Monday, July 16, 2012

Sacramento Beer Week - Drinking with The Beer Wench

There is a pretty good chance if you live in the USA there is a Craft Beer Week near you.  Some are more famous than others such as Philadelphia's which set the pace years ago.  Others are newer as the idea spreads to smaller or less developed craft markets. Unfortunately I had to rush through Arizona and missed their beer week (see previous post).  I was also a week late for San Francisco's famous week of beer events.  However Sacramento Beer Week was scheduled just right.  I was too excited to go skiing and visit old friends in Lake Tahoe to spend the time needed to really dive into the festivities but I wasn't going to totally miss another one! There is probably one near you soon, check out Craftbeer.com's list here.

I also was keeping my ears open for ideas on how to best grow my beer blog.  It worked out that one of the top beer bloggers, Ashley Routson, aka The Beer Wench, was involved in several events that week and lucky for me one that night. A Bison Brewery employee by day and blogger, beer connesiour and beer mixoligist at night, her to the point, lively commentary is followed by over 10,000 folks via Twitter and is a source of knowledge and entertainment in the Bay area and all over the west coast. I tracked her down at a tasting event for Ace Cider and Bison Brewing Co. at Magpie's Cafe in Sacramento's R Street district.

Magpie Cafe's cozy dinning room, standing room only
I ended up arriving ahead of the brewers to a packed dinning room. Magpies is quite small and is well respected for their food, so getting a seat at dinner time isn't easy. I had a full belly already so I had to skip what looked like a delicious menu and got right into the tasting. Jen the manager and the bartender were very friendly and got me started on the beers. Knowing I had to hit the road again in a couple hours, I stuck with a few small pours. As I sipped my first brew the beer folks started to roll in. It was yet another night exhibiting the camaraderie among craft brewers. With Nico from 21st Amendment Brewing Co. (San Francisco) and Peter from Briess Malt stopping by to hang out with Dan, Mark and Ashley of Bison Brewery from (Berkeley, CA) and Nick from Ace Cider (Sebastopol, CA).

Only four taps but all craft along with a nice
bottle selection, focused on local and organic
Having promoted at several beer weeks in Syracuse and Albany, NY, I know they can be a fun but exhausting couple if not several days. A beer sampling at a supermarket followed by a beer dinner followed by a late night promotion really takes it out of you... and that's just one day. Being mid-week these guys looked a bit knackered. I'm pretty sure it wasn't their first event that day either. I introduced myself but let them sit down and eat before pestering too much. I just went ahead and tasted some more, tough I know!
Bison Brewing - Chocolate Stout 5%, Roasty, touch of chocolate and not as thick and heavy as some... you could definitely drink more than one
Ace Cider - Honey Cider, 5%, on the drier side. Earthy w/ a touch of honey flavor, I believe I was told this one had aged a few years
Ace Cider - Perry, 5% pear cider, slightly sweet, tasted like a Jolly Rancher candy

Ace Honey Cider
Not being too packed with beer fans it was great to get some time to chat with Dan about his strong conviction on using organic and sustainable food sources. He also talked about his love of brewing and lack there of while taking care of the business end of running a brewery. It was great to hear The Beer Wench's stories about her beer adventures while growing her blog, especially being a woman in a male dominated beer world. Craft beer draws more women than traditional beer biz but it's still mostly men. And just to show you can never predict which way an evening will go I ended up getting way more into the cider. Maybe I just needed a change after weeks of beer tastings. To accompany this Nick Diamond from Ace spent a lot of time talking over the ciders, the company, the growing market, distribution, etc and as a pleasant surprise his contacts in New Zealand where I would be flying to in just over a week! They were all very nice and we even hinted at getting together for a Sunday Funday brunch when I hit San Francisco before flying out... we'll see if we can make it happen but first back to the mountains to get some Spring skiing in Lake Tahoe!

As I continue to travel I like planning trips around suggestions. Send along or comment on your favorite beer weeks out there. Hopefully I can visit soon!


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