Nestled as we are in a fertile brewers’ garden, it’s no surprise we Sacramentans love to drink beer. And not just any beer. Good beer, craft beer, delicious beer is what we crave. Whether you like it hoppy or malty, dark or light, these local drinking holes offer more than enough beer to please your palate.
PANGAEA TWO BREWS CAFE
Belgian beer is like French wine: It comes from a hundreds-year-old tradition, it’s difficult to duplicate outside its growing region, and its devotees are some of the most passionate drinkers on the planet. No surprise then that Pangaea, home to the area’s deepest selection of Belgian brews, is populated nearly every night by Sacramento’s most intense beer drinkers. To call them knowledgeable would be an insult. These are folks who have the equivalent of a Ph.D. in beer geekitude. Bartenders and patrons are happy to talk your ear off about aging, and God help you if you get them started on the subject of fermentation. If you want to immerse yourself in beer culture, there’s no better place than Pangaea.
The best: Peter Hoey’s Franklin Double IPA
The bitter: Food offerings are a bit limited—good, but limited
Regulars know: The second brew in Pangaea’s name refers to coffee, about which the owners are just as passionate as their beer
2743 Franklin Blvd., Sacramento;(916) 454-4942; pangaeatwobrews.com
SAMUEL HORNE’S TAVERN
I once complained to a friend that there were no places where adults could go and drink peacefully. I was wrong. Samuel Horne’s Tavern is such a place. This quiet spot is a beer geek’s paradise. It has a full bar, but the beer is really what sets it apart. The taps rotate frequently and feature the best domestically made brews anywhere. That’s right: domestic only. No imports here. Enjoy the plush leather lounge chairs and some of the most knowledgeable bartenders you’re likely to find anywhere.
The best: Offerings change so frequently that you’re better off asking the bartender
The bitter: Parking can be a challenge on Sutter Street, especially on weekends
Regulars know: Weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m., all beers brewed within 100 miles are half price
719 Sutter St., Folsom; (916) 293-8207; samuelhornestavern.com
FLAMING GRILL CAFE
This burger joint, formerly a drive-through Thai restaurant, offers an impressive list of burgers (many of them made from exotic animals) and a mind-boggling selection of brews that run the gamut from lawnmower beers to some of the finest craft brews in the country. Try the yak burger and a pint of Shiner Bock from Texas, or a kangaroo burger and a can of Dale’s Pale Ale from Colorado
The best: Hop Rod Rye from Bear Republic Brewing Co.
The bitter: Seating is an indoor/outdoor affair and very casual. Feels a bit like eating in a parking lot
Regulars know: While the crazy meats might grab your attention, try the ahi sandwich or the fajitas; they’re both the best in town
2319 El Camino Ave., Sacramento; (916) 359-0840; flaminggrillcafe.info
You can tell owner Gary Sleppy is a pretty passionate guy, from the 100-plus international beers he stocks to the excellent food that comes out of his kitchen. This cozy, neighborhood joint, once a roadside root beer stand, has a leafy beer garden that serves a constantly changing lineup of some of the best brews from California, Belgium and a few places in between. The humble food—mostly sandwiches and salads—is handmade and filling, with meats roasted and ground in-house. The turkey, bacon and avocado sandwich pairs well with a nice Belgian white.
The best: Hennepin Farmhouse Saison
The bitter: Hours are a bit limited, and service can be slow on a crowded night
Regulars know: Wednesday-night trivia contest hosted by Sacramento Beer Week director Dan Scott is a friendly yet competitive showdown
5201 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 457-5997; eastsacshack.com
RIVER CITY BREWING COMPANY
While there aren’t many area restaurants worth braving mall traffic for, River City Brewing Company in Downtown Plaza is indeed worth the effort. Mostly in the German tradition, all beers are brewed in-house. Traditional brews like Kölsch, Maibock and Hefeweizen are handled with precision. But it’s the Woodenhead Ale that wins all the awards. This big amber ale aged in California oak is by far River City’s best-selling beer. The food is surprisingly good (surprising for a brewery, that is), especially the salads.
The best: Woodenhead Ale
The bitter: Did I mention it was in a mall?
Regulars know: $2.50 pints on Wednesday nights
545 Downtown Plaza, Sacramento; (916) 447-2739; rivercitybrewing.net
RUBICON BREWING COMPANY
Probably the best-known brewer in Sacramento, Rubicon does beer, and it does it well. Its IPA is served at restaurants and bars throughout town, and its Monkey Knife Fight Pale Ale has the most recognizable name in the area. Rubicon’s Capitol Avenue patio is pretty much midtown’s Algonquin Round Table, where you can see deals being struck, trends being set and pints being consumed.
The best: The rotating seasonal brew
The bitter: The kitchen won’t be winning awards anytime soon, especially as it’s in the same neighborhood as The Waterboy and The Press
Regulars know: $2.50 pints on Tuesday nights
2004 Capitol Ave., Sacramento; (916) 448-7032; rubiconbrewing.com
BURGERS AND BREW
Possessing possibly the best restaurant name in existence—second perhaps only to Pasadena’s Pie ’n Burger—Burgers and Brew does both of its namesakes—there’s a location in Davis—pretty darned well. A thick sirloin, turkey or veggie burger accompanied by a world-class beer is one of life’s great pleasures. The beer list is rife with treasures from around the world. While it’s weighted a bit to the Belgians, it also includes a healthy offering of British, Asian and American brews. Different breweries are featured every month, giving beer lovers the perfect excuse to stop in regularly.
The best: Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale from Japan
The bitter: Aside from the namesake burgers, the menu fails to impress
Regulars know: To clear out by 11 p.m., before the drunks from nearby bars start wandering the streets looking for greasy food
1409 R St., Sacramento; (916) 442-0900; burgersbrew.com
One of the region’s first specialty beer bars, Manderes lives up to its motto: “No crap on tap.” Recently relocated from humble digs on Folsom’s East Bidwell Street (a former fish-and-chips shop where customers had to go outside to use the restrooms), it now makes its home in a nondescript strip mall next to Bidwell Street Bistro. The décor is strikingly modern for a beer joint, but the beer is old-fashioned and tasty.
The best: Dogfish Head’s Palo Santo Marron
The bitter: The upscale sports-bar atmosphere isn’t always conducive to contemplative drinking
Regulars know: To show up for your Bidwell Street Bistro reservations an hour early so you can enjoy a few good brews at Manderes
1004 E. Bidwell St., Folsom; (916) 986-9655; manderes.com
Recently opened in midtown, Alley Katz has quickly acquired a beer-soaked buzz that’s spread well beyond its neighborhood. The place features a constantly changing lineup of taps and a cold case of bottles that’s the envy of most beer aficionados. The selection of brews can be a bit overwhelming, but the diversity makes for entertaining drinking. The only thing holding Alley Katz back might be the low-end sports-bar vibe and the hard-drinking crowds looking for towers of Bud Light and PBR.
The best: Sculpin IPA from San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing Company
The bitter: Rowdy crowds make it a less-than-desirable spot in the evenings
Regulars know: To come prepared with money for the jukebox unless you’re happy listening to the hair-band opus chosen by the other patrons
2019 O St., Sacramento; (916) 442-2682
Fred Munday’s Extreme Pizza franchise on Exposition Boulevard is unlike any other store in the chain. He runs it like a mom-and-pop establishment. Sure, the pizza’s great, but it’s the selection of California craft brews that really sets this place apart. Drawing from up and down the state, Munday offers hearty brews with his pies. And as far as I know, this is the only place in town that will deliver beer straight to your door. With your pizza, of course.
The best: Arrogant Bastard Ale from Stone Brewing Co. in San Diego
The bitter: Costco and REI traffic can make navigating the parking lot a bit exciting
Regulars know: Extreme serves one of the best, and only, vegan pizzas in town
1140 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 925-8859; extremepizza.com
YOUR SACRAMENTO SIX-PACK—Six local brews simply made for a hot Sacto summer:
Monkey Knife Fight Pale Ale, Rubicon Brewing Company (Sacramento)—Light and hoppy, just right for an afternoon on the patio. 5.4 percent ABV (alcohol by volume)
Hopstar IPA, Knee Deep Beer Company (Lincoln)—This full-bodied IPA is a hoppy, bitter punch from newcomer Knee Deep. 7.5 percent ABV
Blood Orange Cider, Two Rivers Cider Company (Sacramento)—OK, it’s not beer. But can you think of anything better than a blood orange cider on a hot July afternoon? 6.5 percent ABV
White Water Pale Ale, Jack Russell Brewing Co. (Camino)—Perfect for a day on the river, this decidedly British pale ale is a hoppy dose of liquid goodness. 5.5 percent ABV
Sudwerk Pilsner, Sudwerk Brewery (Davis)—Our favorite Pilsner. This light German style beer is perfect for the dog days of summer, and Sudwerk’s version can’t be beat. 5 percent ABV
Liquid Sunshine Blonde Ale, Hoppy Brewing Company (Sacramento)—Wheat, rye, hops and sunshine. According to Hoppy, “There’s nothing like it under the sun.” 5 percent ABV