August 15, 2013
Sutter Buttes Brewing closes today for expansion plans

Today is the last day to hit up Sutter Buttes Brewing in Yuba City until October - the restaurant-brewery is expanding.

A new owner is in town. Joe Federico, who also owns the Happy Viking sports bar in Yuba City, is most notably adding a wood-fired pizza oven to change up the restaurant menu. After knocking down a couple of walls, the restaurant should squeeze in 25 to 30 more seats, according to brewmaster Mark Martin.

And in the brewery, Martin will add 20 barrel fermenters to expand production from 500 to 2,000 barrels per year. Expect some experimenting and more lagers, Martin said.

The restaurant aims to reopen Oct. 1. Hours may change with talks of adding Southern-style brunch on Sundays.

Sutter Buttes Brewing: 421 Center St, Yuba City, (530) 790-7999

July 24, 2013
Red Rabbit partners to team up with new East Sac brewery

I had a quick chat tonight with The Red Rabbit Kitchen & Bar co-owner Sonny Mayugba, who confirmed that he and two other partners in the successful midtown restaurant and bar will get into the craft brewery business.

Mayugba, bartender Matt Nurge and chef John Bays are new partners in Twelve Rounds Brewing Co., which is expected to open in September on 57th Street in East Sacramento (AKA Antique Row). Daniel Murphy and wife Elle Murphy mapped out the business plan and set the brewery in motion, but they realized they needed more expertise on the food side of their business, which will feature a full kitchen and restaurant program.

"They had this idea to open a place and they needed someone to run the kitchen, but they didn't know how to get it done," Mayugba told me. "We had this really good meeting and I really like what they are doing. I love everything they stand for."

Mayugba added that Daniel Murphy has for years been brewing beer out of his Woodland garage and that at Twelve Rounds he will brew a variety of styles but will specialize in barrel-aged beers."

No word yet on specifics of the food that will be served, but expect an assortment of charcuterie and other bites that pair well with beer. We'll have plenty more on Twelve Rounds and its collaboration with the Red Rabbit trio in the weeks to come.

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

July 2, 2013
All's well at the Rubicon

By Jack Newsham

Patrons of the midtown mainstay Rubicon Brewing Company might have noticed an ominous yellow sign in the window recently.

But Rubicon's owner said Sacramento residents have nothing to fear.

The sign, whose big black lettering warns of an "OWNERSHIP CHANGE," is just a technical measure, said owner Glynn Phillips, who recently added his wife's name to his stock in the company.

July 2, 2013
The New Yorker produces a craft beer interactive map

Here's a useful multi-media tool from the venerable literary magazine the New Yorker. It's an interactive map of the craft beer business and includes all kinds of useful information about this rapidly growing industry and its 2,400-and-counting breweries.The data used for the map are from the Brewers Association.

There's all kinds of useful information here that will make you sound like the know-it-all you deserve to be next time you're ponied up to the bar and you start talking beer -- the largest craft breweries (Sierra Nevada is No. 2), the fastest growing breweries(Sacramento isn't on the list, but wait 'til next year), and a state by state breakdown of production (some folks may brew more beer in their garage than all of Mississippi).

Click here to explore the map.

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

July 1, 2013
Proud dad of the national homebrewing champ


Ok, here's a heartwarming photo of one very proud dad, Bob Johnson, pointing to a story in The Bee about his daughter, Annie Johnson, who had just won the prestigious title "Homebrewer of the Year" at the American Homebrewers Association conference in Philadelphia over the weekend. Bob, 81, is seriously ill and in hospice care at Emerald Gardens Nursing Center in Sacramento.

For Annie, winning the homebrewing title is a very impressive accomplishment, and it was great to find this photo this morning on my Twitter page. If Annie can Tweet a photo of her dad holding up a printout of this blog post, I promising to put that up, too!

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

July 1, 2013
Area's craft beer brings home prizes at State Fair


The Sacramento region is booming when it comes to craft beer, and the results of the California State Fair craft beer competition show us to be a hotbed of high-quality brewing.

Some of the breweries that won big may have surprised some folks -- Sudwerk, Ol' Republic and Hangtown all did well in multiple style categories.

What follows is a list of local success at the State Fair. If I missed any, please let me know. I've had the excellent Common Sense by Berryessa Brewing in Winters at several local hot spots lately. I also got to try the very nice English IPA by Ol' Republic in Nevada City last time I dropped in at Extreme Pizza. Both won first place. And I was actually drinking a Homeland Stout (pictured above) at New Helvetia Brewing on Friday when the brewery learned that this very fine beer had been awarded a first place.

Light lager--Dortmunder/Premium American
First: Auburn Export Lager, Auburn Ale House (Auburn)
Third: Dead Canary, Ol' Republic Brewing (Nevada City)

Light Lager -- Munich Helles
Third: Lager, Sudwerk (Davis)

Pilsner -- Bohemian/Classic American
Third: Gold Country Pilsner, Auburn Alehouse

Amber lager
Second: Marzen, Sudwerk

Dark lager
Second: Bavarian Black Lager, Ol' Republic

Second: Mai Bock, Sudwerk

Light hybrid -- blonde ale
First: Common Sense, Berryessa Brewing (Winters)

Amber hybrid
Second: California Amber Lager, Ol' Republic

Scottish/Irish Ale -- Irish red ale
First: Conner's Pride, Old Hangtown Beer (Placervile)

American Ale -- American pale ale
Third: American River Pale Ale, Auburn Alehouse

American Ale -- American amber ale
Second: Rubicon Amber, Rubicon Brewing (Sacramento)

American Ale -- American brown ale
First: Coloma Brown, American River Brewing (Rancho Cordova)

English Brown Ale
Third: Whippersnapper, Berryessa Brewing

Porter -- Baltic porter
Second: Recesson Ale, Loomis Basin Brewing (Loomis)

Stout -- Oatmeal stout
First: Oatmeal Stout, Sudwerk

Stout -- Foreign export stout
First: New Helvetia Brewing (Sacramento)

India Pale Ale -- English IPA
First: English IPA, Ol' Republic

Belgian and French Ale -- Belgian Pale Ale
Third: Saison, Berryessa

Fruit Beer
Second: Golden Eagle Wheat, Loomis Basin

Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer -- Christmas/Winter specialty spiced beer
First: Stumpkin, Old Hangtown

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

June 13, 2013
A few recommended beers that pair nicely with Father's Day

If your dad has enough socks and doesn't need another paisley tie, maybe it's time to get him something he'll really remember: really good beer.

There are all kinds of options, but for this little mixed six pack, let's stick as close to home as possible.

1. Hoptologist double IPA, from Knee Deep Brewery (available at better stores and bottle shops). This is an outstanding DIPA, brewed in Lincoln. It's got that full-bore West Coast IPA punch, wonderful aromas and plenty of complexity.This brewery is about to really take off. If your dad is into craft beer, he'll really appreciate a 22-ounce bottle of this stuff.

2. Gilt Edge lager, from Ruhstaller (various retail outlets, including Nugget Markets; recently spotted on tap at The Rind). This brand new release in a cool retro can, may seem like an easy-going lager, but it has plenty of finesse and a moderate hoppiness that makes for a dynamic drinking experience.

3. Big 4 Strong Ale by Track 7 Brewing (now in bottles at certain shops and often on tap at the brewery). Here's a powerful brew that will stand out in this Father's Day six pack. It's a blend of five hop varietals with some big-time numbers: 10 percent ABV and a whopping 168 IBUs. If the old man doesn't know what those abbreviations mean, he will after three sips.

4. Monkey Knife Fight American Pale Ale by Rubicon Brewing. I really like this beer and have ordered it at a couple of restaurants lately. It's made by an enduring success story in the local craft beer scene. This is a very drinkable beer with gentle citrus notes and hoppiness. It's great with food (enjoyed mine most recently with pasta).

5. Vindicator IPA by Loomis Basin Brewing. I had this beer recently at the Raley Field Brewfest and it stood up nicely to the heavy hitters on site that scorching hot night. This is a relatively low alcohol, low IBU IPA that still packs plenty of flavor.

6. Hoppy Face Amber Ale by Hoppy Brewing. This successful and enduring brewery and brewpub make an admirably hoppy IPA in the West Coast style that has a pleasing bitterness balanced with lots of flavor and a crisp finish.

April 27, 2013
Capital City International Beerfest begins at 2 p.m.

By Blair Anthony Robertson

The second annual Capital City International Beerfest is today from 2-5 p.m. at Turn Verein Hall, 3349 J St., Sacramento. Tickets are $25 if ordered online or $30 at the door.

The long list of beers being served is very impressive, and this gives newcomers and aficionados alike a chance to taste a great variety of beer styles.

The cost of admission gives you unlimited tastes, so keep that in mind when planning your transportation.

Gourmet hot dogs will be served by Heavenly Dog, and music is by Mere Mortals Band.

March 4, 2013
Updated: Pyramid Alehouse on K Street closes after 10 years

Information is very limited at the moment, but we are pursuing a story about the sudden closing of Pyramid Alehouse, the popular brew pub on K Street downtown.

We have contacted the company's corporate office in Seattle for an explanation. So far, the only thing we know is what's posted on the local pub's Facebook page:

"As of today, Monday, March 4, the Sacramento Pyramid Alehouse has permanently closed its doors. It's been an amazing 10 years and we want to thank all of our loyal customers who have become friends."

Along with the now-shuttered Sacramento location, Pyramid Brewing has what it calls "alehouses" in Berkeley, Walnut Creak, Portland and Seattle. The timing is odd, to the say the least, coming a day after the end of the very successful 4th annual Sacramento Beer Week.

Here's an update:

We're not getting a lot more from corporate, but here's s a lengthier statement about the closure.

"The Pyramid Sacramento Alehouse business has declined due to economic, social and competitive factors affecting downtown businesses in the area. The Sacramento location will close on March 4, 2013. Employees have been notified and offered severance," said Glenn Hancock, Pyramid Breweries.

"We want to thank all of our Sacramento employees for their hard work and years of service and the Sacramento community for their patronage," said Hancock. "Pyramid Breweries will focus resources on Alehouse locations with breweries in California, Oregon and Washington, along with our successful location in Walnut Creek. Brewing beer and creating an experience around beer is at the heart of what we do."

Note the mention of the poor economy, along with other "competitive factors." Hard to say which sunk Pyramid. The location may have played a role, too. That said, the best places in town are really humming, despite what the leading economic indicators suggest. We went to Magpie Cafe for brunch on Sunday and couldn't get a table. We went to Red Rabbit recently for dinner and the wait was over an hour. Hot City Pizza during Beer Week? The line was out the door. And I was just in Santa Rosa, where folks stand in lines for up to seven hours to drink Pliny the Younger at Russian River Brewing. Sure, this economy is tough for many. But what it does more than anything is magnify weaknesses.

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

February 26, 2013
Beer Week: Pliny at the Pour House


On a related note, the Davis location of Burgers & Brew (403 Third St., Davis) will be tapping their keg of Pliny the Younger on Thursday at 3 p.m. The owners are still mulling the price and serving size, which will either be $3 for an 8 ounce pour or $2 for a 5 ounce pour.

Also, is anyone else succumbing to Pliny the Younger fatigue?

February 25, 2013
Beer Week: Already a couple of excellent outings

Track 7 pizza.JPG

The 4th annual Sacramento Beer Week is off to a splendid start throughout the region, and we're starting to see a trend wherever we go: enthusiastic but laid-back crowds, great beer, good times.

We dropped by Track 7 Brewing Co. on Saturday to find a rather amazing site - folks lining up for the excellent beer brewed on-site at a facility that was once an industrial park but is now on the verge of being something very special. If you're looking to visit -- and you should if you're into craft beer -- Track 7 is at 3747 W. Pacific Ave., Sacramento (if it feels like you've made a wrong turn and it looks like the wrong place, you're there; dogs and kids welcome, too). While there, we bumped into the affable Brian Guido, one of the forces behind the recent and highly successful Sacramento BaconFest. He convinced us to take light rail out to Folsom to hit the happy hour at Samuel Horne's Tavern -- we'll be doing that sometime this week.

Track 7 crowd.JPG

February 22, 2013
Beer with food: All kinds of events during Sacramento Beer Week


When my editor asked me to compile a list of food events that interested me during Sacramento Beer Week, I immediately said "No problem." Then I started to look at all that's happening in the region during this great week of beer.

Yikes! Hundreds of cool events. Big ones. Little ones. Pricey ones. Bargain ones. That's the good news. It's easy to find things to do that center on good beer and trying new beers from today through next weekend. Here's a sampling of what I came up with in today's Ticket section. I went with food-beer events at a variety of price points.

But I also asked Dan Scott, executive director of Sacramento Beer Week, to weigh in with beer dinners that interest him.

Here's his list:

*High Water Beer Dinner at Ten22

*Berryessa Beer Dinner at Hook & Ladder

*Sierra Nevada at Mulvaney's B&L (with head brewer and UCDavis Brewing professor Charlie Bamforth)

*21st Amendment Beer Dinner at Centro

Two Rivers Cider Dinner at Mulvaney's

US v Belgium Beer Dinner at The Shack

Dinner with Charles Bamforth at Enotria

That's a pretty amazing assortment of beer dinners. And there are more. I especially wanted to attend U.S. v. Belgium dinner at The Shack. Alas, it's already sold out. So if you see something that interests you here or at, you probably should act fast and make a reservation.

To keep up with what's happening during Beer Week, check back with us here at Appetizers and at

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


Beer Week activities include tastings, food pairings

February 14, 2013
Try pairing chocolate and beer this Valentine's Day

Beer and chocolate? It may be a better match than chocolate and red wine.

So say the experts from Sam Adams. In honor of Valentine's Day, the Boston brewery teamed up with San Francisco chocolate maker TCHO to come up with the right chocolate notes to complement its lagers and ales.

According to New York beer and wine sommelier Gianni Cavicchi, who consulted on this culinary matchmaking, "it's actually easier to pair chocolate with a balanced beer, like Samuel Adams Boston Lager, than with wine because sometimes the intensity of chocolate takes over the wine and the acidity in wine doesn't balance."

When pairing chocolate and beer, rich malty flavors are your friend, Cavicchi added. It's this flavor along with a subtle bitterness from the Noble Hops that compliment the malt sweetness that pairs Boston Lager perfectly with chocolate.

Beer actually may make you want to eat more chocolate, he added.

"The carbonation of the beer cleanses your palate from the heavy finish of the chocolate leaving you ready for the next bite," he said.

That's something to savor this chocolate-heavy holiday.

February 7, 2013
Our encounter with the phenomenon that is Pliny the Younger


We had a great day trip to Santa Rosa on Wednesday to work on my story about the cult of Pliny the Younger and Pliny the Elder.

It was quite a sight to witness folks standing in line well before the Russian River Brewing Co. opened its doors. I interviewed Natalie Cilurzo about the phenomenon and had my first Pliny the Younger at, ahem, 10 .m., an hour before the brew pub opens for business. Natalie's husband, Vinnie, is a brewmaster legend in the craft beer world and his beers are so coveted that folks travel from around the world to experience them. Indeed, three of the guys I met later at the pub were brewers from Japan who came to Santa Rosa specifically for the Pliny the Younger experience. I also met some folks from Sacramento enjoying their Plinys.

Pliny II.JPG

If you're into good beer -- and we have more and more good beer here in Sacramento -- you should consider making the trip. They only pour Pliny the Younger the first two weeks of February, and then that's it until next year.

You're limited to three 10-ounce pours at $4.50 each. But trust me, you don't need any more than that.

What compels people to line up for up to seven hours for a chance to drink this beer? I'll try to answer that and more in my story, which will run in The Bee next Wednesday.


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

January 11, 2013
Sactown may be a beer town, but it fails to make this Top-10 list

As many of you know, Sacramento was once a very significant beer town, home to several respected breweries prior to Prohibition. I'm writing this, by the way, from The Bee newsroom -- our property at 21st and Q was once the site of the Buffalo Brewing Co., which started in 1889 and was once the largest brewery west of the Mississippi. It built its red-brick brewery, complete with an ice plant and stables for horses used to pull the delivery wagons, for $400,000.

These days, our city is making a comeback when it comes to beer, and we have a new and vibrant craft beer movement afoot in and around Sacramento. Some, including the brand new New Helvetia Brewing Co. and Ruhstaller Beer, have sought to resurrect our great beer legacy with new and impressive brewing operations. We also have a growing number of excellent pubs where you can enjoy beer in the company of others.

We recently came across a list from the website AMOG (Alpha Male of the Group) that offers up its take on the 10 best beer towns in the U.S. No, Sacramento didn't make the list. But if you look at the cities on it, there's certainly potential for Sacramento to make a name for itself in the months and years ahead.

Here's a look a quick look at the list:

10. Cleveland
9. St. Louis
8. Burlington, Vt.
7. San Francisco
6. Boston
5. Albuquerque
4. Chicago
3. Philadelphia
2. Denver
1. Portland

For more details on this list, click here.

And if you're looking to learn more about Sacramento's past when it comes to beer and breweries, pick up a copy of the excellent book, "Sacramento's Breweries" by Ed Carroll. Last time I checked, you could buy a copy at Beer's Books for $14.95.

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


Sacramento has a rich history in brewing lore

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