Now open – New Helvetia Brewery on Broadway

Sacramento has a new brewery inspired by the region’s once-famous Buffalo Beer. If you want a taste, you better mark your calendar.

New Helvetia Brewing Company, at Broadway and 18th Street, opened its doors to the public last week. Founder David Gull is considering December the brewery’s "soft opening" month. He’ll announce a grand opening in 2013, hopefully to sync up with Sacramento Beer Week.

"We’re a big place with not a lot of brewing happening," Gull said on a recent sunny morning, as contractors worked in the brewery. "I definitely recognized the opportunity and market."

So when can you grab a brew? Right now, and until Gull announces otherwise, tasting hours are Thursday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Yep, just three days, in three-hours increments. And really, that’s all Gull can currently handle, as parts of the interior are still under construction and he’s awaiting a big shipment of ingredients.

But the customer response so far has been warm and welcoming, he said. "Obviously people want more beers to choose from," Gull said.

Historical inspiration leads to innovation

Gull, a fourth-generation Sacramentan, drew on the city’s brewing history for inspiration. Sacramento-based Buffalo Brewing Company was once the largest brewery west of the Mississippi, Gull says, and was a local favorite until it shut down in 1942. The historic brewery building was ultimately torn down to make room for the Sacramento Bee headquarters.

The Buffalo brand experienced somewhat of a resurgence in the early 1970s, when two law school grads started a new label and recipe, according to Gull’s website. The brewery’s tagline, "Buffalo beer is back" helped spread the word as the brand regained recognition and success locally. But the brewery shut down at the end of the decade, and Buffalo Beer was once again taken off the shelves and placed back into the history books.

So how does Gull plan to recreate the famous hoppy treat? Well, that’s the thing – he doesn’t. Besides, "If you could recreate it, you probably wouldn’t want to drink it," he said. Plus, there’s no record of how the original brew tasted. Everything from the water, to the ingredients and equipment used, have changed since the early 1900s.

So the plan is to create a "highly drinkable, pre-Prohibition lager formula," that will be a "sharp, crisp lager with bolder flavors and stronger aroma than the traditional American lager," in the spirit of Buffalo Beer, Gull states.

"We’re trying to grab some of that history and bring back that historic beer," he said.

There will be other beers, of course – "every other style you can think of," Gull said – as the business starts filling out the old brick building on the corner of Broadway and 18th Street. The building, which has large windows facing out toward Broadway, was built in 1925 and served as a tortilla factory until 2005.

In a way, it spoke to Gull. "The more I walked through, the more it told me it wanted to be a brewery, so I listened," he said.

His dream is nearly two years in the making – he started the process in January 2011 – and was made lengthier in part due to the building’s historical significance. "It would have been easier to do this in a West Sacramento warehouse," he said." But the usual suspects, permitting processes and construction taking longer than expected, also played a role, Gull said.

What customers need to know

For those planning an evening trip down to the brick building, Gull gave a few suggestions to keep in mind beforehand: 

– While the brewery doesn’t serve food (yet), customers are welcome to bring their own, or have it delivered to the business. Eventually he hopes to partner with some local food trucks, and maybe even somewhere down the road, add a restaurant as a complement to the brewery and tasting room. 

– Parking is not ideal right by the brewery, so customers can park in a lot on the northeast corner of 16th Street and Broadway, between Chase and Willie’s. 

– There are only two beers to choose from at the moment: an IPA and a lager. More will be coming.

Already the tasting room has a connection to its historical inspiration. Vintage relics from the Buffalo Beer days are displayed as wall art, and Gull even has some of the actual beer (a bottle and six pack) from the 70s in the building. "There’s remnants of it in places all over town," Gull said, noting that Dad’s Kitchen and Fanny Ann’s Saloon have some old signage on their walls as well.

The bar itself is made of wood – from a Walnut tree – and even has that new bar smell. Gull hopes it attracts people who appreciate knowing the source of their sudsy beverage.

"Beer drinkers want to know where home is, where the beer came from," he said. "We gave the beer a home."

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December 12, 2012 | 3:32 PM


The Land Park section of Broadway is still struggling to meet its enormous potential as a destination. We have check cashing, a pawn shop and now a new Cigarettes & Tobacco store next to the Quiznos at 11th St. Meanwhile the city has clearly demnostrated their level of interest in turning around Broadway by continuing to let stand the rotting carcass of a burnt out former drycleaner building at 5th and Broadway (Steve Hansen are you listening?).

This here may be the best piece of good news for our little section of Broadway since the Starbuck/Jamba/Walgreens complex opened a decade ago. I look forward to patronizing this welcome addition to the neighborhood.

December 12, 2012 | 4:39 PM

Cogmeyer, do you think that side of Broadway is going to benefit from the bridge they’re building to West Sacramento?

December 12, 2012 | 8:38 PM

First off, I think Sutterville is a far better bridge location with a direct connection to I-5 and far enough from the US50 bridge to make a difference. I know our LPCA has recommended the Broadway location, but I think jury is still out on a final location recommendation.

A Broadway bridge combined with removal of the fuel storage takes, the promenade plans that are already in place and maybe a few other “draws” (such as the permanent farmer’s market discussed in another article, yes absolutely the bridge would be a big plus. You can bet on West Sac aggressively pursuing exciting development on their side, and that may be enough to create some traction no matter what dysfunctional Sacramento does.

My fear is that the Setzer site and now the city low-income redevelopment are being planned ramrodded through with little consideration for a future Broadway. Ideally there would be commercial or public use facilities along the Broadway corridor, with housing (low-income, high income, whatever) set back on the properties.
Maybe our incoming councilman Hansen can be more forthcoming on plans for the area than the outgoing weasel Rob Fong.

December 12, 2012 | 9:07 PM

I thought LPCA opposed a bridge at either Broadway or Sutterville? A few years back a LPCA neighborhood representative met with some central city groups talking about their opposition to Broadway as a bridge location. Has that position changed?

And what bridge are “they” building? I was under the impression that the idea of a Broadway bridge over the Sacramento was dead–the city is working on an American River bridge, and maybe a crossing of the Sacramento in the Railyards north of I Street, but not Broadway.

And is anyone actually talking about a farmer’s market in the Land Park/West Broadway waterfront area other than in that other article where David Lukenbill suggested putting a farmer’s market north of Richards Boulevard?

December 12, 2012 | 10:42 PM

Maybe a year ago the LPCA recommended Broadway location, although they expressed concerns about a bridge in either location. I specifically recall Mark Abram`s statement, I believe in a SacPress article or comment, that the LPCA was actively trying to avoid being as anti-progress, which the previous LPCA board was often accused of, and therefore wanted to come out with a recommendation.

December 12, 2012 | 3:42 PM

Yay! Can’t wait to try them out!

December 12, 2012 | 10:01 PM

The city councils of Sacramento and West Sacramento voted to remove Sutterville Road from consideration as a potential crossing location, but did move forward several other locations, including Broadway ( really w and x streets) and Richards Blvd. The next phase is the feasibility study. I was fortunate to have participated in the group that selected the consultant for the feasibility study.

Both city councils also determined that any bridge built must be “neighborhood friendly.” The definition of which can be found on the city website and/or in council minutes. The exciting aspect of a “neighborhood friendly” bridge is that according to the definition, it would most likely be a movable bridge, i.e., like a draw bridge or lift bridge, but not a tall fixed bridge. A movable bridge is much more compatible with easily accommodating walkers, bikers, and streetcars, the essence of “neighborhood friendly.”

A Broadway (w/x) Bridge would be great for theNew Helvetia Brewery, Broadway Blvd., and the general community.

December 12, 2012 | 11:32 PM

The Pioneer Bridge ends up between W and X Street (where Highway 50 runs), so I assume that a Broadway bridge would actually end up on Broadway, vs. running underneath the Pioneer Bridge.

December 13, 2012 | 5:45 AM

Actually no, city staff is working on an alignment which would be more of a w/x connection. In fact, I believe the favored term utilized by the city’s transportation department, (and not just for political reasons) is the w/x bridge. Of course it is assumed that the connection a bit south to Broadway would be easy for those wanting to make use of Broadway’s assets, including the New Helvetia Brewery.

December 13, 2012 | 7:57 AM

Okay, so the bridge would run parallel to Broadway but the connections would run north under the Pioneer Bridge to connect with W and X Street?

December 13, 2012 | 10:55 AM

City Staff might want to look at a map and see that X and W end at 3rd street with I-5 blocking the way.

December 13, 2012 | 9:45 PM

I-5 is elevated in that area. I guess the w-x bridge would terminate on the Sac side under (or nearly under) the elevated 50 / I-5? But it would align to Sacramento grid and terminate on the West Sac side a fair bit south of US 50?

I guess the advantage is to keep all the bridges and ramps huddled together. Especially if the city is not confident they can get the fuel tanks removed by Miller Park. But that coming into Sacramento under I 5 and US 50 doesnt sound like a very pleasant way to enter Sacramento on foot or bike.

December 13, 2012 | 10:16 PM

Yeah, the I-5/Hwy 50 cloverleaf pretty much cover the whole W/X block plus a bit to the north and south, I’m not buying this whole “W/X bridge” idea as anything other than a way to cool down Land Park about a Broadway bridge. Anyhow, congratulations to David Gull for opening his brewery and bringing back the historic Buffalo name!

December 13, 2012 | 8:26 AM

Yes, I believe that’s correct. By the way, I enjoyed the meeting last Saturday, but had to leave at the break.

December 14, 2012 | 8:00 AM

We’ll post the post-break portion of the meeting on YouTube in a few days.

December 18, 2012 | 9:32 AM

What’s the channel name on youtube? I wasn’t even aware there was one.

December 13, 2012 | 8:38 AM

You realize Anheuser-Busch is in St. Louis — west of the Mississippi — right?

December 18, 2012 | 9:33 AM

Oh…maybe they also meant good beer.

December 18, 2012 | 1:33 PM

Dave mentioned that recently and it’s also on his website, but I can’t find a direct comparison anywhere. There’s a great Sac beer history here: In any case, it’s totally feasible that Buffalo was bigger than A-B in 1890 but surpassed shortly after.

Profile photo of ccc
December 13, 2012 | 10:08 AM

i thought this article was about a new brewery, no? take the bridge talk to another forum and please quit crowding. anyhow, great to hear it is finally opening and good luck to Mr. Gull

December 13, 2012 | 12:46 PM

Yeah, I know… a place for everything and everything in its place. Doctors are now able to prescribe some great medications for OCD and anxiety issues.

You want to talk beer… lets talk beer! I hope New Helvetia will take a leadership role in the Sacramento pilsner movement (which I just made up). A trademark Sacramento born light crisp pils to wash down all the German food that will soon be washing over midtown.

December 18, 2012 | 9:33 AM

Take the comment police talk to another forum.

December 13, 2012 | 4:37 PM

Yay for more beer.

Can you buy it in the supermarket too like Ruhstaller?

December 18, 2012 | 1:37 PM

Bottling will probably come later. It’s a capital intensive process and profit margins on $4-5 pints at a bar that you own are naturally a little higher. Ruhstaller was also going to be bottled as there’s no direct outlet, and it’s brewed and bottled on contracted equipment. (Nothing wrong with that, but I look forward JE opening his own place. Hopefully the success and expansion of Track 7, Rubicon, and the presumptive success of New Helvetia will spur that on.)

Profile photo of ccc
December 13, 2012 | 8:00 PM

cogmeyer, they have great medicine for being an ass too. but you probably know that then don’t you?

December 13, 2012 | 9:36 PM

Hey check it out- our misplaced bridge talk has made this the top trending article on the SacPress frontpage!

Yeah, maybe i was being a bit of an ass. It was the hall monitor tone of your message that got me going. Anyway, my apologies and have a great holiday season.

December 13, 2012 | 11:39 PM

Congrats Dave! This is going to be great. Maybe West Sac will build the bridge for a straight shot to your brewery. See you there soon.

December 14, 2012 | 1:49 PM

Yes, more beer places, we look forward to trying it soon.

December 18, 2012 | 10:37 AM

Congrats, i’m so excited to check it out. And thank you for choosing the location you did!

December 18, 2012 | 1:20 PM

Oh, this is great! Congrats, David, and thanks so much for opening at that location! My husband and I can’t wait to stop by!!

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