The edible insider’s guide to Greater Sacramento area craft brewers
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. …
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. …
READ THE FULL STORY: RAISE A GLASS. Published in Edible Sacramento magaine’s Drinks Issue January 1 – February 1, 2018.