Best of brew worlds
Sacramento, CA 95818
Rating for beer:
Rating for food:
Pangaea is the supercontinent that supposedly broke up around 200 million years ago, creating over time the Earth’s current configuration of continents. It’s also the name of a very tasty 1975 Miles Davis album, which features two 40-plus minute opuses, one of which is “Gondwana,” the southernmost part of Pangaea. When Gondwana split off, it became, among other things, Africa, Australia, South America and Antarctica.
More germane to Sacramento residents, Pangaea is also the name of a beer-centric cafe. It straddles two neighborhoods and ZIP codes, Curtis and Oak Park. Hence, the owner says, the name.
Tables, tall and short, are large and communal, fostering that casual camaraderie that should be the goal of any self-respecting brewpub. There’s a fairly extensive menu, including breakfast items and the perkish delights of Temple Fine Coffee & Tea. It’s mostly sandwiches, hot and cold, appetizers and salads. There isn’t the over-the-top élan of, say, the creations of The Golden Bear’s Billy Zoellin, but the portions are large, the food is fresh and everything tastes swell washed down with suds.
Strike that. “Suds” diminishes Pangaea. Besides the expert commentary of Pangaea’s owner, Rob Archie, there are 21 beers on tap. Another 30 varieties in bottles including the $48.50 three-fourths of a quart bottle of Deus. The price alone makes Deus a special-occasion malt beverage, but it is also 11.5 percent alcohol—double most beers—fermented for a month in Belgium; then taken by tanker to Épernay, France; bottled; and left in the cellar nine months to become a sparkling beer.
Not to put too fine a point on it: Pangaea’s offerings are not beers that will be found at Save Mart or even Nugget. They are nuanced. Brewed with artisanship. In some cases for hundreds of years. A large number are Belgian. For the record, any place where one can quaff on-tap Chimay is pretty much A-OK.
Another large contingent is creations of Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, Maine. Allagash Black, Allagash Victor, Allagash Victoria. Allagash Curieux, a Belgian-style brew cured in Jim Beam barrels. The best of two worlds. Like Pangaea says on its logo glasses: “If it’s not good. It’s not here.”
Of the panini, the most robust is beef with cheddar and jalapeños. The amount of cheddar is nearly as massive as Gondwana. The peppers make their presence known. The addition of red onions adds a bit of sweetness. Accompanying chips are $1 more. The better bet is to pony up $4 and order half a house salad, which is bigger than a full salad at many establishments. Candied walnuts, blue cheese, crisp mixed greens, dried cranberries and raspberry vinaigrette is both light and dulcet. Halves of Caesar, Caprese and Greek are also options.
There’s the usual panoply of French dip, hot pastrami, Reuben and so on. Among the signature offerings is The Gobbler. Turkey, natch. Cranberry sauce, natch. Then red onion, several roma tomato slices, a thicket of green leaf and pepper jack cheese, all shoehorned into a big baguette. Being a proponent of the Big Tang Theory, the one-two punch of sweetness from the romas and the cranberries largely wipes out the zip of the pepper jack, whose volume ramps up pleasurably when the tomatoes are removed.
Among the HMBs—healing malt beverages—complementing The Gobbler is Delirium Tremens, a Belgian beer with a large pink elephant on the spigot. Next to it behind the bar is Blanche de Bruxelles, whose spout is topped with Manneken Pis, the famed peeing cherub who is a landmark of the Belgian capital. Rob says the Lucifer has a more banana aftertaste than the citrusy DT. It does. And what self-respecting history buff could turn down a cold glass of Pliny the Elder? Imagine the joyous afternoons and evenings unraveling the mysteries of the other 17 delectables on tap.
And Pangaea is just a few paces from the magic of Gunther’s Ice Cream. So leave room for dessert.