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Capitol Beer and Tap Room opened in Campus Commons Friday, and now owner Ken Hotchkiss is ready to share his love of beer with Sacramento.
“I’ve been chasing great beers for 20 years,” Hotchkiss said. “It made sense to me to open a place like this.”
The taproom and bottle shop is located in a sprawling retail and restaurant complex on the corner of Fair Oaks Boulevard and Howe Avenue, about 2 miles from Sac State. The front door is within a few yards of Tokyo Fro’s and Bandera on one side, and Ruth’s Chris Steak House on the other side.
So what makes this place stand out?
“We offer quality beer on draft and a quality bottle shop,” Hotchkiss said. “We have a nice patio, a great tasting room – it’s a good, warm, inviting place to be.”
Inside Capitol Beer, large refrigerated cases line one wall of the spacious, well-lit bottle shop where Hotchkiss greets customers and offers advice on the wide variety of ales, lagers and stouts to choose from.
Currently the cases house about 50 varieties of beer, including Belgian varieties, IPAs and double IPAs, browns and wheat beers. Hotchkiss said he plans to increase his stock to well over 100 in the coming months.
One variety in the case, Saison, comes from Odonata Beer Company, a local Sacramento brewery that recently closed down, making the few bottles that Hotchkiss has some of the last ones available.
“It’ll never be brewed again,” Hotchkiss said. “We’re looking for those, too: the one-of-kinds and only-brewed-once beers.”
A low, wide, bricked archway leads to the taproom – a long, narrow room with a high ceiling and an L-shaped bar. Rows of framed black chalkboards on the brick wall behind the bar itemize the beers on tap that day, and flat-screen TVs over the bar are tuned in to the latest sporting event.
Twenty beers are on tap in the tasting room, and one of those is on nitro – a gas mixture that adds carbonation creating a thick, creamy, Guinness-like texture.
Hotchkiss said he wants to “keep it interesting” by changing the selection of draft beers often.
“I try to have a style for everybody,” he said. “Right now I have a helles from Sutter Buttes. I’ll have a couple of wheat beers, a couple IPAs – nothing is going to just live on those taps.”
The alcohol content of the beers on tap range from 4.5 percent by volume in Sutter Buttes helles, a German lager-style beer, to 11 percent in a Widmer barley wine called Old Embalmer.
A few table and chair sets sit along one wall of the taproom, leading out to a patio that opens to the center courtyard of the complex.
Hotchkiss said he plans to offer some snacks and simple food items soon, (a menu hasn’t been decided on yet), but said he isn’t trying to compete with his restaurant neighbors – all of whom have been supportive of his efforts to get his place open.
“They are more food-based, we are craft beer,” Hotchkiss said. “It’s not a competition, it’s a good collaboration.”
In September, when Hotchkiss was working through the planning process with the city, Jeff Davis, also known as “Fro,” who owns Tokyo Fro’s, told The Sacramento Press that he would be happy to see the taproom move into the complex location.
“I want it, because it creates synergy,” Davis said. “If you put a McDonald’s next to a Burger King, both get busy.”
Capitol Beer and Tap Room is the first venture of this kind for Hotchkiss, 42, a former tile contractor, and he says it’s more work than construction but worth the effort.
Originally from Southern California, Hotchkiss made his way to Tahoe in the late 1990s to work in construction during the housing boom. The shift in the economy and the housing bust in 2007 was a turning point for him, he said, and he made a new plan.
“I needed to do something different, and I’d always wanted to do this,” he said. “Beer is kind of a passion.”
Hotchkiss said he and a few others teamed up to get the bottle shop started and, after a longer-than-expected permit and alcohol-licensing process, he was ready to hit the ground running.
Now that he’s open, he’s looking for new and different varieties of beer to put in his cases, especially seasonal and one-time brews, and although there are a few commercially available choices, Hotchkiss said said they would be few and far between.
“We’re not specializing in Budweiser or Coors,” he said.
Hotchkiss’ personal favorite on draft is the Franklin double IPA from Sutter Buttes Brewing, located in Yuba City.
“That’s what I’ve been drinking, and it’s really good,” he said. “I have no problem promoting that beer or that brewery.”
Capitol Beer and Tap Room is at 2222 Fair Oaks Blvd. and will be open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.