Archive for February, 2012
I round the corner some five miles from our meeting place and see the vintage-looking Ruhstaller truck parked conspicuously in front of Corti Bros Market. Perhaps some foreshadowing or serendipitous detail, the introduction seems to have begun long before the actual interview takes place.
I’ve been meaning to talk with J-E Paino about the “resurrection” of Ruhstaller and what it means to him and Sacramento. Now that the 3rd Annual Sacramento Beer Week is about to commence, there’s really no time like the present. We meet at Bows & Arrows, where I prematurely tried to get a Ruhstaller months back. This time the owner herself (Olivia) brings each of us a cold jar of ‘The Captain’.
“As a girl, what do you think of it” (considering it’s so dark), J-E asks. “Not too bitter, and rather floral?” I both say and ask at the same time. “Well, yes, it’s really citrusy,” J-E says, telling me that hops can impart bitterness or aromatics, and that they chose aromatics. But who is the “they”, what are they doing, and what does it have to do with this deceivingly-dark beer we’re drinking?
With an MBA and Real Estate development background, J-E Paino is also founder and proprietor of Ruhstaller Beer. While there are others involved behind the scenes, that’s pretty much where they want to remain (although I think Brew Master Peter Hoey should get a shout-out). But what exactly is Ruhstaller? It’s nostalgia, for one, and it’s the literal resurrection of a local beer. You see, Sacramento has a great beer history, known in the late 1800s at the “Beer Capital of the West Coast” with possibly as many as 16 breweries in operation at one time.
Sacramento’s agricultural landscape, rivers, climate, travel/trade accessibility and pioneering spirit made it a natural supplier of Mother Nature’s gems (such as hops, barley and mountain spring water). And one such entrepreneur named Frank Ruhstaller took advantage of these inherent gifts by making beer. Much more recently while a student at UC Davis, J-E stumbled upon the history of Ruhstaller and discovered, he said, that the beer was actually about the person as much as the beer. “The beer is important but it’s more a symbol of why Sacramento can be proud. It is a reflection of who Sacramento is and what she can be.”
Aside from his more silent partners, J-E says he partners with plenty of others around the great Sacramento Valley to make Ruhstaller successful, yes, but also more than just a quality beer. “Making a great beer, finding great partners and places where people who truly appreciate Sacramento go…” he looks around at the significant crowd behind him, “It’s for them.”
“We’re not trying to put it just anywhere,” in every watering hole around. There’s meaning behind the beer, the name, the marketing, the placement. “We’re really trying to build a solid foundation,” J-E says. “I want to build something that it takes an act of government to kill,” like Prohibition did in the early 1900s when “the triumph of national brands over local flavor meant that communities no longer had a unique local beverage they could identify with” (Carroll, Midtown Monthly).
“Success to me is if we’re able to earn back the title as Sacramento’s Beer.” And Sacramento is supportive; they’re drinking Ruhstaller up like there’s no tomorrow’s hangover. Sacramento’s engaged; many independent business survive here because the community is strong and connected. And Sacramento is also just plain thirsty.
“Her name is Matilda,” J-E says, speaking of the old truck I saw parked in front of Corti Bros. And yes, she does dispense servings of Ruhstaller at various events around Sac. But although she may be ornery, J-E admits, even age can’t dampen the mood that a good, hearty, historic brew tends to evoke… Perhaps it’s even the magical ingredient.
* Barrels of beer in the 1800s were twice the size they are today. Imagine delivering them by horse and carriage!
Ruhstaller’s taps aren’t any ordinary taps. They’re locally up-cycled tractor parts.
* 95% of the malt Ruhstaller uses for its beer comes from California but their goal is for 100% of both malt and hops to come from the Sacramento area, which is the way it was in the 1800s.
* Ruhstaller Beer can be found at various locations around town and from Vacaville to Elk Grove, but the circle is widening with Chico (and surely beyond) soon on its way. http://ruhstallerbeer.com/find-our-brews/
* The festivities in the background of our interview were from a group called QueerFest, ‘a lesbian social movement.’ http://www.QueerFestProductions.org
As for Beer Week (February 24 – March 4), again, Sacramento is supportive. Just some of the participating businesses and events include:
Mulvaney’s B&L, Bonn Lair, Kupros, Samuel Horne’s Tavern (Folsom), Streets of London, Fox & Goose, DeVere’s Irish Pub, River Rock Taphouse, One Speed, Bows & Arrows, Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op, Ink Eats & Drinks, Turn Verein, Pyramid Alehouse, The Shack, etc.
Sacramento Brewers Showcase & Capital Beerfest (2/23).
Old Sac Beerfest Pub Crawl (3/1)
Sacramento Beer & Chili Festival (3/3)
Cheers to Beer!
As Sacramento’s Beer Week approaches, I’ve got bubbles on my mind… although not necessarily of the hoppy kind just yet.
Now, I know that not everyone loves – or even likes champagne. At first taste, I didn’t really like it all that much, to be honest. But when I realized champagne reminds me of celebration – and always wanting to see life as a celebration – a whole new world began opening up for me. So I began tasting more deliberately, slowly, methodically… and eventually got hooked on all those tiny bubbles. I also found a few girlfriends (Mom included) who were into the “celebratory” nature of champagne too, and a husband who could certainly appreciate a glass when put in front of him without hogging my bottle (hello, match made in Heaven).
So as we prepare to head out of town for our semiannual Napa/Sonoma/Calistoga/Yountville/St. Helena wine tasting trip, I am tempted to hit the sparkling wine trail (http://www.winecountrygetaways.com/champagne.html) at the expense of all those “flatter”, less-pop-when-you-cork-’em wines. But I’ll probably let my more spontaneous and adventurous nature lead me wherever it will ~ to zins, pinots, chardonnays, sauvignons, and all those varietals I have yet to have the pleasure of meeting.
For Sparkling Sacramento, try:
Sparkling Cocktails at Lounge on 20 – http://www.loungeon20.
Champagne Brunch aboard the Hornblower – http://www.hornblower.com/hce/port/overview/sac+champagne
Or get pampered while sipping champagne (I can only hope) at The Champagne Parlour – http://www.thechampagneparlour.com
Within minutes you’ll find buildings and subdivisions fading away as you drive toward the foothills, seeing a dotted mix of old factories, nurseries and fruit stands that soon give way to large pastures and farm houses. The drive quiets to a lull as you approach the lowest hills, the foliage bursting open to greet you as you pass the old Sloughouse Inn to Davis Ranch. A working farm and large outdoor market, Davis Ranch is perhaps best known for sweet corn in the summer (The Corn Festival is held in July).
Continuing along Jackson Hwy. you’ll reach the town of Plymouth, which is the main portal to 34-and-counting Sierra Foothill wineries. With excellent red varietals like Sangiovese and Zinfandel – and equally tantalizing views – the area is coined by many to be “The New Napa”. If you’re around in June, stop in for the 2nd Annual Barbera Festival at Cooper’s Ranch. For 360-degree views of the (slightly snow-capped) Sierras, drive a little farther up to Skinner Vineyards and take a picnic – and camera – with you. If you choose to go right at the fork rather than straight, springtime is the time to visit the Amador Flower Farm and Daffodil Hill in charming gold rush-era towns.
You may find that setting out on the open road for a few hours is just enough time to return refreshed and ready for dinner, as well as enjoy that bottle of red that’s perfectly ripe and ready for the un-corking.
[see photos of Skinner and Karmere Wineries to the right]
Hop on a train and watch the world go by.
Get in your car and see where the day takes you.
All it takes is one small step to set your current existence on a new and exiting course…
Or at least refresh the old one.
Health First – To detoxify, soothe and pamper your entire being body, mind and soul, take a few gulps from the Fountain of Health and find that radiant you – Anytime. http://sacramento.downtowngrid.com/directory/view/entry/20666
Wallet and Family Friendly – Why not take advantage of these four letters (F-R-E-E) and attend Sac’s 14th Annual Free Museum Day?! – February 4. http://www.sacmuseums.org
Culture at Hand – Get a real visual of what makes Sacramento authentic by attending the 12th Annual A Place Called Sacramento Film Festival – February 2. http://www.accesssacramento.org
Belly Full of Beer – And watch for an up-close look at the upcoming 3rd Annual Sacramento Beer Week – February 24th – March 4th, http://www.sacramentobeerweek.com
For much more click and go: http://www.Sacramento365.com