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.

Monday, July 9, 2012

American River Brewing Company

The American River Brewing Company (ARBC) is located in Rancho Cordova, CA, about 15 minutes east of Sacramento. It's  a short drive off of Highway 50 or a short walk from the Sunrise Light Rail Station. Off of Highway 50, take the Sunrise exit south. After you pass Folsom Blvd, its the first right on Trades Center drive - it'll be on your right a few building down. You can't miss the sandwich board with their logo.

The tap room is open Wednesday - Friday from 4pm to 8pm.
ARBC is located at the end of a row of warehouse buildings. The buildings are quiet in the evening so there is plenty of space to park. The taproom is a comfortable size with high ceilings, a large window that looks into the production room, a decent size TV, bar tables that are barrels with table tops, and comfortable bar stools with backs and cushions. Bowls of crackers sit at each table and a jug of water is available to help sober you up. There is also a list of where ARBC brews can be found. The taproom is bright and stayed surprisingly cool for the hot summer day we visited.
ARBC opened in early 2012 by brewers David Mathis and Andy Armstrong who together have over 30 years of brewing experience. Their brews can be found all over Northern California, I have seen their Coloma Brown at several places in Sacramento.

They've been so successful in fact that they are already planning on expanding their production capabilities with a new 30 bbl tank. Their current system uses direct flame rather than steam, which the brewers say adds to the deep, complex malt flavors of their beers.
 The owners are friendly and accessible. They staff the taproom and are eager to give visitors a tour and talk to about their passion.
There is also a spillover area just outside the taproom - the space between the production area and the un/loading and storage dock. The spillover area has a picnic table and is home the brewery's restroom (which was well maintained).

The taproom features 6 taps. Here are the ones we tried:
 Fire Break Red
A malt-forward red ale, that steers away from the hop-forward reds that seem to be the popular style these days. It has a light, toasted barley aroma with a deep, rich malt flavor - roasted/chocolate/hints of coffee and a light bitter finish. It's medium bodied with a creamy mouthfeel. This was my favorite discovery of the trip.
AU Golden Ale
AU is a good take on a an American Golden Ale - crisp, refreshing, light toasted malts with notes of stone fruit.
SSB is an expression of the brewmaster point of view - a focus on balance flavor, with a malt tilt, with subtle hops and deep malt flavors. SSB does not try to be a big hop West Coast style IPA, the goal here is to strike a balance between the two flavors. It has a rich caramel nose, the taste has caramel and toffee malts with fruity hops up front and an enjoyable citrus rind finish that lingers. It's medium bodied with a smooth mouthfeel. SSB does create a nice balance of flavors.
This is ARBC's take on a Chile/Jalapeno beer. The flavor has warm spices up front - nutmeg and cinnamon followed by an herbal, peppery heat. This is not only one of the better tasting jalapeno beers I've had, but the hottest! The trick, according to the brewmaster is to use habaneros for the flavor and black pepper for the heat with warm spices to balance the heat and earthiness.
Coloma Brown
 I would call this their flagship beer, because it's the only one I've seen outside the brewery. I think this says a lot about their style - deep, rich malt flavors with surprisingly spicy hop finish. The aroma has roasted and coffee malts with a taste to follow - chocolate, coffee, and roasted malts with notes of toffee followed by a herbal and spicy hop finish.
Overall, they have a good line-up of beers. More importantly, they leave their unique mark on common styles of beers with success. I like what they're doing with their malts, and if the spicy manipulation in Incinerator is any indication of their skills - I except more flavor beers on the way.
Overall, they are not your hop-forward beers, but focus on malt flavors first and supportive hop flavors second. Check them out, I'm sure you'll find something you like.

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