West Sacramento's Bike Dog Brewing Company succeeds out of the gate with community-taproom model
‘We ran out of glasses and had to run out and get plastic cups. Total mayhem.’
It's become a formula: beer plus bikes, plus food trucks, plus kids, plus dogs equals brewery.
Bike Dog Brewery Company is on trend with all of these things, right down to its name. It has the typical chalkboard menu, brewers in rubber boots, long benches and picnic tables, and ’90s rock coming from the speakers. The way it distinguishes itself is with its beer (as evinced by its second-place finish in this paper’s Beer Issue competition; see page 21), despite the business only being open for five months.
Bike Dog started as a pipe dream between four friends, Raef Porter (chief hop counter), Pete Atwood (head brewer), A.J. Tendick (assistant brewer) and Sage Smith (arbiter of taste). At some point, the talk turned serious, and the planning began. They moved from the idea of a craft-beer bar to a brewery, because the cost would be lower, although Tendick ruefully laughed that this may not have turned out to be the case.
The four searched for an industrial area and found that the special-use permit required in Sacramento was prohibitively expensive, so they turned their sights to West Sacramento. Tendick said it was a natural fit because he lives there. And because he says he loves West Sac. “We know the mayor. For our first shot at this, we needed a little help to not get lost in the bureaucracy.”
During their grand opening in October 2013, they had around 1,000 customers. Tendick said they were “elbow to elbow all day long” from the moment they opened at 9 o’clock.
“There was never not a 20-foot line. We ran out of glasses and had to run out and get plastic cups,” he said. “Total mayhem.”
Since its opening, business has been steady to the point where Tendick even has been crossing his fingers for a couple slow weekends, so that they don’t run out of beer halfway through Beer Week. This is still a possibility: The few rainy weekend days we’ve had, and even Valentine’s Day, did not dampen sales.
This week, a Beer Week Pale—using Galaxy, Nelson and Pacific Jade hops to put a Southern Hemisphere spin on things—will be tapped. It’s part of a Beer Week pale-ale competition with other local breweries at the opening gala. The Dog will also be doing a tap takeover on Wednesday, March 5, at Magpie Cafe, which Tendick jokes is “perfect, because they only have four taps, and we don’t have that much beer.”
In addition to the Beer Week Pale and a few upcoming seasonals, Bike Dog’s regular beer offerings are a saison, a different pale ale, a milk stout, an American wheat, a wee heavy, and three IPAs: a session, a regular and a double. The session IPA is perhaps the best—it’s surprisingly hoppy for a beer with 5.5 percent alcohol by volume, super aromatic, light-bodied and refreshing. It hits the bull’s-eye for a day-drinking, post-bike-ride beer.
Although the plan is to remain small, Bike Dog has already doubled its brewing capacity, and before the year is out, it will probably add another two tanks to triple its beer output. It is also looking into opening Thursday through Sunday, rather than its current Friday through Saturday schedule, but at the current rate of sales, the extra open hours would lead to the brewery running out of hops halfway through the year. Tendick is currently “scrambling” to get his hands on more.
With its balance of practicality, skill and creativity, Bike Dog seems to be doing everything right, from the name up.