Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sacramento Beer Week 2010

My buddy Kjell did a shitty job hiding his excitement when I told him that I was coming down to Sacramento to help him move. Sure, I was excited by the thought of taking a long, sweaty, cramped 20 hour train ride down there, helping him sort through all of his crap while listening to his bizarre political rants, and sleeping on the most uncomfortable couch in the world. But what I was most excited about was exploring a city I'd spent virtually no time in -- and during their 1st annual Beer Week, no less!

Old Ironsides / River City Saloon / River City Brewing / Streets of London Pub / Rubicon Brewing / Pangaea Café

View Sacramento Beer Week UBH in a larger map

Due to Kjell's time restrictions, we were only able to dedicate one day and part of the next to SacBW festivities. It was a perfect amount of time, though. It gave me a good peek at the vibrant beer scene in Sacramento and left me wanting to return and explore more sometime.

We began right around 12:30pm on a perfect 63 degree Thursday at the California State Capitol building where I got some pictures, tried to imagine if I'd ever make it to D.C. for a UBH, and eyed the fruit on the orange trees.  From here, it's about a mile to Old Ironsides. This is a cool old bar on the south side of downtown that is more of a music club now than anything. They are open early however, so stop in and check out some of the old photographs on the walls. You'll see that the inside hasn't changed all that much in about 60 years. The beer selection isn't outstanding, but they do have options suitable for beer drinkers with a conscience. I had an Anchor Steam and Kjell had a Sudwerk Pilsner.

From the Old Ironsides, we headed west to the river -- dipping down through Southside Park where I wanted to play a little frisbee, but Kjell forgot the frisbee. When you cross under I-5 and arrive at the river, a walking path takes you north into Old Sacramento, which looks like an old west section of Disney world, but with more authenticity. At the River City Saloon we had a couple of Lost Coast Great Whites and chatted with the bartender. It was a quiet afternoon, but I bet this place gets pretty busy on weekend nights.

Not far from the old town, following K Street, there is a pedestrian-only underpass that takes you into the Westfield Downtown Shopping Center and River City Brewing. The atmosphere is mall-ish and yuppified, but we really liked the beers and food we had there. Kjell stuck with the lighter stuff and had a Hefeweizen and a K Street Kolsch, I had a Vienna Alt beer and then a Gold Rush Amber that was on cask. This might have been my favorite beer of the day, but I hate making those choices.

After our new friends at the bar had had enough of Kjell's on-goings about urban beer hiking and Glenn Beck, we continued east, past the beautiful Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, and into the Streets of London Pub. They were having a New Belgium night there, so we elected the Ranger IPA and bought a black & tan for my new friend Dave, who told me about Brew It Up, a you-brew place just around the corner. I really wanted to get over there and check it out (I love u-brew joints), but never made it.  Next time!

From Streets of London, it's only a half-mile to Rubicon Brewing, the highlight of the hike, and the stop I was most looking forward to. The place was packed and there was no doubt that this was the heart of Sacramento Beer Week. There were simply too many things I wanted to try and I was damned full by now, but managed to fit in a Monkey Knife Fight Pale Ale -- probably the least exciting of Rubicon's offerings. I was OK with that because I had already decided to come back the next day (Firkin Friday) and spend more time there.

By this time our taxi had arrived (Kjell's mom) and we decided to come back tomorrow for lunch and lunch beers. This is a long hike, so if you don't make it all the way to Pangaea Café at the end, definitely try to get there before you leave town. And we did exactly that the next day.

Rubicon was again packed at lunchtime and the beer geeks were out in force for the firkins. We drank a Bear Republic APEX, a Rubicon IPA, and finished with a Ghiardelli Chocolate porter from Moylan's Brewing. They also have an impressive food menu and we enjoyed our sandwiches. For after lunch, I had Rubicon's Hop Sauce -- their best beer for my money.

When we left Rubicon, it was only raining a little -- certainly not enough to make me think twice about walking about 2 miles to Pangaea Cafe to finally taste some Water Witch. But we were not meant to stay dry that day (or even a little damp). The sky opened up on us about 20 minutes into the 45 minute walk and we arrived soaked but happy. At least I had a rain coat on, unlike my 100% cotton clad friend Kjell. Pangaea Café is a little out of the way place with a tremendous selection of Belgian beers. I examined my Odonata beer while Kjell had a couple of goblets of St. Bernardus Abt. 12, which made him a happier little monk than he normally is. With such a nice selection, it would have been nice to spend more time at Pangaea, but our taxi arrived again and this was to be the end of my time partaking in SacBW.

Final impressions: Downtown Sacramento is a very walker-friendly city.  It was a really fun trip and I'm glad to have visited and explored a place that normally wouldn't be on my beer radar. I'd love to go back and walk around again sometime. I have no doubt that there are 6 or 7 places I missed. If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear about them.

Mandatory stuff:  Dear FTC, Kjell and I are not affiliated in any way with the businesses mentioned above and paid for everything we ate and drank with our own money.


  1. Glad you had a good time at my Saloon, The River City Saloon. Don't forget next time your in Sacramento to come check out our Thursday night $0.99 cent Captains and Corona's night. Where else besides Mexico can you get Corona's for 99 cents!

  2. The ol' RCS will definitely be on my list next time I visit. Thanks!

  3. Sounds like you hit some good spots on your visit. I would concur that Rubicon is THE beer stop in Sactown. Perhaps on your next visit you should get to The Shack on Folsom, which has a great beer selection and outdoor patio. Not too far from there is the Pine Cove, a great local bar that has a good tap selection. It smells like dirty socks but hey, it's a college bar. If you should ever get a car involved in your trip then you should head over to Xtreme Pizza on Exposition Blvd. Sounds weird but they have an EXCELLENT tap selection, cool owner, and some crazy-good pizza. Also with that car you could get over to Auburn Alehouse - very tasty brews there.

  4. Thanks for the suggestions! I had actually heard that Xtreme Pizza had good beer and food, but we didn't have wheels. I am looking forward to coming down there again soon.

  5. Hey, I just stumbled onto your blog from the new school beer blog, great stuff! I have two blogs, one about urban hiking (that's severely out of date) and the other about beer! Sounds like we have the same passions!

  6. Hey man, I found your site a few days ago and have been meaning to get in touch. I must visit the beer cave on my next trip south!! Send me an e-mail.

  7. looks like a fun trip. I wouldn't think about Sacramento for a Good Beer Trip, but now I might.