Chugging on the Sacramento Beer Train.
WRITTEN BY COLIN GOULDING
PHOTO BY RAOUL ORTEGA
Rob and Sherie Anderson of Roseville (far left) enjoy the Sacramento Beer Train with some friends
When most people first hear about the Sacramento Beer Train, their immediate response is to ask, “What is it?”
“It’s a block party on rails,” says Emily Hentschel, events director for the Sacramento RiverTrain which operates the beer train. “We have such a great beer scene exploding in Sacramento; it’s a unique beer experience.”
Boarding at 400 N. Harbor Blvd. in West Sacramento, the Sacramento Beer Train is a two-and-a-half-hour train journey through bucolic Yolo County, meandering along expansive agricultural fields and ancient-oak-tree-studded Sacramento River. While aboard, guests sample craft beers from Northern California breweries and dance to music by local bands jamming in the caboose.
Drink and ride
One of many train experiences offered by the Sacramento RiverTrain, the beer train was created by the company’s president, Christopher Hart.
“It’s dating back to when I went to college at UC Davis. We did progressive parties where you had different things going on in different rooms,” Hart says. “You have a different mood, a different feel in each car going up and down the train. So people wander from car to car and see what’s going on.”
Throughout the seven train cars, riders stop at tasting stations where they can exchange one of the six tags on their tasting bracelets for five-ounce glasses of one of eight varieties of beer available on that ride. Each rider receives an assigned seat at a comfortable booth in an enclosed car, and folks spend their time moving throughout the train, meeting other riders, and taking in the views. They also can pick up pre-ordered meals at the front of the train, or stop by the concessions car to purchase snacks, bottled beer, or full glasses of the beverages they have sampled on the train.
Itinerary for beer enthusiasts
With many seats filled by local beer lovers, the train hosts tourists from as far away as Australia to sample craft beers and enjoy the scenery. Also aboard are representatives from the breweries, providing riders with more information about their beers.
“It has a festival vibe in that everyone is excited to be there,” says Christopher Hussey, sales representative for Fort Rock Brewing in Rancho Cordova.
With RiverTrain staff members handling the pouring, representatives such as Hussey spend more time interacting with guests and letting people know about the beers.
While the beer train mostly serves beer, the draft list includes alternatives for those less enthused by the beers than the train ride or for those interested in branching out beyond their hoppy place.
“The product that they get on board is pretty different [from the norm], and we’ll [be providing] cider,” says Joe Gutierrez, regional sales manager for San Jose’s WILDCIDE Hard Cider. “The IPA drinker[s] may say that they don’t like cider, but before you know it, they’re having five. Everybody gets a good experience and everybody gets to try something new.”
For your ride on the beer train, dress for the weather and wear layers for transitions between the enclosed and open-air cars. Since you will experience a gentle jostle from the slow-moving train cars, choose shoes that enhance your surefootedness while ambling between cars. Keep an eye out for the upcoming addition of the barbecue car, which will add another layer of excitement to the block party on rails.
Colin Goulding is a cook and baker who has refused to go pro. When not working as an analyst at the University of California, Davis, he spends his free time cultivating musquée de Provence pumpkins and yuzus in the front yard of his home in West Sacramento.
For details on the Sacramento Beer Train or any of RiverTrain’s other themed trains, visit Sacramentorivertrain.com.