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Ruhstaller gives customers chance to influence brew

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Beer drinkers have the chance to steer one of Sacramento’s newest breweries – Ruhstaller Beer – in the direction they think it should head with its newest brew, an as-yet-unnamed lager.

“It’s the next step in the line for us,” said owner J-E Paino. “Lagers are the holy grail of craft beers because they’re so hard to make.”

The lager was brewed in four small batches for a total of 32 kegs’ worth of beer, and they were brewed to different recipes, with some being mild and others being hoppier.

Local places carrying the beer, including Beach Hut Deli in Midtown, Kupros Bistro, 58 Degrees & Holding Co., Pangaea Two Brews in Curtis Park and Whole Foods in Folsom, serve a heavier and a milder version together, with an empty glass for blending. Customers are encouraged to give feedback to Ruhstaller.

For Ruhstaller, which resurrected one of Sacramento’s classic names in beer when it began brewing last August, the goal is to take it slowly and solicit input from the community.

“I’ll be brewing another batch in the next month and a half, and we’re tweaking the recipe in direct response to the comments,” Paino said.

I met Paino at Beach Hut Deli in Midtown Monday afternoon, where two of the four batches – numbered 838 and 256 – are currently on the taps.

The 838 is smoother, while the 256 clearly has more hops and runs more toward the bitter side.

We tried them both individually, and then played around with blending. I thought a two-to-one ratio of 256 to 838 kept the flavor of the hoppier beer but smoothed it out to a point where it was the type of brew I could see myself drinking leisurely over the summer.

Paino said the difficulty is that the 838 has more mass-market appeal, but the 256 appeals more to the hardcore craft brew connoisseurs, and the goal is to find the balance between the two that will ultimately appeal to both groups.

The dilemma is one beer brewers face everywhere, as craft brewing recently became much more widespread in the past several years, and beer drinkers took notice.

Before Prohibition, the United States had more than 2,000 breweries. Paino said the country is just now back to those numbers, and Sacramento is no exception, with Ruhstaller, Track 7, American River Brewing Co. and others opening within the past few years.

On the Ruhstaller website’s lager page, a commenter by the name AJ said the 838 was “way too thin” but had a good hop flavor with a little corn aroma. AJ then described the 256 as a “nice hoppy (bitter aroma) lager, good for me but maybe too hoppy for the Budweiser masses.”

Rob Archie, owner of Pangaea Two Brews, said Monday that his customers’ response to the lagers has been positive.

“I’m excited because, with breweries, I tend to really get into the ones that continuously take chances and continue to grow,” he said. “Lagers are a very tough beer to make, and our response was great. The kegs went really fast.”

All four batches of the lager use the same amount of malts – 97 percent of which comes from California – and have varying levels of hops – all of which comes from the state.

“Before Prohibition, the Sacramento area grew the most and highest-quality hops in the world,” Paino said. “There’s no reason we can’t do that again.”

Editor’s note: A change was made to this article after publishing to reflect that the 2,000 breweries were nationwide, not just in California.

Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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