The city that never stops drinking
So I was sitting in Dad’s Tap Room earlier this week, sipping on a Lagunitas Rye Barrel Cappuccino Stout and thumbing my iPhone when the post popped up on Facebook. Live on sacbee.com, the owners of Bike Dog Brewery were announcing the opening of yet another craft beer establishment in the Sacramento area.
Once again, the questions that have been dogging my mind during this whole craft beer boom thing rose to the surface. Is there such a thing as too much beer? Specifically, is it possible that Sacramento one day soon may become over-saturated with beer? Every time I figure we should be tapped out, yet another brewery or brew pub or restaurant featuring craft beer opens its doors. When will the beer bubble bust, if ever?
To explore the answers to these perplexing questions, I turned to three local craft beer purveyors: Ryan Beard of Dad’s, Clay Nutting of LowBrau and Keenan Gorgis of Curtis Park Market.
I first approached Beard, AKA Beardo, since he was right there behind the Tap Room’s bar.
“Beardo, is it possible to have too much beer?” I asked.
He stroked his beard thoughtfully before answering.
“If you’re talking about inebriation, yeah,” he smiled. “If you’re talking about tap handles … no.”
Dad’s Kitchen’s Tap Room opened in April and completed the circle of craft beer establishments surrounding my neighborhood, Curtis Park. Pangea and Curtis Park Market to the east, Track 7 Brewing Company to the south, Dad’s Tap Room to the west and New Helvetia Brewing Company to the north. Forget about barhopping from my neighborhood to Grand Beer Central, LowBrau, in Midtown. You’ll be staggering before you make it to Broadway.
“Yeah, that’s the intention,” Beard admitted.
The Tap Room has been swamped during the evenings since it opened, but the afternoons are pleasant, especially on Happy Hour Tuesdays. All day long the 30 taps – solely American-made craft beers like Track 7 Blonde or the latest bizarrely-named brand from one of the estimated bazillion microbreweries in northern California, such as Abita Purple Haze Raspberry Wheat ale – are four bucks a pop.
The Lagunitas I nursed is a case in point. Black as tar, smooth as bourbon and so lethal—13 percent alcohol—it can only be served in a 12-ounce glass. Three of those and you’re going nowhere. Fortunately, you can order and eat a hearty meal from Dad’s Kitchen without ever getting off your stool, perhaps washing it down with a crisp golden pint of Berryessa IPA.
The ability to keep clientele anesthetized in place appears to be a key factor driving the beer business boom. Order a half-liter stein of imported German pilsner at LowBrau, and you’ll be hankering for some serious sausage before you’re halfway through, guaranteed.
When I asked Clay Nutting if it was possible to have too much beer, he acknowledged the inebriation factor.
“That’s a loaded question,” he conceded via Facebook PM.
I was counting on a few new wiener jokes from the LowBrau co-owner—one of the beer hall’s latest culinary creations was a 12-inch Polish dubbed the Home Wrecker—but instead he waxed eloquent on me.
“I think a saturation, or even an over-saturation of brewers and craft beer halls can be a boon for both residents and tourists alike,” said Nutting. “Great beer can speak to the cultural identity of the city and be a point of civic pride, especially considering our rich history in hops and beer.
“There are thousands of people, including myself, who plan trips around a city’s beer scene. In fact, I would travel thousands of miles to some of the most obscure cities in the country for a great beer. Great beer is a tourist attraction. Lets take Three Floyd’s in Munster, Indiana or Founders in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I plan on visiting those two breweries sometime in the next year. If those breweries were not there, I may have never stepped foot in those two cities in my life. And thanks to the incredible beers they are brewing, people will make the trek from all over the world to drink a Zombie Dust or Breakfast Stout straight from the source.”
There’s those crazy names again. It’s a marketing technique stolen from the marijuana industry where strain names like Violent Stranglehold Dreadsnatcher (thank you Savage Henry) are commonplace.
Could it be that the demand for local, regional, domestic and imported craft beers will continue to increase as long as brewers can come up with bizarre labels?
That’s Curtis Park Market co-owner Keenan Gorgis’ theory. The market was once on the skids until he took over and stocked it with the widest selection of craft beers you’ll find in any Sacramento corner store. Among hardcore beer fiends it’s the worst kept secret in Sacramento. When I asked Gorgis if there was such a thing as too much beer, he bugged his eyes out at me like I was crazy and raced back to the shelves to grab the latest arrival.
“Check it out,” he whispered, as if the large bottle he was holding was some sort of contraband. “This is the shit that killed Elvis.”
That’s the name of the beer: This Is The Shit That Killed Elvis.
Then there’s Hoppy Ending, which features a cute female masseuse rubbing down an anthropomorphized hop plant on the label.
Gorgis isn’t standing still. The store is in the middle of a remodel, and there will be more craft beer.
“I don’t know when it’s going to top off in Sac,” he said. “This is a drinking town. People like to drink. We make it fun.”
So there’s your hoppy ending. World class at last.
Sacramento, the city that never stops drinking.