Started in November 1 1987, Rubicon Brewing Company is one of the oldest craft breweries west of the Mississippi. Glynn Phillips, Rubicon’s owner, bought the brewery in 2005 from Ed Brown. Glynn has an extensive history in the brewing and restaurant industry, was one of the founding members of the Northern California Brewers’ Guild (NCBG), and continues to take an active role as President of NCBG. Brewmaster Scott Cramlet has been with Rubicon for more than two decades; his brewing skills are reflected in multiple awards received at prestigious events such as the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and World Beer Cup. Scott is joined by brewer Al Griffin who has been credited by Glynn Phillips with stretching the boundaries in Rubicon’s brewing.
My wife and I arrived at Rubicon’s on a Wednesday evening. Rubicon’s is located on a beautiful tree-line street in Sacramento that is composed of a mixture of homes and businesses. The restaurant/brewery was very active but not crowded and we were seated immediately. Rubicon’s provides a casual and relaxing environment for dining and drinking. I couldn’t help but notice the music playing in the background was a great collection of rock songs from the 1980’s. Our server, Jessica, was an absolute delight, combining a wonderful sense of humor with outstanding service!
I sampled five beers on tap that evening: 1) Amber Ale – brewed using a blend of three malts and imported German Hops; 2) Monkey Knife Fight American Pale Ale – Made with Crystal Malts and Mt. Hood hops, then dry-hopped with Cascade hops; 3) India Pale Ale – Rubicon’s flagship ale that is made adding Cascade, Columbus and Chinook hops throughout the brewing process and has won Gold Medals at the 1989 and 1990 GABF’s; 4) Irish Stout – A Bronze Medal winner at the 1989 GABF, this beer is a dry Irish stout that is brewed with a base of Authentic Irish Stout malt, and then adding flaked and roasted barley, black malts, imported Northern Brewer and domestic Willamette hops; and 5) Devil’s Revolt – Inspired by another Rubicon beer called Friend of the Devil, this is a Belgian Blonde aged in chardonnay barrels. My tasting notes follow.
Rubicon Amber Ale (5.3% ABV): This beer pours a crystal clear amber color with off-white foam head. Rubicon Amber Ale has a malt and sweet caramel aroma. The beer is light-bodied with mild carbonation. Amber Ale has a smooth mild sweet malt flavor with some biscuit undertones and finishes with very light hops bitterness. Rubicon Amber Ale is easy to drink but doesn’t make my heart flutter.
Monkey Knife Fight American Pale Ale (5.0% ABV): Monkey Knife Fight (MKF) pours a clear gold color with an off-white foam head. The beer has a mild malt aroma with strong delightful grapefruit bouquet. The tap version of MKF has a slightly lower alcohol content than the bottled version. MKF is medium-bodied with mild prickly and pleasant carbonation. MKF has a light toasted malt flavor with some earthy hay background and a mild hops bitterness. My guess is that MKF-tap is Rubicon’s version of a session ale that goes with most food. This is a very drinkable pale ale but it lacks many of the assertive flavor characteristics I commonly expect in this style of beer.
India Pale Ale (6.5% ABV): Rubicon’s American IPA is their flagship beer. The beer pours a clear gold color with an off-white foam head. IPA has a citrus and hops floral smell. The beer is medium-bodied with moderate carbonation. IPA has a light toasted malt flavor with some earthy hay background and a very nice medium hops bitterness that is persistent in the finish. This is a very good beer that I could drink regularly.
Irish Stout (5.3% ABV): Rubicon Irish Stout was nitrogen poured. The beer has a deep black color with tan foam and tiny bubbles that left a nice lace down the sides of the glass. The beer had a roasted malt, dark roasted coffee, and dark bread aroma. Irish Stout is light-bodied and creamy with low carbonation. The beer has a roasted malt and coffee flavor with a dry dark chocolate and deft mild hops finish. This is an excellent beer that took me to the Emerald Isle.
Devil’s Revolt (8.9% ABV): Devil’s Revolt is a strong Belgian Blonde made with a Belgian yeast strain and then aged in chardonnay barrels. The beer pours a hazy gold color with thin white foam. Devil’s Revolt has a sweet grape aroma with malt background. The beer is full-bodied with mild carbonation. Devil’s Revolt has a tart/sour cider flavor with a little lingering grape sweetness at the end and a peppery finish. Lambic lovers would enjoy trying this beer but the up-front tartness may be a little overpowering.
Overall, we had a fun time at Rubicon’s and I had some good beers. Next time you are in Sacramento, I recommend you stop by and enjoy a beer.
Thanks to Jessica for the great service and thanks again to my lovely wife for supporting the trip and post-stop driving.