Redefining Sacramento, one locally made beer at a time

Patrons hang out at Lowbrau in midtown, one of several venues taking part in Sacramento Beer Week.
Patrons hang out at Lowbrau in midtown, one of several venues taking part in Sacramento Beer Week. esmith@sacbee.com

Not sure if you’ve heard, but it’s Beer Week in Sacramento again. That means, as sure as Donald Trump will use the word “loser” today, someone somewhere in this great city of ours is suffering from a hangover of epic proportions.

So raise your glass and pass the aspirin.

Beer Week – which, for some reason, lasts 10 days – is a time for the growing group of craft beer makers in our midst to shine. And shine they have.

Breweries and bars in midtown Sacramento, up into Roseville and Folsom, and over into West Sacramento have been rolling out special menus every day since Feb. 25. Things wrap up this Sunday with the Capitol Beer Fest, where more than 125 breweries will be serving patrons, probably in the rain.

I’ve seen people sipping on chocolate and vanilla beers, tropical beers, and ciders steeped in wine barrels. I’ve seen a couple of people fall out of bar stools. I’ve heard a glass or two fall to the floor and shatter.

As crazy as it sounds, though, I’ve come to realize that Sacramento Beer Week really isn’t about getting snockered. In truth, it’s not really even about beer. It’s about crafting and extolling a cool identity for a city with a stubborn reputation for bureaucratic blandness.

One woman I met who was knocking back a cold one on Sunday night put it this way: “I just moved up from the Bay Area and people there keep asking me, ‘What’s going on in Sacramento? Does anything happen there? It just seems so boring.’ 

I nodded sagely, knowing the thinking all too well. Fueled by the beer she was chugging, she plowed on.

“I tell them, ‘You have no idea. There is so much going on here. There are so many breweries. The beer is just ...’ ” she paused, searching for the word, “ ‘good.’ ”

If you haven’t heard, craft beer is a currency of cool. It’s a sign of a youthful, creative culture and of entrepreneurship. It is perfectly legitimate to judge a city based on the answer to the question, “How many craft breweries do you have?”

To have only a few is absolutely unacceptable at this point – especially since sales and production have soared nationally in recent years.

Luckily, Sacramento, with its farm-to-fork focus, is experiencing a renaissance. We have lots of good beer. That’s certainly something to toast, but not as much as the creative community that created it. You don’t have to be drunk to understand that happily sobering truth.