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Sunday’s last quaff for Sacramento Beer Week draws thousands

Jojo Price photographs her friends’ first glasses of beer at the fifth annual Capitol Beer Fest at Capitol Mall on Sunday.
Jojo Price photographs her friends’ first glasses of beer at the fifth annual Capitol Beer Fest at Capitol Mall on Sunday. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

There’s a beer for every taste bud. That is the conclusion, fair and frothy, from Sacramento Beer Week, which ended Sunday with thousands gathering on the downtown Capitol Mall for a keg-pumping, crowd-pleasing afternoon of music, food trucks and lots of beer sampling.

Offering everything from coffee-infused ales to creamy stouts, the 2015 Capitol Beer Fest drew an over-21 crowd that lined up at tasting booths to quaff beer creations in miniature glasses.

Andrew Thomas, 26, an information technology specialist from West Sacramento, started with a Chocolyto imperial stout from Nevada City’s Ol’ Republic Brewery. He then savored the Vienna amber lager from Sacramento’s River City Brewing Co. His fiancee, special education teacher Melody Garcia, 25, tried a Bierre Blanche, a white Belgian Ale from The Monk’s Cellar, a new brewpub in downtown Roseville.

“It’s so great to see so many people out here enjoying craft beers,” said Thomas, gesturing to the surrounding crowd. “The Capitol is over there. The Tower Bridge is on the other side. And it’s just a beautiful 70-degree day in March.”

The Sunday event was the finale of Sacramento Beer Week’s 11-day run, featuring 600 craft beer and food events that have packed cozy taverns and high-end restaurants.

More than 35 regional brewers took part, starting Feb. 26 with the sold-out Sacramento Brewers Showcase at the California Auto Museum. Featured events ranged from barrel-aged beer tastings to a 5K fun run and “meet your local brewer” nights.

“Restaurants and bars have embraced Beer Week so dramatically,” said Mike Testa, CEO of the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Consumers knew that at virtually every restaurant and every bar there would be some sort of Beer Week event.”

Six years ago, Sacramento Beer Week began with eight local breweries and about 120 restaurant and bar events. Today, the capital region boasts 45 craft breweries, budding fields of hops and perhaps the grandest period for local beer brewing since before Prohibition, when Sacramento was known as the Beer Capital of the West.

“Food has been in Sacramento’s soul for well over a century, and you can make the same argument for beer. There is a great history of craft beer in Sacramento,” Testa said.

Fresh out of a six-year stint in the U.S. Navy, Justin Morrow, 28, celebrated his reintroduction to “civilian life” on Sunday with a Saison Farm House Ale from West Sacramento’s 16-month-old Bike Dog Brewing Co.

Nearby, after having her glass filled with the same beer, Anna Nguyen, 32, an emergency-room physician at Sutter General Hospital, was anticipating the next suds stop. “The doctor’s recommendation is for three or four,” she said.

The Sunday turnout underscored how local craft beer is becoming a fixture in Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork marketing promotions.

On Sept. 11-12, the capital city will host another major beer event, the first California Craft Beer Summit, at the Sacramento Convention Center. It will be part of the third annual Farm-to-Fork Festival, Sept. 10-27, which features a gourmet dinner on the Tower Bridge, farm and kitchen tours, and other events celebrating the region’s environmentally sustainable farming and foods.

Sponsors and participants say Sacramento Beer Week has earned a place as a regional marquee event.

“What it is doing most is giving people a window on the sheer volume of different flavors you can get by drinking a beer,” said Glynn Phillips, owner of Rubicon Brewing Co. “There is a beer for everyone out there.”

Rubicon was founded by previous owner Ed Brown as Sacramento’s first contemporary brew pub in 1987. During Sacramento Beer Week, the establishment has been showcasing its original Rubicon IPA and its specialty brews introduced for the festival.

Phillips was pouring samples of Rubicon’s RBI IPA, a pale ale offering “a completely different hop profile” and a little less alcohol than its signature variety, as well as his new Oden’s Porter, which he described as “a Baltic porter with rye, wheat, malted barley and juniper berries.”

Another Sacramento brewery, Ruhstaller, was sampling a “soft release” of its new coffee-infused ale, “Kenyan.” The brew pub was also inviting guests to sample special small-batch beers, “from IPAs to brown ales, from hoppy to malty,” said manager J.E. Paino.

Ruhstaller, which grows its own hops on a 7 1/2-acre farm in Dixon, touts its farm-to-brew creations. During Sacramento Beer Week, Paino partnered his beers for food pairings with several downtown Sacramento restaurants, including Federalist Public House & Beer Garden, the Grange Restaurant & Bar, and Lucca Restaurant & Bar.

“Beer enthusiasm has just grown, and Beer Week has grown as well,” Paino said. “This is great event that brings tremendous awareness” to local brewers. “But then, every week in Sacramento is a beer week.”

Call The Bee’s Peter Hecht, (916) 326-5539.

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