Our Beer of the Month comes from Ruhstaller, a relative newcomer to Northern California, a brewery founded 2 1/2 years ago by Jan-Erik Paino. So who’s this Ruhstaller guy?
That would be Captain Frank Ruhstaller, a Swiss immigrant who travelled across the United States and in 1885 at the age of thirty-five, opened his third brewery, the Ruhstaller Brewery in Sacramento, the largest brewery west of the Mississippi at that time. (Which included the legendary August Busch Brewery, which was also a few miles west of the Mississippi River in St. Louis.) Why then, did Ruhstaller travel all the way to Sacramento to build his brewery?
At the time, Sacramento was surrounded by the leading hop growing region in the United States, so the brewery was located in Sacramento to be close to the local sources of high quality hops. “Hop growing migrated to the Yakima Valley and the rest of the Pacific Northwest for economic reasons, not quality reasons”, explains Paino. “The best hops still come from California.”
Which is why Paino uses hops exclusively from the Kuchinski hop farm in California’s Lake County in 1881 California Red Ale. And while, many brewers to urge you to “buy local”, Ruhstaller takes that a step further, and sources no less than 94% of their ingredients from within California, with most of that 94% within a two hour drive from Sacramento.
All those ingredients come together in this well balanced Red Ale. It does have a bit of a rustic feel, as the brew is pretty dry, with really no sweetness at all, with toasty grain and caramel notes, and finishing with a nice warm resiny hop bitterness.
Red Ales can be pretty forgettable, and this one hits the familiar Red Ale notes, but its restraint, balance and complexity makes it unique and memorable. It’s yet another example of the continual reinvention of beer by California brewers, whether by going all out with esoteric extreme beers, or by simply brewing a familiar style with precision while reviving traditional ingredients from a by-gone era.