May 29, 2012
Verge fundraiser: local beer, local food and money well spent

Drink a beer, help an artist. It's that simple the entire month of June, as Sacramento's own Ruhstaller Beer will donate a percentage of sales for each beer sold (at participating restaurants) to the Verge Center for the Arts.

The fundraising effort is a good deal all the way around: Ruhstaller and owner JE Paino continue to cement the company's position in the community while connecting to the brand's vaunted history in Sacramento; Verge gets to share its vision with a broader audience while attracting needed funds; and the beer-drinking public get to enjoy excellent beer while supporting a very worthy cause.

First things first. Here's a list of the participating restaurants: Bows and Arrows, Blackbird, Davis Beer Shoppe, 58 Degrees, Grange, Matteo's Bistro, Mulvaney's, Mama Kim Eats, Luna Lounge, OneSpeed, Pangaea, Red Rabbit, Roxy, Selland's (East Sac), Tazzina's Bistro in Woodland.

I caught up with the affable and thoughtful Paino recently to ask him about the idea. Paino resurrected the Ruhstaller name a couple of years ago, starting his small beer company while honoring Capt. Frank Ruhstaller, considered the godfather of Sacramento's very significant beer-brewing legacy.

"This is a win-win-win," he said, "marrying the visual arts with the culinary arts and introducing Verge to parts of town where they're not as well known. It melds Verge into the community on a little bit deeper level. Verge is a very creative, lively place. It's difficult to contain that into one building."

If you're unfamiliar with Verge, it began as a private contemporary art gallery in 2009. As the cause expanded, it relocated (to 625 S St., Sacramento) and became a non-profit arts organization that offers gallery space, community education, a printmaking lab and numerous on-site artist studios. There are 27 artists there now, with 10 more in the works. The studios rent for $200 to $240 a month. Artists must apply and go through a review process, according to Liv Moe, Verge's executive director,

Moe praised Paino's philanthropic spirit and says the craft beer and art community are "a pretty natural crossover."

You can learn more about Verge by attending the launch party for this fundraising effort. It's Thurs. June 7 at Verge from 5:30-8 p.m. Enjoy some food, have a beer and maybe take a tour of the artist studios. Tickets are $35. You can buy them here.

Beyond the kick-off party, when you buy a Ruhstaller at any of the restaurants during June, Verge gets a portion of the money.

"This all comes back to the legacy of Ruhstaller," said Paino. "He wasn't just about beer; he was about creating a richer, deeper community for everybody - and a community we all could be proud of."

It's no accident Paino got involved with something like this.

"In a previous life, I tried to be an artist and I studied architecture in college," he said. "I know how hard it is. Artists follow their passion. They make our community richer. If there's something we can do to help them, we should."

Blair Anthony Robertson is The Bee's restaurant critic. Follow him on Twitter, @blarob.

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