Bob Shallit

Midtown brewpub to open with bit of ‘Soul’

Big Stump founders Alex Larrabee and Larissa Meltz at the site of their future brewpub.
Big Stump founders Alex Larrabee and Larissa Meltz at the site of their future brewpub. Bob Shallit

A couple of Bay Area transplants are hoping to launch a craft beer success story in the midtown Sacramento building where the Old Soul coffee company got its start.

Alex Larrabee and Larissa Meltz recently leased space at 1716 L St. fronting the alley-facing cafe that Old Soul opened a decade ago and retains as its flagship location.

Their goal: Keep much of the original charm of the 93-year-old building, including brick walls, 18-foot ceilings and terra cotta floor tiles, while converting it into a modern craft beer production plant and pub called Big Stump Brewing Co.

The projected opening date: April 1. The partners initially plan to produce five types of beers – all ales – and serve pub food to be prepared in the adjoining Old Soul cafe.

The idea of having beer and coffee operations sharing space has a certain appeal to Larrabee, a 30-year-old attorney.

“It allows people to start and end their day in the same building,” he said.

Larrabee got into beer making about six years ago after friends took him to Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa. “It was fantastic,” he said. “It really inspired me.”

He started researching beer ingredients and manufacturing techniques and produced his first batches in the kitchen of the SOMA neighborhood apartment he and Meltz were sharing in San Francisco. They later upgraded to a one-barrel production operation in El Dorado Hills.

According to Larabee, the “tipping point” came when one of his beers, a Bavarian Hefeweizen, took “best of show” honors at last year’s California State Fair, and another of his brews – an Imperial IPA – secured a gold medal.

“People started asking us, ‘When are you going to go professional?’ That got us excited,” said Meltz, who is 29.

The couple opted to start in Sacramento, where both Larrabee and Meltz have family.

Have we reached a saturation point? I don’t think we’re there yet.

Alex Larrabee on the Sacramento brewpub market

The city “is going through this amazing revitalization, and we thought it would be awesome to be a part of that,” said Meltz, who quit an inventory-management position with Gap in San Francisco to be the full-time manager of the new business while Larrabee keeps his litigator day job.

A broker introduced them to Old Soul owners Tim Jordan and Jason Griest, who earlier this year purchased the building that houses their business and were looking for an innovative food service or retail operation to occupy the 3,000 square feet that fronts L Street.

Jordan said he was impressed by the couple’s work ethic and said he and Griest believe in supporting new businesses, in a “pay it forward” sort of way.

“When we started out, our landlord took a chance on us,” he said. “We didn’t have much of a track record or professional experience.”

Now Old Soul has three cafes with a fourth set to open early next year on R Street.

“It just kind of feels right,” Jordan said of the deal with the Big Stump founders, “to fill out the front of the building with what we hope will be a similar success story.”

Doughnuts of death

Just in time for Halloween, a business has started up with a focus on terror, carnage and gore.

We’re talking doughnuts here.

Donut Madness opened this month at 2648 Watt Ave. with what store manager Jake Smith calls a “horror film vibe.”

Displayed on the outside of the Arden Arcade shop are posters of scary movies from the 1960s to present, including “Psycho,” “Scream” and “Friday the 13th.”

Inside is locally produced art, including a painting called “Freddy and Jason,” a coffin-shaped display case and a bunch of frightening masks hanging on a wall under the words “Employee Of The Month.”

Then there are the doughnuts, handcrafted delicacies – selling for about $1.75 each – with names like Silence of the Pig (a maple bar with bacon), Cereal Killer (made with Cap’n Crunch) and The Brain (an apple fritter with raspberry in the crevices).

Smith, 21, a huge horror film buff and chief doughnut baker as well as store manager, said he loves it when customers “get” the sometimes-obscure movie references.

“That’s when I’m happiest,” he said.