With the area’s hop harvest recently completed, Sacramento’s brewing scene is busier than it’s been in decades. What’s fueling the local craft beer boom? We tapped New Helvetia Brewing Company founder David Gull to help explain the hop hype.
Why is craft brewing so big in Sacramento right now? Sacramento was a little late on the initial craft brewing craze in the late ’80s and early ’90s. When some places didn’t make it, people thought craft beer couldn’t make it in Sacramento. But that’s not the case at all. Rubicon is celebrating 25 years this year. That’s a phenomenal win for Sacramento. Now, coming off a prolonged recession, people who have the passion for it are saying, “It’s either now or never.”
How do today’s breweries differ from those that popped up in the 1990s? The new generation has jumped past what the early ’90s brewpubs did, where you had to be a restaurant. Now you can go into a 25-cent-per-square-foot warehouse on the outskirts of wherever and make beer and people are gonna drink it. Track 7, American River Brewing in Rancho Cordova, Loomis Basin—there are all these hidden warehouse locations that are getting people to come out and find them and drink their beer.
What makes Sacramento an ideal spot for craft brewing? We have proven hop-growing capacity here in Sacramento, but that all went away in the 1950s and ’60s. There’s no reason why it can’t come back. We also have kick-ass water. I’ll put our water, straight out of the tap, up against anywhere in the country.
What can we expect to see on the Sacramento craft beer scene in the coming year? There will be some new breweries popping up in town: Device Brewing, Twelve Rounds in East Sacramento and Big Sexy. Right now, our count is seven breweries in Sacramento. My guess is we’ll have 12 to 15 here in the next year.
Which local beers top your list? Sutter Buttes Brewing in Yuba City did one called the Franklin Junior, which I would put up against Pliny the Younger any day. You don’t say “Yuba City” and “great beer” in the same sentence often, but that’s exactly what they managed to pull off.