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Psst! Here’s How To Drink at a Speakeasy Taproom


Posted on December 29, 2014

Photography by Roy Wilcox

Leave it to a meticulous craft brewer to carefully curate a tasting-room experience as daring and delightful as the suds on tap. The recently opened Ruhstaller taproom downtown combines the exclusivity of a Prohibition-era speakeasy with the down-home earthiness of a Sacramento farm. If that sounds daunting, fear not: We are here to give you the inside scoop so you’ll feel like a quaffing pro.

No. 1: Follow the face
The taproom isn’t exactly easy to find, especially if you’re depending on the address (630 K St.) to guide you there. Instead, make your way to the corner of K and Seventh streets and look for Ruhstaller’s logo on a sidewalk sandwich board. When the taproom is open (Thursdays through Saturdays), the logo marks the black glass door of the Seventh Street entrance. Unfamiliar with the logo? It’s the photographed face of an old-timey, cigar-chomping gent Ruhstaller folks have nicknamed Jimmy. “We say he was the grandson of Capt. Frank Ruhstaller,” says brewery founder Jan-Erik (J.E.) Paino. “He looks like a guy you want to have a beer with.”

No. 2: You don’t need an appointment
There’s a phone number printed on the door near the “Ring Bell for Beer” instructions. You don’t need to call it. But you do need to ring the doorbell to be let inside. From there, it’s a short hop down a flight of stairs.

No. 3: Feel free to comment on your draft
Half the beers served in the taproom are experimental, so customers are as much focus-group participants as happy imbibers. “We had an opportunity to allow others to taste the beers we were experimenting with and find what they liked,” says Paino. In fact, only about 20 percent of the beers on tap make it to bottling and distribution.

No. 4: Expect to learn 
Not just about beer, although pourer Matt Malan is a font (keg?) of information about mouthfeel (the difference in effervescence between carbon dioxide and nitrogen bubbles), clarity (one sampling was downright swampy) and flavor (coffee tones versus grass, for example). But you can also learn a little city history: Once your draft is in hand, check out the taproom’s southern wing, a corridor lined with bales of hay displaying photos and antiques that provide ample information on Sacramento’s heady days as the Milwaukee of the West.

No. 5: Get it while you can
Construction of the new Kings arena and the accompanying demolition of Downtown Plaza have Paino looking for a new downtown location for Ruhstaller. Still, he is “pretty confident” that he’ll be operating at Ruhstaller’s present location through the end of the year. “We plan on being at that location as long as we possibly can,” he says.

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