Beerfest at Cal Expo -- Old Hangtown Beer Works El Camino
The Sacramento Brewers showcase took place this past Saturday, Feb. 25 from noon to 2:30. Already at noon, beer enthusiasts were lined up at the gate ready to taste beers from the nearly 20 local breweries located within an hour's drive. This year, visitors were pleased to see a lineup of food trucks outside of the Cal Expo Pavilion, Wicked ‘Wich, Mama Kim’s, Frickle, Drewski’s and the new Willie’s Burger truck, included.
Local beer enthusiasts thoroughly enjoyed the event. The intimate and community feel allowed attendees to visit with friends, brewers and food truck owners alike.
The Old Hangtown Beer Works El Camino was the first sight for most visitors. Likewise, their IPA was a welcome start to a great day, and had good body and a nice full flavor. With all the new attempts at double and triple IPA’s, it was great to taste a new, high-quality (single) IPA as well.
The Auburn Alehouse had a full schedule planned for their handsome table-top bar. Their Gold Digger IPA and a Scotch Ale, brewed with Peter Hoey, started out the day. PU 240, an Imperial IPA and ZZ Hop, a triple IPA, came later in the day. ZZ Hop went so fast I never even saw it on tap.
Sierra Nevada had more than enough possibilities for tasters, and the tent had something between a line and a small crowd for much of the day. Tasters lingered so they could taste their beers one after another. Their Sloughhouse and Persimmon were experimental brews and were available just for this beer week. Persimmon, a Farmhouse Ale, was a unique and delicious brew nothing like their hoppier varieties, but more appropriate for a lovely afternoon in a sunny backyard reading a book - perhaps a history of Belgian beer styles. It was very light, almost ladylike in taste, but strong enough for a man. Of course, their Harvest Ale was a treat to have on tap as well.
Berryessa Brewing Co. is all over the place this week. They will be working with eight different establishments around Sacramento and Davis, and the majority of their events are listed under “Special Events” on the SBW website. Events include beer and appetizer pairings, cheese and beer pairings and beer festivals such as those that took place on Saturday.
New Helvetia Brewing Company wasn’t pouring, but gave out plenty of information on their upcoming May opening and plans for the future. Later in the day, I found that River City had the Buffalo Lager available along with their own creations.
Sutter Buttes Brewing had a great showing at both the Sacramento Brewers Showcase and the Capital Beerfest. Along with their Franklin DIPA, which debuted at last year’s Beer Week, they had a 10 percent ABV Imperial Oatmeal Stout. This rich and flavorful brew had a great head and was my pick for the best brew of the first festival. Others clearly felt the same, as when I returned a short while later, the tap was gone and had been replaced by a new strong ale, ‘Ol Lefty.
Loomis Basin had great beers on Saturday as well. Big Boy (aka Alohawk) was a nice strong ale. They also had a double IPA worth checking out.
For their first Beer Week, Ruhstaller certainly had a great day at the festival. Their tasting line was twenty people long almost all day. Businesses all around might want to take note of the PR practices of this gypsy brewery. Ruhstaller poured both Capt. and 1881 from their truck. The old Rusthaller truck was a nice touch. The thick smell of oil that permeated the space around it really made you feel like you were throwing one back in somebody’s garage.
The Ruhstaller name might be from 1881, but the QR code is from 2012. (Image by: Matt Doyle)
Other breweries fresh to the scene included Western Pacific Brewing in Oroville, Track 7, ‘Ol Republic and Roseville Brewing Company, which will soon be opening a tasting room.
The Sacramento Brewers Showcase was truly a testament to the upwardly mobile Sacramento craft beer scene. Everyone involved - the people, the breweries and the support - should feel proud of all that has been accomplished. It is amazing that in a world with connectivity that brings everything to your fingertips, local ties have become more important than ever.
Following the Sacramento Brewers Showcase, everyone was herded out of the building for a break from 2:30 to 3. Those with green wristbands who would be sticking around for the second festival in the venue were directed outside. While you would think a half-hour break between the two fests would be awkward, the beautiful weather proved it to be just the ticket. Those sticking around for the Capital Beerfest could be seen enjoying cigars at the cigar tent or snacking on food truck specialties while lounging on the grass debating the intricacies of the IPA or which Runnin’ for Rhett volunteer was the cutest, the nicest or gave the best pours.
The 2012 Capital Beerfest provided an outstanding day of tasting for local beer enthusiasts. The event had nearly 80 breweries present. The second annual fest was a clear success, and the planners should be proud of the small but important improvements that were made over last year’s festival. The presence of local food trucks, for instance, surely made the culinary aspect of the festival way, way, way better. There’s nothing like a hemi from Drewski’s paired with a nice porter or perhaps a Bacon Brown Ale from Uncommon Brewers. Uncommon Brewers, formed in 2008, brews all-organic beers packaged in those handsome 16 oz. tallboy cans.
Heretic Brewing Company was surely a highlight of the day. Evil Cousin, an 8 percent ABV, 100 IBU beer was a great imperial IPA with a hop profile similar to that of Green Flash’s Imperial - a great beer for true hop devotees, a little dank for the rest. While they were not available for tasting, their special brews, all Belgian in character, looked quite intriguing, specifically Worry and Tafelbully, supposedly a Belgian-style session beer with a "mere" 4.8 percent ABV.
The Greenbelt Brewers Association, a group with around 65 members, was a great stop off or starting point. They had twelve beers to taste, contributed by at least ten different members. Their thirteenth, a secret pour, had a story of its own. The sour brown was brewed by a previous Greenbelt president who then passed it on to the current president, who in turn transformed it into a nicely authentic sour beer that has been aging for five years. For those interested in joining the Greenbelt homebrew club, make it quick. Heretic’s head brewer, Jamil Zainasheff will be speaking at their March meeting at Sudwerk.
It isn’t often that you see the line for homebrew tastings rival those of the established breweries. That being said, one of the best beers of the day was the lone nitro tap in the building. Jason Ledford provided an outstanding coconut robust porter. The faint touch of coconut was provided by “dry hopping” toasted coconut. You can always count on the homebrewers to bring new ideas to the table, or should I say, to the tap.
In essence, every brewer starts as a homebrewer, so it is these groups of creative men and women brewing in their garages, basements and bedroom closets that are the real champions of the day. When there is a constant push for new, new, new in the beer world, the momentum and rampant creativity has to come from somewhere.
Even Sierra Nevada, for instance, previously known almost wholly for their Pale Ale, has now taken the tenets of today’s brewing world in stride. Saturday they had so many different beers on tap that I had to look twice to make sure they actually had their Pale Ale there as well.
Continuing around the hall, Drake's also had a nice following throughout the day. Their Hopocalypse is quite smooth in spite of its 9.3 percent ABV and 100+ IBU. In addition, their double IPA, Denogginizer (9.75 percent ABV and 90 IBU), was a nice surprise. It had a clean taste not muddled with the superfluous bitterness that often comes with Imperial IPA's.
Other Bay area contributors included High Water and Triple Voodoo brewing. High Water Brewing was the most likeable brewery of the day. Besides a load of cheerful staff members and great pours that included Hop Riot IPA and Aphotic, they gained my respect when I noticed that they were pouring a few of their personal favorites as well. These included several Alesmith brews as well as something that was both North Coast and barrel-aged. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Triple Vodoo Brewing had several taps and staff members on hand to do the pouring. Their Kaleidescope, made in collaboration with Kneedeep Brewing, was a great beer, something like a heavily smoked Black IPA. The smoky twist was a nice change from the often unfulfilled flavor of Black IPA's.
Russian River was present but ran out early on. Their pours included bottles of Supplication, Redemption and Damnation. In truth, I never actually saw them at their booth. The green button-down Pliny the Elder shirts wandering about the facility may have been just a trick of the eye, a figment of my imagination.
Deschutes Brewing is a brewery that never fails to come without a new brew or two in tow. On Saturday, they brought Hop Trip, a fresh-hopped pale ale. Their heavy and flavorful Jubelale was available as well. Another winter warmer was Shipyard's highlight, Prelude, which had an aroma that could be likened to the bouquet of a good wine. The scent of its caramel maltiness still has my mouth watering, though I admit that I was hoping for more in terms of body.
Lost Coast of Eureka was there pouring their standard favorites. One of their staff members dazzled crowd members throughout the day with his moonlighting gig, Jack’s Caps, aka, bottle cap art. Several members of the crowd wore a sample pair of his “beerings,” as I have decided to call them. In the craft beer world today, the possibilities are endless.
My last taste of the day was, as you might have guessed if you have ever read anything about my beer tastes, an Old Rasputin. Most fortunately, after a taster of Old Rasputin, Ken Kelley of North Coast and a young man I believe to be his son pulled out a box of bottles filled with their barrel-aged goodness. Thus, my last taste of the day was North Coast Grand Cru. It was a perfect end to a terrific day of beer tasting at Cal Expo. It’s hard to believe there is still a full week of great beer events to come.
Check out photos of the Capital Beerfest, Sacramento Brewers Showcase and any of the 400 other events this beer week at the Bokeh Box website. To stay up to date on Sacramento Beer Week events, get the Beer Week app and follow Sacramento Beer Week on Twitter.