NEWS-LEDGER — JUNE 6, 2012 –
West Sacto facility will help Rubicon produce more ‘Monkey Knife Fight Pale Ale’ & other popular brews
By Steve Marschke
Sacramento’s Rubicon Brewing Company plans to expand its beer production by opening a West Sacramento plant late this year..
And the new brewery might – maybe, perhaps – open a tasting room, reports Glynn Phillips, majority owner of Rubicon. The new brewery will occupy about 16,000 square feet at 885 Stillwater Road in West Sacramento, near IKEA.
“Our focus and most important market is the Sacramento area,” Phillips told the News-Ledger. “We feel like we’re unable to supply the Sacramento area with enough beer to truly do it justice. We want to make sure Rubicon truly takes its spot as Sacramento’s oldest and most-produced local beer.”
At the company’s sole brewery and pub near 20th and Capitol, “there are people every day making beer, and we’re making it for Sacramento first.”
Rubicon’s products can be found on tap and in bottles at a number of regional restaurants and stores – including Raley’s, Bel Air, Whole Food, Taylor’s Market and Beverages & More, Phillips said.
“When you say ‘Rubicon,’ you’re talking about a brewery that has 25 years of history in the region. We’re the oldest continuously operating brewery in the Sacramento area, and probably one of the top five or ten oldest breweries on the West Coast.”
Others in that club, said Phillips, are names like Sierra Nevada, Anchor, Triple Rock and Mendocino Brewing Company.
What’s Rubicon’s flagship beer?
“Our IPA (India Pale Ale) has been our flagship ale since the late ‘80s,” said Phillips. “Most recently, our pale ale – called ‘Monkey Knife Fight’ – has taken over the area by storm.”
The brewpub in midtown Sacramento is now maxing out at about 2,400-2,500 barrels of beer per year, said Phillips (one “barrel” is 31 gallons). But the company feels it isn’t meeting demand from local stores and restaurants, let alone markets outside the region. Rubicon has sometimes used Sudwerk in Davis to “contract brew” some of its recipes to help meet local demand (“They help ease the pain,” said Phillips.).
The new plant will approximately triple Rubicon’s capacity:
“We’re aiming for 4-5,000 barrels (from West Sacramento) in 2013,” said Phillips.
Phillips, 47, got into beer as a restaurant manager for Great Basin Brewing Company in Sparks.
“That’s where I really found my love for craft beer,” he said.
He later worked as general manager at Marin Brewing Company, and has been owner of Rubicon for seven years. He reports that the craft brewing companies in the region are supportive of each other.
“We feel like we’re all in this together,” said Phillips. “Our friends at the Auburn Alehouse, Sudwerk, River City Brewing, and American River Brewhouse – we all talk together. There’s a competitive streak, but we do ask ‘what grain is working for you right now?’ or we say, ‘hey, I tried your beer over at this place, and what I noticed was this –.’”
Rubicon’s Sacramento brewpub has a bar, indoor seating and a patio area, and a full menu.
The West Sac facility will, at least initially, focus just on stuff like mashing and fermenting. But there might be a time when it opens up for public tasting and for sales of six-packs and such.
Having a tasting room “really depends on the City of West Sacramento,” said Phillips. “It would be just a tasting room. There are some really nice laws that exempt me from some regulations if it’s just a tasting room. But it’s such a mountain-climb just to open a new brewery, we’ll just climb that mountain first.”
One local city councilman has lobbied him to create a West Sac brewpub – but that’s not on the horizon right now, said Phillips.
He said that he was “always” pretty set on expanding into West Sacramento, but that his company spent several years checking on water quality before taking the plunge.
“We got water samples over the last three years,” he said.
Rubicon’s brewmaster of 22 years, Scott Cramlet, told the News-Ledger that Rubicon presently uses Sacramento’s city water, adding a few minerals for some beer styles. West Sacramento’s water – also drawn from the Sacramento River– is pretty similar, said Cramlet.
The West Sac water samples passed muster, added Phillips.
The new plant is slated to start mixing grain, hops, water and yeast beginning in November, with a staff of about 40.
“We hope to open and hire shortly thereafter,” said Phillips. “We have focused on this for a very long time.”
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