Ask the masters

New to Sacramento beer? Where to begin.

Aaron O’Callaghan heads the regional brew scavenger hunt program Sacramento Beer Frontier.

Aaron O’Callaghan heads the regional brew scavenger hunt program Sacramento Beer Frontier.

Photo by Jon Hermison

With more than 70 breweries, it can be intimidating to navigate Sacramento’s craft beer scene. SN&R asked local experts—the folks who try everything and even make some of it—to dish their favorite brews, brewers and local trends:

No food, just good beer

Ben Rice, Barley & Me podcast

Rice’s biweekly podcast brings together interesting people, brewers and their beer. His take: Most brewers focus on the quality of beer alone, and that’s great. “It’s really a concentration on the quality of the beer and almost no focus on the food aspect because we have so many good restaurants already,” he says. Rice frequents Dunloe Brewing in Davis and King Cong Brewing Company in Old North Sacramento. His experimental picks include Moksa Brewing Company in Rocklin, which pushes the boundaries of pastry stouts. Try the Veedels Bräu Kölsch from Crooked Lane Brewing Company and the rice lagers from Urban Roots and Berryessa Brewing Company.

Saturation means experimentation

Scott Scoville, Beers in Sac hosts events and documents breweries and beer events. Co-owner Scott Scoville says it’s hard to keep up with the hop escalation, but the growth also means breweries are constantly evolving. “They’re really starting to get more experimental,” he says. Scoville says that New Glory Craft Brewery, Flatland Brewing Company and Moonraker Brewing Company are among those setting new trends with hot beer, beer slushies and milkshake IPAs. “I think people are looking for something that’s a little more unique,” he says.

Rich history makes rich beer

Ed Carroll, author of Sacramento’s Breweries (2010)

Enjoying brews in McKinley Park since the mid-’80s, Ed Carroll literally wrote a history book on Sacramento beer. But he wouldn’t call himself a “hop head.” He enjoys dark beers such as Irish stouts from Track 7 Brewing Co. and Device Brewing Company. He says Urban Roots has excellent guest taps and recommends anything from Fieldwork Brewing Company.

There’s a place for everyone

Justin Chechourka, author of Sacramento Beer: A Craft History (2018)

Writer and beer enthusiast Justin Chechourka says Sacramento breweries provide unique spaces with different offerings. He’ll stop at Urban Roots or Alaro Craft Brewery for food. He says beer drinkers looking for large open spaces should check out Fort Rock Brewing in Rancho Cordova or Fountainhead Brewing Company’s outdoor hangout on 24th Street. Jackrabbit Brewing in West Sacramento fills its taproom with family-friendly games. “They all have something to offer, and … they’re all putting their hearts and souls into what they’re producing,” he says.

Cool spaces unite communities

Aaron O’Callaghan, Sacramento Beer Frontier

Sacramento Beer Frontier serves as a fun brew guide. Join more than 6,000 participants in stamping your “brewery passport” with breweries across the region. Co-founder Aaron O’Callaghan says that in five years since he joined the scene, Sac breweries have excelled at adapting to create new community spaces. Bike Dog Brewing Company took an industrial yard in West Sacramento and turned it into a popular neighborhood hangout. Urban Roots revamped a blueprinting facility into an open taproom, restaurant and patio.

Collaboration is key

Heidi Wilder co-owns Fort Rock Brewing in Rancho Cordova.

Photo courtesy of Fort Rock Brewing

Heidi Wilder, Fort Rock Brewing

Wilder opened Fort Rock Brewing in Rancho Cordova with her husband two years ago. While it’s been a tough journey, she says Sacramento provides a lot of support within a tight knit community of brewers and beer lovers who often work together. “It’s very healthy to work with other brewers and get ideas and get help,” she says. Flatland in Elk Grove, Crooked Lane in Auburn, as well as neighboring Claimstake Brewing Company, are among her favorites.