You need a scorecard to keep up, but last I heard there were 58 or 59 craft breweries that were either open or in the process of opening in the Sacramento region.
With so many breweries, now is the time to get out there and explore. This is the kind of casual social activity that simply did not exist in Sacramento five years ago. It’s also a new source of local pride and, with just a little vision, a potential tourist attraction.
Sure, it’s great to support your favorite spots, but let’s take advantage of the variety out there by making this a project. With that in mind, I have done the interviews to help you decide how you want to tackle this very cool, very local adventure.
The Epic Adventure
Meet John Foster, Matt Tucker and Matt Eiferle, longtime pals who came up with the idea of setting a local benchmark when it comes to visiting breweries in one day. They did 15. I hesitate to use the words “Guinness” and “record” in the same sentence in a beer column. For all I know, in Belgium, hitting 15 breweries in one day is simply known as Saturday!
The trio agreed on one rule from the outset: They had to have a pint of beer at each brewery. Yes, they had a designated driver. And no, they would never do this many places again. But you don’t get in the newspaper by visiting five or six.
“I think 10 breweries is probably the sweet spot,” said Foster with a shrug. Read into that what you will. No one got arrested. No one got punched in the nose. That server they spilled a beer on at Hoppy Brewing? She got an extra-generous tip.
These guys had a blast and remember most of it. Their day began at New Glory around noon and ended in midtown at Rubicon at 11:40 p.m.
“Our biggest mistake was we didn’t eat,” said Eiferle, whose favorite spot is Device.
“I had never been to Bike Dog. It’s a tiny place and it was hot and stuffy, but the atmosphere was great,” said Tucker, who also puts Device at the top of his list.
Foster, who went to California State University, Chico, where Sierra Nevada was his benchmark brewery in his formative years, called Bike Dog’s Mosaic Pale Ale “probably my favorite beer in the last 10 years.”
“I’m going to throw the gauntlet out there – let’s do them all in a long weekend,” said Tucker.
Foster: “You were a math major. What’s 59 divided by three?”
During our interview, they settled on making their next attempt over a week. We’ll keep you posted.
The Couple Excursions
Greg Wilson and Erin Stumpf have been together six years and married for three. Both are very active and enjoy running and cycling. Often, they’ll combine their workouts with their brewery trips. For instance, a long run in Auburn can be followed by a visited to Knee Deep, Auburn Alehouse or now Moonraker (and soon, Crooked Lane Brewing).
The local brewing scene in the last five years, said Stumpf, “has gone from zero to 60.”
“If we plan a little day excursion, we’re usually looking, ‘OK, what breweries are around there? Where can we go while we’re in this area?’ ” she added.
The couple typically share a tasting flight, then pick one or two they might order as a full pint.
By now, they have visited all but three or four of the 50-plus regional breweries. At home, they have a map with pins marking their visits.
With their wealth of knowledge, it would be a good idea for breweries to listen to several of their conclusions. Wilson said it’s time for breweries to expand beyond hoppy IPAs. I already see that happening. He’d also like to see more emphasis on pairing beer with food. I’ve seen that on a limited basis, but breweries could coordinate with food trucks more often to come up with some inspired pairings.
Wilson would also like to see breweries graduate from their bare-bones warehouse-y ambiance to something more refined. We’re starting to see that, too. American River just renovated and expanded its tasting room, for instance. Sactown Union has plenty of style.
The Devout Soloist
Lee Smith is a serious beer lover and has made it a point to visit every brewery in the area. The places getting ready to open? He’s ready and waiting.
“The nice thing now is we have destinations. In West Sac, you do make a nice circuit with Yolo, Bike Dog and Jack Rabbit and make that a nice afternoon,” Smith said. “You can do the same with New Glory and Device, and if you extend it a bit you can do Sactown Union and Twelve Rounds.”
His favorite? Bike Dog.
“Every time I’m there, they surprise me with something and their beer is really good,” he said.