Susan Yee

Sacramento Guide to Retail Beer

Fortunately, for us here in Sacramento, we’re situated on the hop-fertile west coast and our city has been established as an agricultural and distribution hub. As a result, we are blessed with access to some of the best and freshest beer in the world produced by an array of skilled and adventurous craft brewers. It’s no surprise that this city has acquired an affinity for beers that amaze, tantalize, and challenge our taste buds.

So where does one go to stock up on the good stuff to enjoy while lounging on the balcony or kicking it with friends in the backyard as the kids run around? This is City Scout’s guide to some of Sacramento’s finest locally owned bottleshops – the curated retail establishments where you can pick up some excellent brews that don’t come around on tap very often. This is where we go for the tall bottles or ones with big words like “bourbon barrel-aged,” “bottle-conditioned,” “imperial,” or “Trappist” that we don’t find on six-packs at Safeway. Besides going directly to a local brewery to talk shop and get a growler fill, here are some of our favorite places around town to buy great beer. Divided up by neighborhood, we hope our list whets your whistle whether you’re stocking up for a summer picnic by day or a porch-sitting session by night.IMG_0012Taylor’s Market – 2900 Freeport Blvd. (Land Park)

Behind the Beer: A Land Park area landmark since the 1960s, Taylor’s Market was one of the first places in Sacramento to offer craft beer on its shelves. It all began in the early 1990s when then-grocery-clerk-now-manager David Hunter’s home-brewing hobby led him in search of more adventurous beer selections to stock at Taylor’s. Some of the earliest craft beer offerings at Taylor’s included imported German lagers and wheat beers and ales from North Coast Brewing of Fort Bragg and Mendocino Brewing of Ukiah. Then, as local interest in microbrews (as they were then called) grew and new breweries proliferated, the tiny corner grocery store began procuring beers from all over California and beyond.

Did You Know?… Taylor’s was actually one of the first in Sacramento to sell Pliny the Elder, a hard-to-find double India pale ale from Russian River Brewing with a rabid cult-like following. Today, David takes pride in the store’s ability to provide customers with a constantly changing assortment of beers to choose from. Single-serve bottles and six-packs occupy a majority of the refrigerated shelves that line the back wall of the store. The selection touches on all parts of the beer spectrum including both European imports of traditional styles and locally brewed interpretations by Jackrabbit, New Helvetia, Mraz, and Bike Dog. You’ll also find beers from breweries across the country that you probably haven’t heard of yet but will definitely want to give a shot.IMG_0010 IMG_0003IMG_0009Scout Tip: While you’re there, don’t forget to stop by the market’s old-fashioned butcher counter where the meat quality is also top-notch, and you’ll be met with friendly, expert service from Taylor’s crew.IMG_0022Pangaea Bier Cafe – 2743 Franklin Blvd. (Curtis Park)

Behind the Beer: Nestled in the Curtis Park neighborhood, across the street from the legendary Gunther’s Ice Cream Shop, Pangaea first opened its doors in 2008 as a laid-back pub specializing in European-style beers on draft. For a while, before Belgian beers were as widely available as they are now, Pangaea was a go-to destination for imbibing Trappist and Abbey ales tapped straight from the keg. As the craft-beer demand grew in Sacramento, Pangaea’s offerings grew along with it as beers from all over America were rotated into the nineteen-tap lineup. In 2011, owner Rob Archie expanded the pub’s existing space to include a bottle shop and dedicated sour beer bar (try it!).

Did You Know?… If the selection of over a hundred different American and European craft beers to choose from overwhelms you, Pangaea’s knowledgeable staff, led by beer coordinator Kyle Middlebrooks, is right there to help you find something you’ll love. Don’t know what a barleywine, Saison, or bourbon-barred aged beer is? They’ll even pour a couple samples from similar styles on the current tap list to see what you like.IMG_0031 IMG_0024Scout Tip: In addition to their beer selection, Pangaea also sells a range of brewery-branded glass stemware for properly sipping your haul. The bottleshop impressively carries the specific type of glass used for each style of Belgian beer – ten in all!IMG_0078Corti Brothers – 5810 Folsom Blvd. (East Sacramento)

Behind the Beer: Corti Brothers has held a longstanding reputation in Sacramento as a purveyor of high-quality, fine foods from around the world. Already established as the destination for imported wine, the store’s craft beer offerings began in the 1980s and 1990s with traditional beer styles imported from Germany, Belgium, and England. The popularity of the microbrewery trend in the late-1990s, followed by the full-blown craft beer movement of the 2000s, led Corti Brothers to expand its craft beer inventory to the extent that it now carries — arguably the largest selection of any locally owned bottleshop. You might count over 200 different kinds of beer sold on the shelves. In addition to American-brewed or imported six-packs, Corti Brothers sell dozens upon dozens of single bottles and cans so you can mix and match styles to your heart’s content. Imagine hauling home bottles of Tripel Karmeliet (Belgium), Cascade Figaro (Oregon), and Evil Twin Molotov Cocktail (Connecticut) along with six-packs of Einstök Pale Ale (Iceland) and Stone Enjoy By IPA (California) – all from one stop.

Did You Know?… Every single beer Corti Brothers sells is chilled and ready to go. Let me repeat that: Every. Single. Beer. Usually, grocery stores or beer shops have a refrigerated section and a separate area for beers stored at room temperature. Not Corti Brothers. The refrigerated beer shelves span a whole wall of the store. Their entire selection of single bottles – both large and small – and six-packs is cold, which is perfect for when you need to pick up something to impress on your way to a barbecue or other summer shindig.IMG_0065 IMG_0069 IMG_0080Scout Tip: If you happen to catch Beer Manager Todd Fancher, ask him if he’s got anything great in the back. As Corti Brothers’ beer buyer, he’ll occasionally stumble on some great finds… but only in extremely limited quantities. One visit, I brought home a bottle of Apple Brandy Barrel Noir by Prairie Artisan Ales in Oklahoma. It’s an imperial stout aged in apple brandy barrels with notes of chocolate, coffee, apple, and vanilla that I sometimes find myself daydreaming about.IMG_0048Capitol Beer & Taproom – 2222 Fair Oaks Blvd. (Arden-Arcade)

Behind the Beer: Capitol Beer & Taproom opened in 2012 and has quickly become a convenient home away from home for many craft beer aficionados living on the other side of the American River. Along with a taproom serving about 20 different beers, the bottle shop stocks about a hundred varieties of IPAs, brown and red ales, Belgians, barleywines, Saisons, and sours in refrigerated cases and room temperature shelves. By constantly updating beer offerings, the team at Capitol make it a point to provide shoppers with the best of what’s local, what’s good, and what you should be drinking next.

Did You Know?… In addition to plentiful options for craft beer, the bottle shop carries an assortment of non-beer offerings. Cider, made from the fermented juice of apples, has experienced its own craft revival much like that of beer. Capitol offers perfectly chilled bottles from cideries such as Sonoma’s Ace and Sacramento’s very own Two Rivers for those sweltering days when you prefer something a little sweeter (but not too sweet). In addition to cider, the bottle shop also stocks meads. Just what is a mead, exactly? Made from fermented honey and water, it’s the latest alcoholic thing you’ve never heard of but will probably try soon when someone hands you some (remember Fernet?).  Get your friends talking when you bring out a bottle of Orange Radish Blossom mead from Heidrun (Point Reyes, CA) that you picked up here. Scout Tip: Don’t have a patio of your own to enjoy a summer evening? Take advantage of Capitol’s! Completely shaded and no frills chill, their outdoor seating area is an ideal spot to have a relaxing pint from the taproom while admiring the brews you just picked out in the bottle shop.