5 ways Sacramento can improve its beer community during American Craft Beer Week

We have a lot in common if you’re sick of things like U.S. Hot Dog Week, International Chocolate Chip Day and National Masturbation Month (it’s real, look it up).

But this week just so happens to be American Craft Beer Week (May 13-19), and—as my girlfriend will attest—brew is the cause. I plan my vacations around beer destinations. And I’m currently in the market for a second fridge, dedicated to beer only (email nickam@newsreview.com).

Anyway, given that it’s ACBW, what better time to rant about things Sacramento needs to do to take its brew culture up a few notches:

1. Get rid of that ridiculous single-serve beer ordinance.

Maybe you’re not familiar with the finer-points of Sacto’s beer history circa 1990, so allow me to refresh: Back then, there apparently were a lot of boozers wandering the streets of Midtown and downtown with 40-ounce and bomber beers.

Enter city council: They passed an ordinance banning the sale of single bottles of beer on “the grid” (except at a handful of grandfathered-in liquor stores, like the one on the corner of O and 18th streets).

(Here’s a story I wrote a while back.) 

Fast forward to 2013: Craft beers sold in 22-ounce and 750-milliliter bottles, which sometimes retail for upward of $30, are more popular than ever.

The central city’s “Champions of the Concrete” contingent, pounding hooch and wine, isn’t the problem it was 25 years ago.

Yet the ordinance remains unchanged.

Meanwhile, I can buy a 2 liter vodka, ounce of marijuana—or a vote at the Capitol—on the grid, but not a 22 ounce bottle of some of the world’s finest brews.

This also means that the ever-growing Sacramento brewer community cannot sell beer in growlers or bottles within the central city. Even at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op or Safeway.

And I’ve spoken one-on-one with at least five members of council, including Mayor Kevin Johnson, and all agree that the single-serve ordinance needs to be addressed.

But no action.

If Kings fans get their arena, the shouldn’t beer nerds get their brew?

2. Hey restaurants, you have a fancy-pants wine list, right?
Well, time to figure out a legit beer list.

This is probably my No. 1 pet peeve: Restaurants short-changing beer menus.

I’m going to name names.

Hock Farm Craft & Provisions, which recently opened on L Street across from Capitol Park, focuses on the old “farm-to-fork” eats and healthful, artisan foods. Thoughtful ingredients, all-natural product. Wine, craft cocktails. Yet they feature an inspired, lazy brew list, with rote suds like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale—not to mention Bud Light and fucking Corona. (Have a look.) 

Time to hock that and start over.

More names: There are restaurants I admire and frequent regularly, too, that boast caring beer selections—but could still up their game.

I’m thinking of Grange Restaurant, Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co., Restaurant Thir13en, Magpie Café (there are of course many others)—I presume strong wine selections, but not so impressive when it comes to 22 ounce and 270 mL bottles. Much love for these eateries—they’re tops!—but I would wager that Sacramentans are ready for poppin’ brew bottles with dinner.

Need help? Watch the rotation on LowBrau’s “Beer Nerd” bottle list.

3. Brewers, why not start with just one really good style?

Berryessa Brewing Co., Track 7 Brewing Company, etc—they’re great.

So are the up-and-coming spots.

But … a lot of these newer spots seem too hot to craft a variety styles without mastering one in particular.

I’d like to see these new-to-the-scene brewers focus on a single style, accumulate a strong “drinker-ship,” then branch out to sours and barrel-aging or whatever. What good is five or 10 brews in rotation when they’re all mediocre—or worse?

Not everyone can be Berryessa’s Chris Miller or Track 7’s Ryan Graham. Yet.

4. Share your beer lists online!

Why do the best brew bars and retailers in town want to keep their tap lists and bottle menus secret?

Put that action up online, throw it out there to the world. I can’t see how that’s bad for business?

It’s not difficult, given Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr. Hell, there’s gotta be some social-media savvy, drunk-ass regular at your bar right now who would do this in exchange for free pours.

5. Die beer snob

Yes, I say stuff like “Sculpin’s not as good as it was years ago.” And I talk a lot of smack. I might be a beer elitist. But a snob?

I’m not bogarter of the brew; sharing is caring. There’s nothing more fun than popping a bottle with good friends. And  I’ll drink anything (Natty!).

I’m not sure what my point is here with No. 5. Except that it doesn’t pay to be selfish, insensitive or snooty when it comes to brew. Let the vino quaffers take care of that.


I look forward to revisiting this list during ACBW 2014!

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