Why we're here...

Beer culture is coming of age. At any store, restaurant, bar, or friend's house you can now find at least a few good brews. In fact, there seem to be so many new beers, breweries and bars it's difficult to separate the good, the bad, and the mediocre.

If you're going spend $10 on one beer, what should you buy? If you're going to drive 2 hours to check out a brewery, what's worth your time? If you're going to plan a Friday night, what has a good selection and friendly atmosphere? We're here to help you answer these questions.

Friday, August 12, 2011

River Rock Tap House

River Rock Tap House is located at 2326 J Street in Sacramento. River Rock is not new, but just moved from Citrus Heights to midtown.

River Rock currently has 40 taps but will be expanding overtime to 100. I'm excited that they plan to target local and rare breweries to feature on tap. Their mission is to promote local breweries, the West Coast, big flavor style, and the beer culture. That's a mission the Blog can get behind. The current selection is a good tour of West Coast and Belgian-style beers.

The space is a good size, featuring table, bar, and lounge type seating with space for standing room. The light level is low, but the wall lights which highlight the brick liven the space up. The high ceilings never allow the place to feel cramped. The polished steel walls draw attention to the bar areas. The bars are also highlighted with dark blue rails of light that remind me of ground effects on cars.

When you enter a waitress can seat you or you can find a seat at the bar. The staff is friendly and the bartenders eager to talk about the beers and expanding beer selection. Overall the space is okay, but the decor is reminiscent of many other bars across midtown.

A few things worry me. First, no one seemed to know how to pour a beer. The bartender, who was really cool, poured a Guinness straight to the top without letting it settle. In fact the head was barely forming as the waitress took it out. This is damn near a felony in Ireland.

A waitress was scraping off head from a beer that naturally has a good size head. By the time she took it out there was no head at all. The head of a beer is important to the flavor of the beer and the experience the drinker has with the beer. There is even an international competition on how to pour Stella Artois correctly - Stella! That doesn't bode well for the other, more complex beers. If the fundamentals of just pouring beer are ignored, this also puts into question their ability to educate the public on beers.  It'd be like your baseball coach not being able to catch or throw a ball.

The other worry is the sheer amount of taps. 100 lines is A LOT of lines. It's a great selling point, but a difficult thing to manage. Tap lines have to be cleaned well regularly, especially if you're changing out beers often, as River Rock will be. I've worked in restaurants and keeping 100 of anything clean is a difficult task. I hope the management and staff are up for the challenge. Dirty lines equal bad beer experiences and a disservice to the brewers.

The other issue with 100 lines is that beers can sit around for a long time, longer than they should. Unless bottle conditioned and in a bottle, most beers are meant to be drank as soon as possible to maximize flavor and freshness. Especially the IPA's and the West Coast, big flavor beers River Rock will be promoting. I hope they have a steady line of customers or else many of the 100 beers will be sitting around for a while.

I really want to like this place. My first experience was enjoyable, they have a really cool staff. But 100 taps is more of a shtick than a service to beer. I recommend you Try It, they obviously do have a good amount of beers that are hard to find on tap.


  1. The prices are steep and the selection isn't really anything special. Rodenbach and Old Foghorn were the only "neat" things they had on tap. The bathroom was an absolute dump, too.