Brewer and Winemaker Strike Gold in El Dorado

The exterior of Solid Ground’s Diamond Springs location. Photo by Rachel Valley

On Solid Ground  

If you’re traveling to Tahoe, set your course for Solid Ground Brewery & Winery. Known for its award-winning lagers, sparkling wine, and ciders, the taphouse located in Diamond Springs is just five miles from Downtown Placerville. And did we mention the fried chicken sandwich?

Co-owners Scott Johnson and KC Sare are both formally trained in their crafts and have honed their skills to produce a winning combination that keeps bringing customers back for more.

“We have a big local base and a big transient base. We’re a great stopping point if you’re going to Kirkwood,” says Johnson, the brain behind the award-winning sparkling wines and ciders.

With Johnson’s 10-plus years in the wine industry and Sare’s background making traditional European lagers and ales, this duo was destined to create something stellar. With their brewing team, Tommy Mills and Casey Hebard, this small production crew handles the entire process, from grain to glass. What’s their secret? It’s all about consistency.

“Any given day is taken up with tasks from receiving of barley or apple-based raw materials to filtrations, brewing, tastings, and packaging. We are a close team with very strong ties to the science of alcoholic fermentation,” Sare says.

The beer-wine-hybrid business they launched in 2016 has morphed over the years — through a bit of trial and error — and now they’ve claimed their niche.

“We now feel like we have an idea of where we are going. We are excited about growing into new markets and introducing new customers to the products we work hard to create,” Sare says.

Stellar Ciders and Wines

In 2022, Ria, Johnson’s sparkling pinot noir rosé, won Double Gold in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, and Best of Show and Gold at the International Canned Wine Competition. 

“I like creating new products and growing the business,” he says.

Johnson received his four-year degree in viticulture and enology from the University of California, Davis, and worked in the wine industry in Sonoma, Napa, and New Zealand before settling in El Dorado County. He knows a thing or two about beermaking, too, having studied under well-regarded brewing professor and brewing scientist Charlie Bamforth.

For his wines, Johnson sources all grapes from higher elevations in El Dorado County. He uses lots of pinot noir from above 3,000 feet along with pinot grigio, zinfandel, and Chardonnay. Grapes are the most curated part of the business, and Johnson has built numerous relationships with local growers. The result is unpretentious and authentic.

With Apple Hill nearby, Johnson has forged relationships with apple growers, too. In addition to apple, his ciders also blend tempting flavors such as blood orange, elderflower, and blackberry.

“We make our cider like wine — light and dry,” he says.

These canned varieties of sparkling wines and ciders are favorites among outdoorsy types. Refreshing and delicious, the packable product can be taken anywhere — from hiking, backpacking and camping to biking and skiing.

Boundless Beers

Sare holds a four-year degree in brewing and distilling science from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was brewing and developing recipes for big-name breweries like Young & Co’s Brewery and Anheuser-Busch’s Stag Brewery in London, and Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Ore., before bringing his passion for European styles and beer traditions to California’s Gold Country.

Beer fermentation tanks. Photo by Rachel Valley

Solid Ground’s tap list is a mix of what Sare is known for. It features Rampart, an American Helles-style lager; Šipka, a Czech-style pilsner; and Gneiss, a nitro dry Irish stout.

“There is a reason those products represent the bulk of consumed beer in this and nearly every beer-drinking country. There is a class and drinkability to them. That is the closest thing I have to a style,” Sare says.

Solid Ground’s flagship IPA, Kabru. Photo by Rachel Valley

There’s something for everyone on the Solid Ground menu. Folks also will find such gems as Elafonissi, a West Coast IPA, and Grange de Champ, a barrel-aged sour.

What does Sare love most about brewing beer? “That’s easy,” he says. “I enjoy being part of a profession that allows us to create something from scratch that often acts as a social elixir, to lubricate relationships and social gatherings. Secondly, everybody always loves the brewer.”

Look for Solid Ground products at Raley’s BelAir, Nugget Markets, and Sacramento Food Co-op.

Solid Ground Brewery & Winery


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