beer that we’re brewing. Scotch ales are one of my favorites — tons of malt, tons of character and it’s something that this (brewing) system loves to produce.”

“It will be interesting to see how many Sacramentans remember their beer history,” Cofresi said.

Though he is just 36 years old, Hoey has quite the legacy in town. Starting at age 19, he became something of a brewing wunderkind, a young man who had the palate, passion and knowledge to make excellent beer. When he was brewmaster at Sacramento Brewing, from 1998-2000 and 2006-2009, his beers won raves from customers and earned major medals in prestigious competitions. Between those stints, Hoey brewed for Sierra Nevada.

While Sacramento Brewing would usually fall under recent history, those days seem like another era when it comes to craft beer. Customers today are far more knowledgeable and adventurous – and there are plenty more of them. Even in his award-winning heyday, Hoey practically had to beg customers to try some of his more esoteric creations.

Hoey now works in sales for BSG CraftBrewing, traveling the West Coast to meet brewmasters and manage his many accounts. While it may be hard to coax him back to brewing full time, it was, he says, a chance for him to rekindle all those memories. The same will likely be said for the many Sacramento Brewing loyalists sure to attend, along with those who want to taste great beers that had been all but lost to history.

In related news, Hoey has a collaboration event for Beer Week at Pangaea, 2743 Franklin Blvd., Sacramento, on Tuesday, March 1, starting at 5 p.m. This time, he joined forces with venerable Sante Adairius Rustic Ales of Capitola for a saison aged in white wine barrels. The beer, called Hoeybier, will be on draft and available for sale in bottles, with a two-bottle limit.

Last time I checked, life was back to normal for Hoey. No racing from one brewery to the next. Hoey will be at Rubicon and Pangaea. If you get a chance to talk beer with him, his knowledge is encyclopedic and he’s a truly nice guy.

Blair Anthony Robertson: (916) 321-1099, @Blarob

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