If you have not been to Kupros (1217 21st St, Sacramento), we suggest you visit. The menu is advanced, the service professional, and the ambiance of this restored period building is refined. There is a nice downstairs bar (with an amazing colored glass ceiling) and outdoor seating that make this an excellent place for a drink. While the beer selection is limited, the overall quality of the selection and the full bar do offer plenty to satisfy your thirst.
The story of Kupros' restoration was a tale of dedication and eventual good fortune. Hearing of the permitting, retrofitting, and engineering obstacles that were overcome was enough to make any dreamy eyed restaurateur think twice. My takeaways were: it will be harder and slower than you expect, start early, stay dedicated, and employ good people on your team.
We then heard about Ruhstaller and where they are headed. Color me excited. J.E. makes an excellent spokesman for his product, because he has a vision and a passion. The vision is to brew a 100% California beer. This means a focus on the sourcing of ingredients. The locavore movement hits beer.
Sacramento has a long history as a beer town that many of us forget (or never knew). At the turn of the last century Sacramento housed the largest brewery west of the Mississippi (and that includes St. Louis), Buffalo Brewing, and had many other large and successful breweries. Captain Ruhstaller, a Swiss immigrant, marksman, brewer, and all around interesting character, knew that the Sacramento area grew some of the world's finest hops. Old-timers tell me that Cal-Expo and the Sac State campus used to be fields of hops as far as the eye could see. Add this to fresh mountain water, abundant valley grain and a transportation hub, and you have all you need to make great beer.
J.E. is banking these ingredients can be reassembled and he may be on to something. The irony is that government came and destroyed our best industry and left only itself. After prohibition, large breweries, working on economies of scale, determined that hops could be grown at a far lower cost in the less fertile areas of Oregon and Eastern Washington. Not because of quality, but because of price. California's hop industry has been dormant since then.
Ruhstaller is changing this by paradigm by planting a few acres of hops just outside of Winters for its future use. The fate of these early endeavors could entice other growers back into the market. J.E. made a point of saying "the best natural ingredients will make the best beer". His ideas are exciting and visionary and I would tend to agree..... we will keep you informed as his adventure's progress.
Oh,yes and the beer.
Ruhstaller 1881, a California Red Ale, was favorably reviewed earlier by this blog, but we are happy to report sales are going well, aided by those cool burlap covered bottles.
Ruhstaller Captain, a California Black IPA, was excellent. I'm a big fan of "____" IPA, whether that be Rye, Black, Smoked, or something else. I feel these beers are taking the style a step beyond focusing on the hop punch flavor. I usually also feel the special focus on the nature of the malt improves the hop-heavy performance of the beer. These principles were in full effect here.
The head was rich and full with a dark caramel color. The hop aroma was mild for an IPA. The front end started sweet, with the hops rising and shining steadily and patiently. There were back end hints of floral notes from the hops, but the malt flavor was chewy, and ever so slightly roasted. I call that excellent balance. The flavors lingered nicely and consistently, though I hoped for a slightly crisper finish. General reviews around the room were overwhelmingly positive. So, go get some!
Finally, we were also privileged to try a prototype Lager that is under development. The keg we had, known only as "Batch 227", was nearly 100% California beer (100% CA hops, 97% CA malt) and suggests exciting things are coming. J.E. apologizes for that rouge 3% and assures you he is working on it.