Capitol Beer and Tap Room is SN&R's Beer Bar of the Year
Final Gravity is the runner-up Beer Bar of the Year
Craft beer has been cool for so long that it’s almost meaningless to say that you like it—may as well tell somebody how you’re into water.
Accordingly, every place that’s ever served a Bud now has at least three local IPAs and Ballast Point’s inescapable Grapefruit Sculpin.
So if you can walk into any low-class bar and nab a decent brew, what’s it mean to be an excellent bar, one that gets you more than easy access to reliably good suds?
Ken Hotchkiss obviously has an idea, given the success of Capitol Beer and Tap Room, the beer bar and bottle shop he co-founded with Patti Aguire in 2012. He keeps a rotating stock of 20 taps, each selected for quality and for the diversity it brings to their menu.
“We have one dedicated cider handle, we try to have a lager or two on tap, we’ll have something for people who like stouts and porters, we have four or five really hoppy beers on tap,” Hotchkiss said. “We try to have a balance so no matter who comes in here, there’s something for them.”
With a huge list of maybe-not-so-common beers and such a wide breadth of options—the board displaying the options is maybe 10 feet tall and even more so wide—it’s easy to be intimidated by the variety. It helps to know that the staff can help you figure it out, though, and they’re as enthusiastic about the beers they sell as Hotchkiss is.
“It’s a passion job,” he said. “People that come and work here—almost always, really—they’re already into beer. Our last couple of employees were longtime clients, so they already have the passion for beer.”
Beyond regular rotation, Hotchkiss goes deep every year for Sacramento Beer Week, when he plans and hosts daily events. Among this year’s offerings, he’s got a barrel-aged brew day and his fourth year of home-brew competition, where the winners will get a shot to brew with 21st Amendment Brewery.
The passion that fuels these events is a significant part of how Capitol Beer and Tap Room has survived and thrived in the last few years. When it opened, not many other places in the region offered the split bar-and-bottle-shop option (aside from the Davis Beer Shoppe), so they had to overcome the confusion there. Plus, the shop is tucked into a not-so-visible corner of University Village, removed from the easy foot traffic of the downtown core.
“Being off of the grid a bit, you don’t get as much visibility. … But we’ve definitely found our groove,” Hotchkiss said. 2222 Fair Oaks Boulevard, (916) 922-1745, http://capitolbeer.com
SN&R’s Runner-Up Beer Bar of the Year: Final Gravity
It's “Stouterday.” Saturday plus stout beers, obviously. There's this line snaking through Final Gravity's Roseville location, like nothing you've ever seen at the humble taproom. All you can do is marvel at the beer signs all over the walls—and wait for that malty, roasty, barrel-aged goodness.
Worth it, it is. Final Gravity goes the extra distance to always host top-level beer events, like their Societe Brewing party from September, or their Oregon beers event from last year’s Beer Week.
Final Gravity also went next level this past year, opening a second location. In Auburn. Which, for us grid dwellers, might as well be Rio Vista. But we will make up there, oh yes, we will. Someday! 19205 Sierra College Boulevard, Suite 100, in Roseville; (916) 782-1166; www.finalgravitybeer.com. Nick Miller