Beer Run

Readers’ top-five lists offer wide variety of solid Sacramento area brewery choices

Bee reader Tim Taylor poses alongside one of his favorite Sacramento area beers.
Bee reader Tim Taylor poses alongside one of his favorite Sacramento area beers. Tim Taylor

Based on the tremendous response I received from readers to a recent Beer Run, I can tell you which breweries are the best – or more accurately, the most popular – breweries in the Sacramento region.

A few weeks ago, after noting how much trouble I had narrowing down the list of 50-plus breweries to a personal top five, I made the point that my struggle is a sign of just how good the local beer scene has become. Then I asked you to weigh in with your own picks.

There were so many emails that I can include only a sampling, but it’s clear that 12 to 15 breweries can make a compelling case for being in the top five, according to readers. Your many lists have been especially helpful to me, as one role of Beer Run is to understand which breweries are thriving and why.

As I noted, compiling a top-five list these days is not easy. You’ll likely jot down five off the top of your head, read it over and go, “Oh wait! I left out so-and-so.” In sending me their lists, several readers included their ages (they ranged from their mid-20s to mid-60s). Several seemed to enjoy the challenge of compiling the list.

“Thank you for ruining my Sunday morning,” wrote Jeffery C. Long, a Sacramento attorney whose email made my Sunday afternoon. “I have spent the last three cups of coffee having an internal debate about the ‘top five’ question. As a frequent brewery patron, I have had this discussion many times and it never gets easier.”

Long went on to offer his list, which put Device at the top (“They simply make the best IPA and triple IPA in town), followed by Mad Fritz (located outside the Sacramento region in St. Helena, but I’ll cut him some slack because I love it, too), Bike Dog, Berryessa and Heretic (also outside the region, but barely). What does this list show? Like a lot of people, Long is engaged in the beer scene, has great taste, and is more than willing to make the rounds to track down superb beer.

Bike Dog is one of the breweries that stood out on many readers’ lists. Wait! Wasn’t Bike Dog supposed to be a tiny, intimate nano brewery run by four guys who were going to hang on to their day jobs? Indeed, it was. And the owners still have those jobs, though we wonder when they sleep. But the brewery is growing, its reputation is flourishing and bigger and better things await.

Many of the expected favorites did well in this unscientific poll, including Knee Deep, Berryessa, Track 7, New Glory, Device, Rubicon and Hoppy. Jack Rabbit and Yolo also did well. Two stand out as being underrepresented, however: Auburn Alehouse and Sudwerk. Both make consistently terrific beer.

Darrin Conrad writes: “I live in Modesto and am quite jealous of the selection available to the Sacramento population. My friends and I regularly do the ‘beer tour’ in Sac. I’ve settled in on a few that I really enjoy. 1. Track 7 2. Knee Deep 3. Bike Dog!!!! 4, 5, 6, 7 … Interchangeable for these … Jack Rabbit, Ruhstaller, Oak Park, Yolo.”

Kent Luckey, also an attorney, was the first reader to respond to Beer Run, with a list and nothing more: Yolo Brewing, Knee Deep, Sactown Union, Loomis Basin and Mraz. That’s another strong lineup.

From Tony Lederer: “Last time I checked, there were 14 breweries within 11 miles of my house. How cool is that?” His list, in order of preference, is Track 7, Oak Park Brewing, New Helvetia, Jack Rabbit and Rubicon.

One of my favorite emails comes from Tim Taylor, 63, who used beer selfies (and no words) to list his top five: Track 7, Jack Rabbit, New Helvetia, Bike Dog and Out of Bounds. Then, wouldn’t you know it, Taylor wrote back with an email titled “Second thoughts.” He forgot to include Knee Deep. Tim, it’s a top five. #discipline

Reader Dave Ferguson offers his list, which is hard to nitpick: New Glory, Knee Deep, Track 7, Sudwerk and Mraz. But like many of us trying to limit it to five, he’s struggling to leave out other favorites. “Very close: Bike Dog, Claimstake, Berryessa, Moonraker, Black Vinyl, Sactown Union. Also, Two Rivers Cider.”

Walt Bowen offered only one pick but says plenty in his nomination: “I firmly believe Loomis Basin Brewery is one of the top craft beer producers in the region. Not because of volume … it’s because craft beers and breweries are more then just great tasting beers. … Their beer garden and small tasting room gives one a sense of family. The town of Loomis’ motto is ‘A small town is like a big family.’ If true, LBB is grandma’s house. Always local, always fresh with added love.”

I think Walt pretty much summed up what craft beer is all about.

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