RAISE A GLASS!
The edible insider’s guide to Greater Sacramento area craft brewers.
WRITTEN BY STEPH RODRIGUEZ
PHOTOS BY RAOUL ORTEGA
The Sacramento area’s rich beer history dates back as far as the 1840s. So it’s no surprise to see the Farm-to-Fork Capital’s craft beer movement surge over the last 10 years. With more than 50 local breweries from Davis to Nevada City perfecting their award-winning recipes, some of the West’s tastiest brews are found right here. From the ever-popular India Pale Ales, with their bitter, hop-forward mouthfuls that often incorporate seasonal fruit for balance, to the darker pints of porters, stouts, and brown ales, Sacramento knows and loves beer. Here are 10 of the area’s craft breweries to visit and savor.
Sudwerk Brewing Co. (Davis)
Known for: German-style craft lagers
What to try: People’s Pilsner, Fünke Hop Farm Saison
Opened in 1989 by Dean Unger and Ron Broward, Sudwerk Brewing Co. aimed to be America’s answer to imported beer, and it was, especially throughout the ’90s. Sudwerk, pronounced “sood-verk,” even managed to survive the recession. In 2013, Trenton Yackzan, grandson of Unger, bought Sudwerk to keep the family legacy alive and to reintroduce the city of Davis and beyond to German-style craft lagers.
“I was four when it opened,” Yackzan says. “My grandpa and his business partner were just two German guys who wanted access to beer as it tasted at home because, at the time, there weren’t many craft breweries.”
In 2009, Unger was going to close the brewery, but Yackzan saw an opportunity.
“We are now focused on redefining what people think about the American lager,” Yackzan says. “The market’s clearly pretty saturated with IPAs and ales and hazy beers. We want to show people a different side of beer because that’s what craft brewing is about. It’s discovery and education and finding new and innovative styles that you never knew existed.”
The University of California, Davis Master Brewers Program also is housed on site at Sudwerk. So if craft beers are your forte, check out the program and learn from one of the region’s oldest breweries.
Jackrabbit Brewing Co. (West Sacramento)
Known for: Belgian, English, and German-style beers
What to try: Saison, Square Hare Belgian Sour Quad
With plenty of wild jackrabbits hopping around the more industrial areas of West Sacramento, Chris Powell, co-owner of Jackrabbit Brewing Co., says the brewery’s name came naturally. What didn’t was the equipment. Once a lease was secured, Powell and his three fellow brewery owners — his brother, Scott, as well as Ed Edsten and Kevin Hull — bought some old dairy equipment from Craigslist and taught themselves how to weld. Together, paycheck to paycheck, they built their own brewery system. It’s a true, built-from-the-ground-up tale.
“The whole thing was funded by the bootstraps,” Powell says. “We did everything the hard way, but I’m proud of what we built from nothing. It was just us.”
Jackrabbit sold its first kegs in 2013, and since then, the DIY brewery has been developing craft beers that find balance between full and subtle flavors. This can be tasted in its popular Saison, which uses a particular strain of Belgian yeast that’s more than 500 years old.
“It’s tart, very dry, and it’s got some noticeable wheat characteristics with a little bit of stone fruit and apple flavor to it that come from the yeast,” Powell says.
Jackrabbit’s Square Hare, a dark and malty Belgian-style quad, earned No. 1 in the Best of California Commercial Craft Brew Competition 2017 at the California State Fair. Measuring at 11.3 percent alcohol by volume, it’s the perfect winter beer to sip by a cozy fire.
“We’re really passionate about beer and all the different flavors you can create, and the science and the history of it,” he says. “It’s just a really cool thing to delve into.”
Bike Dog Brewing Co. (West Sacramento, Sacramento)
Known for: Bike- and dog-friendly taprooms
What to try: Mosaic Pale Ale, Dog Years IPA, Milk Stout
Bike Dog Brewing Co. opened its second taproom in Sacramento in September 2017, but its original location in West Sac still is where all the brewing magic happens.
Co-owner A.J. Tendick says he’s a year-round IPA drinker and noticed a huge difference in flavor and quality once he started brewing batches at home.
“With IPAs in particular, freshness matters so much,” Tendick says. “A week-old IPA is considerably different from a month-old IPA. Ten years ago, when I would buy beers at the popular beer store, they would hold them on a warm shelf, which is terrible for flavor stability. But when you brew your own, you get this new hop flavor and aroma, which I wasn’t finding on the shelves.”
Besides its variety of hop-forward IPA varieties, Tendick says another popular beer is Bike Dog’s Milk Stout.
“It’s got this really fantastic blend of coffee and chocolate notes that are just natural from the roasted grains,” he says. “It’s pretty low alcohol, and it’s got a bit of lactose for that hint of sweetness, and it’s such a nice, easy-drinking beer.”
This winter, look for Bike Dog’s Wee Heavy, a Scottish ale that will warm up any cold evening, as well as its Double Mexican Hot Chocolate Milk Stout, which is sort of like a Mexican hot chocolate with cinnamon, a little bit of spice, and cocoa nibs, all at 9 percent ABV.
Beers from Bike Dog Brewing Co. Photo by Angel Perez
Track 7 Brewing Co. (Curtis Park, Natomas)
Known for: IPAs in creative varieties and flavor profiles
What to try: Panic IPA, Left Eye Right Eye Double IPA
Track 7 celebrated its six-year anniversary on Dec. 31. Now, co-owners Ryan Graham and Geoff Scott look forward to opening their third location in East Sacramento this March. The new taproom will be the first to offer food, including rotisserie chicken, salads, and sandwiches.
Graham and Scott met more than 20 years ago at UC Davis. Graham says they were both former homebrewers, but an off-the-cuff remark from Scott about the two starting their own brewery ended up sparking the business plan for Track 7. The former homebrewers-turned-professionals went from brewing five-gallon batches on the weekends to more than 15,000 barrels a year between the brewery’s Curtis Park and Natomas locations.
Graham says his customers enjoy drinking the gamut of IPA varieties brewed at Track 7, so it’s no surprise to see the fruity selections that include guava and citrus, the milkshake IPAs with their smooth and rich qualities, and the hazy IPAs with their softer, juicier profiles and colors comparable to orange or pineapple juice.
“For me, it’s really about the flavors that the hops provide and the balance with the aromatics because you have to have something that smells incredible,” Graham says. “Citrus and tropical flavors play together really well and make the beer interesting. It’s about how you bring all those characteristics together that’s really delicious, and that’s what I look for in an IPA.”
From left, owners Geoff Scott and Ryan Graham of Track 7 Brewing Co.
stand beside fermentation tanks at their production facility in Natomas
Track 7 Brewing Co.'s Panic IPA
New Glory Craft Brewery (Sacramento)
Known for: Award-winning Key Lime Gose, Belgian-style beers
What to try: Farmhouse French Saison, Wakey Wakey, Wake Me Up Before You Cocoa
Co-owner of New Glory Craft Brewery Julien Lux moved from Northern France to Sacramento to follow his high school sweetheart, Erica, who’s now his wife and business partner. When he first opened the brewery in 2013, he began brewing a saison.
“The Farmhouse was one of the original beers that we started making; those are our style of beers where I come from, so I wanted to have a little part of home while I was here,” he says. “Moving forward, mostly what we do right now is seasonal. We just kind of brew what we want for the season. We don’t really have all-year-round beers like most breweries do.”
In the winter, look for dark beers such as porters and stouts, which incorporate ingredients such as coffee, cocoa nibs, and vanilla and are in the 10 to 12 percent ABV range.
Oak Park Brewing Co. (Sacramento)
Known for: Unique ingredients and twists on old-time recipes
What to try: Neck Thumper Russian Imperial Stout, Citra IPA
Dave Estis and Tom Karvonen opened Oak Park Brewing Co. in 2014 in the Broadway Triangle District and started producing about 500 barrels of its flagship recipes that year. Popular brews include its Citra IPA, which showcases mango and passion fruit flavors, and its Broadway Pale Ale, a beer that’s hop forward yet balanced with plenty of malt character.
Nowadays, production has nearly tripled, and it keeps owners Estis and Karvonen, and head brewer Jamison Bianchi, busy thinking of inventive ways to create new flavors using classic recipes. For example, its Hibiscus Saison is a classic take on the Belgian-style beer, but the use of hibiscus flowers gives it a beautiful pink color and refreshing taste. For its Salty Dog Coffee Porter, 10 gallons of cold-brew coffee and a little sea salt are added to the batch, which give the dark-colored beverage a comforting flavor profile.
“I think what makes a good beer is balance, finding a recipe and making it the best version of that recipe with a unique twist,” Bianchi says. “Our beers are clean and not overwhelming in one way or another.”
For the colder months, Bianchi recommends the Neck Thumper, a Russian imperial stout with big flavor and high alcohol by volume to warm your bones.
“Our Neck Thumper sits at 9.3 [percent], and it’s really thick and chewy and has some nice chocolate and coffee notes to it from the roast we do to it,” Bianchi says.
Flatland Brewing Co. (Elk Grove)
Known for: Pilsners, fruity beer varieties
What to try: Pilsnerish Blonde Ale, Weird Al Dankovich
Flatland Brewing Co. may have just opened in January 2016, but brewery owner Andrew Mohsenzadegan already can say he brews award-winning beer. Flatland’s Pilsnerish Blonde Ale earned the Best of Show gold medal at the California State Fair craft beer competition in 2017.
He admits that pilsners are his go-to, so brewing a perfectly crisp, clean, and fizzy pilsner was something he aimed to conquer.
“This may be the one beer we keep around because I love it so much,” Mohsenzadegan says. “It’s a glass window. It doesn’t hide anything, and it’s really soft on the malt profile and really delicate with the hopping rate. So you can have this beer on a hot summer day and just throw it back, or you can sit by a campfire and drink this beer.”
Cucumbers, cherries, lemons, raspberries, and other stone fruits are just some of the ingredients that make appearances in a variety of Flatland’s recipes.
“We use a lot of fruit in our beers. But we do them in different ways. We have fruit sours, fruit IPAs, fruit blondes, and all these crazy things,” Mohsenzadegan says. “We’re just paying homage to the land. It’s fun to take advantage of what’s around us.”
From left, Andrew Mohsenzadegan, owner, and brother Sean Mohsenzadegan, taproom manager,
of Flatland Brewing Co. in Elk Grove
Beachfront Avenue, a tropical kettle sour beer from Flatland Brewing Co.
Fort Rock Brewing (Rancho Cordova)
Known for: Pilsners, browns, and its large Connect Four game
What to try: Bent Pipe Pilsner, FRB Brown, Foggy Goggles Double IPA
The phrase, “Let’s go to Fort Rock,” used to be code for going back to Tom Fuquay and Heidi Wilder’s garage, where the two kept their home brew setup and shared their small-batch beers with friends and family. Now, Fort Rock operates out of the Nimbus Winery shopping center in Rancho Cordova, a far stretch from the days of home brewing in their garage.
“I love all styles of beers,” Wilder says. “But I do like traditional styles, and we’re very lucky because our brewery uses Folsom Lake water, and that’s why our beers are so clean, because it’s snowpack runoff.”
The brewery took home the gold medal for its Bent Pipe Pilsner at the California craft beer competition at the California State Fair in 2017 and also earned a silver medal for its FRB Brown at the Great American Beer Festival in the American-Style Brown Ale category the same year.
“The pilsner is a traditional Czech-style pilsner. It’s a very light-colored beer. It’s really crisp and easy-drinking for something like on the golf course,” she says. “The brown is a toasty beer with a smooth mouth on it. It’s great for this [colder] time of the year, too, and it also makes really good beer floats.”
Out of Bounds Brewing Co. (Rocklin)
Known for: Barley wine, browns, IPAs
What to try: Boundless Barrel Aged Hurly Burly Barleywine, Powdered Toast Man Brown Ale, Joyrider IPA
Out of Bounds Brewing Co.’s Barrel-Aged Hurly Burly Barleywine is a three-time gold medal earner. Brewery manager Bryan Crass says St. Amant Winery Vintage Port barrels from Lodi, Calif., were used to age the award-winning beverage for two months — and it paid off.
“The barleywine was just fantastic,” Crass says. “It won the gold medal at the California State Fair in 2017, it won the gold for the U.S. Beer Open, and then we took gold for the [Great American Brew Fest].”
But, Crass says, Out of Bounds’ regulars also drink a lot of the Rocklin-based brewery’s flagship beers, such as its Joyrider IPA and Grapefruit Double IPA, and they’re also no strangers to brown ales either.
“Joyrider is a mild West Coast IPA. It doesn’t have the aggressive bitterness that a lot of those styles tend to have. It has more citrus, grapefruit, and a little bit of a biscuit-quality that comes from the malt,” Crass says. “But our Powdered Toast Man Brown Ale is a brown that we add maple syrup to and then age on vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks.”
Crass also recommends Powdered Toast Man for what ails you during the colder winter months.
Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co. (Nevada City)
Known for: Browns, IPAs and a full, seasonal menu that includes freshly baked pastries
What to try: Quoth The Raven Imperial Stout, Emerald Pool IPA
Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s narrative poem The Raven, co-owner of Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co. David Cowie says his Quoth The Raven Russian Imperial Stout is highly sought after and sells out quickly.
“That is probably the most iconic, popular beer, and we only do it once a year on Halloween,” Cowie says. “It’s a Russian imperial stout that’s high in alcohol, and it’s a very rich beer. Doing it only once a year makes people long for it the rest of the year, too.”
Another popular staple that’s offered year round at Three Forks is its Emerald Pool IPA, which Cowie describes as an unconventional West Coast version of the popular style because of its use of English ale yeast. The yeast gives the beer a little more body but also doesn’t skimp on the hop flavor, and it finishes with a hint of pine.
“It’s everybody’s favorite,” he says.
In the colder months, Three Forks showcases its darker beers with higher alcohol content, such as its Redoubtable Red Ale that measures at 10 percent ABV.
The flipside to Three Forks Brewery is its bakery and full, seasonal menu that offers salads, sandwiches, and wood-fired pizzas. Co-owner Shana Maziarz runs the bakery side of the business and says the menu features locally sourced ingredients, including lamb, steak, and fresh produce.
“[Cowie] is excellent with finding balance in the beers,” Maziarz says. “We use high-quality ingredients, and we try to create beverages and food that really highlight those ingredients.”
Steph Rodriguez is an award-winning freelance journalist who keeps a close eye on the food and music scene in Sacramento. With more than 10 years’ experience as a writer, she crafts stories that mirror the vast and diverse culture of the region. From entertainment and lifestyle features, to profiles with a farm-to-fork interest, she aims to capture the best of Sacramento.
Bike Dog Brewing Co.
West Sacramento: 2534 Industrial Blvd., Ste. 110 •
Open 4 – 9 p.m. Thurs. – Fri., noon – 9 p.m. Sat., noon – 6 p.m. Sun.
Sacramento: 915 Broadway, Ste. 200 • 916-475-1808
Open 3 – 10 p.m. Tues. – Thurs., noon – 11 p.m. Fri. – Sat., noon – 9 p.m. Sun.
Flatland Brewing Co.
9183 Survey Road, Ste. 104, Elk Grove •
Open 3 – 9 p.m. Thurs. – Fri., noon – 9 p.m. Sat., noon – 6 p.m. Sun.
Fort Rock Brewing
12401 Folsom Blvd., Ste. 110, Rancho Cordova
916-936-4616 • Fortrockbrewing.com
Open 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. daily.
Jackrabbit Brewing Co.
1323 Terminal St., West Sacramento
916-873-8659 • Jackrabbitbrewingcompany.com
Open 3 – 8 p.m. Wed., 3 – 9 p.m. Thurs. – Fri., noon – 9 p.m. Sat.,
noon – 6 p.m. Sun.
New Glory Craft Brewery
8251 Alpine Ave., Sacramento
916-451-9355 • Newglorybeer.com
Open noon – 9 p.m. Mon. – Wed., noon – 10 p.m. Thurs. – Fri., noon – 10 p.m. Sat., noon – 9 p.m. Sun.
Oak Park Brewing Co.
3514 Broadway, Sacramento
916-660-2723 • Opbrewco.com
Open 4 – 10 p.m. Mon., 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. Tues. – Wed., 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. Thurs. – Fri., 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Sat., 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sun.
Out of Bounds Brewing Co.
4480 Yankee Hill Road, Ste. 100, Rocklin
916-259-1511 • Outofboundsbrewing.com
Open 4 – 9 p.m. Tues. – Wed., 4 – 10 p.m. Thurs., 3 – 11 p.m. Fri., noon – 11 p.m. Sat., noon – 8 p.m. Sun.
Sudwerk Brewing Co.
2001 2nd St., Davis
530-756-2739 • Sudwerkbrew.com
Open 4 – 8 p.m. Tues. – Thurs., 4 – 9 p.m. Fri., 2 – 9 p.m. Sat., 2 – 6 p.m. Sun.
Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co.
211 Commercial St., Nevada City
530-470-8333 • Threeforksnc.com
Open 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. Mon., Wed., Thurs.; 7 a.m. – 11 p.m. Fri.; 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. Sat.;
8 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sun.; closed on Tuesdays.
Track 7 Brewing Co.
Sacramento: 3747 W. Pacific Ave., Ste. F
Natomas: 826 Professor Lane, Ste. 100
916-520-4677 • Track7brewing.com
Open 3 – 9 p.m. Mon. – Thurs., noon – 10 p.m. Fri – Sat., noon – 9 p.m. Sun.
Three Forks Stout Gingerbread Cake
(courtesy of Shana Maziarz, co-owner, Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co. in Nevada City. Serves 8)
1 cup Three Forks Easy Ugly Stout (may substitute other stout beer)
1 cup dark molasses
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon cardamom
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
¾ cup canola oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Generously butter 9-inch cake pan. Bring stout and molasses to gentle boil in large saucepan. Remove from heat. Whisk in baking soda slowly. (Note: This is science! Baking soda and beer will have a volcanic reaction, so make sure you use a large saucepan, so there’s plenty of room to grow.) Set aside mixture to cool.
Mix all dry ingredients and spices in large bowl. In medium bowl, whisk together sugars and eggs. Add oil slowly to blend. Add in stout/molasses mixture. Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients in large bowl and mix until well incorporated. Pour batter into prepared cake pan.
Bake for about 1 hour or until toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs. Allow cake to cool in pan for 5 minutes, then knock cake out of pan and allow to finish cooling on rack. Dust with powdered sugar and top with chopped candied ginger and serve.