Susan Yee

J-E Paino of Ruhstaller

Photographer Notes |

Getting up at 6 a.m. isn’t a normal occurrence for me, but for J-E Paino of Ruhstaller, who owns his own farm growing hops off I-80 just outside of Davis, a 6 a.m. wake up time is part of his everyday. I met up with J-E and his crew to photograph his life on a Saturday morning, which included a Hop School which provided an overview of hop farming and the historical role it has played in the Sacramento region, as well as a 25 mile bike ride from the Downtown tap room back to the farm. The whole experience was very enriching, as I never even knew what a hop plant looked like, and all the intricacies that went into growing and harvesting hops. It was also super fun to see what a bike ride from Sacramento to Davis would be like — a ride that is infinitely made better with the promise of good beer waiting at the end of the ride. Throughout the day, it was clear to me how much J-E loved what he did. From talking about hops to all the work that needs to be done on the farm and biking, his passion for the things in his life emanated throughout his being, and was a joy to witness and photograph.” – Susan Yee



Good Morning, My name is J-E Paino and I’m the general manager and founder of Ruhstaller, a little brewery in Sacramento. Ruhstaller is named in honor of Capt. Frank Ruhstaller who was a Swiss immigrant who helped make Sacramento the beer capital of the West Coast and the largest hop growing region in the world prior to prohibition. To us he represents the ethos of the valley – resourceful, honest, hardworking – and this is what we aspire to.To quote Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffet’s co-chairman): Sacramento “is a town you can go to to become somebody, not a town you have to be somebody to go to.”

In other words Sacramento is a town that will accept you for who you are, not who your parents are, or your last name, or your color, etc…it’s also a town you can go to to move the needle…where you can help change something.

To us, at the core, Ruhstaller is about changing the perception of Sacramento to ourselves and others. When we started Ruhstaller 5 years ago Sacramento was known for the big white building in the center of town and that our only major league team was trying to leave town. Capt. Frank Ruhstaller and our beer heritage represents that Sacramento is more than the Capitol and the Kings – we are farmers at heart, we are a Sack of Tomatoes, we are a Cow Town, we are honest, we are resourceful, we are hard working, we are humble, we are inclusive, we are family, we have great soil and weather, we are creative and talented, and we check our ego at the door…and that is something to be proud of…whether others see it or not!

So this morning was our second Hop School class – this is when we invite the public to learn and work in our hop yard,to see and feel what a ‘large’ hop yard looks like up close, and more importantly how it works. The next few weeks set the tone for the quality of harvest we are going to have in August. This is when we string the yard by placing 20’ coir twine beside each hop hill and the trellis above. This has to be done within the next week or two as the hop bines are ready to start heading towards the sun and they want something to grow on!This is our team of Jenn, Jarrod, and I explaining the yearly hop growing process – from planting, stringing, training, weeding, harvesting, drying, and baling – and taking the students through each building or machine that helps us do those things. Then it is off to the hop yard to work!Jarrod and I showing the hairs on the bines that help them attach to the coir twine.

Here I’m pulling on the support cables showing that the hop trellis acts as a large system that is like a human lung in its ability to expand and contract as needed. As the hop bines grow up the trellis and add up to 10 pounds per bine…with over 6,000 bines, that can add up to a lot of weight.IMG_0044IMG_0045 IMG_0061IMG_0073On top of the truck is what we call our Hop Sled –  this enables 2 to 3 people to work safely at 15 feet off the ground. Today we are tying coir twine to the cable above, Tom and Ryan on the right are using special tools to securely place the twine at the center of the hop bine so the wind doesn’t dislodge it.IMG_0077Here we go – our first group ride from our Downtown Sac Taproom and Brewery out to the Farm & Yard in Dixon…we’ve talked about doing this 25+/- mile ride for several years and finally are doing it!IMG_0081A Little pre-ride hydration – I recommended the Exquisite Kolsch.IMG_0086Here we just crossed the Causeway and are waiting for the ride to regroup to head into Davis. Spandex is great on the bike, not so flattering when just standing around.IMG_0089Me sporting our new bike jersey – I purposely wanted “Sacramento” prominent on the sides and back because that word represents so much to me. Some folks said, “J-E, it doesn’t say Ruhstaller anywhere on the jersey” my response was, ”yes it does, it’s just spelled with an S.”IMG_0090 IMG_0091 IMG_0093Thanks for joining us today for.  As one of my good friends Mike Harris says,”Greatest day of my life!” Today I got to do some of my favorite things all in one day, work hard, see the sunrise, walk the hop yard, be with old friends, make new ones, ride my bike, and have a beer while sitting on a hay bale – exhausted physically and knowing its well-earned!


Photos | Susan Yee