Since November 1 1987, Rubicon Brewing Company has been a jewel of a capital city culture. It’s not just because of the award-winning fine ales and great food served up by the Rubicon. Within the past four years, under the auspices of owner Glynn Phillips, the Rubicon has become renowned for its community outreach and philanthropic efforts. It’s support for Sacramento kids and various people in need that has transformed the Rubicon into a vital cog of Sacramento life.
“This pub is part of the community, and I don’t just mean geographically,” said Phillip. “It’s important for us to give back as much as we can to show our appreciation. I really feel like we’re connected with the people and that they can trust that they’ll feel at home here.”
Brewmaster Scott Cramlet has felt so at home that he’s stayed more than two decades. In October 2006, he experienced a thrill very few craft brewers achieve in their careers: stepping on stage to receive a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival. Cramlet won for his Winter Wheatwine, and followed that achievement with a silver GABF medal in 2009. In the craft brewing industry, consistent victories in the respected blind-panel tasting contest bring international acclaim.
“We’ve gone through so many different phases during my time here, but we’re very happy with things right now,” he said. “There is a lot of hope for future and expanding our business. We hope to double our capacity and get more of our products in bottles and more of a market presence — not too huge but bigger than we are now. I’m certainly very proud to work for a place that has been around so long and has its place in history. We are not the new kid on street. I tell people how long I’ve been at the Rubicon, and I hear people say, ‘Wow, that’s impressive.’”
In some ways, the transition from founder Ed Brown to Phillips was more than a decade in the making. Brown had known Phillips since the 1970s as the good friend of Brown’s nephews in the Bay Area town of Moraga. As Phillips paid his dues in the craft brewing industry – first at Great Basin Brewing in Sparks, Nev., and next at Marin Brewing in Larkspur – Phillips kept in close contact with Brown. Buoyed by his management experience at Marin Brewing, Phillips was confident that he could handle the passing of the baton at the Rubicon.
Today there are more than 1,600 breweries that dot the American landscape. In fact, numbers suggest that the average American lives within 13 miles of a brewery. To say the industry has grown in the past twenty years would be a gross understatement; it’s exploded and today is one of the most vibrant and flourishing parts of the American manufacturing industry. How much have things changed in twenty years? Consider this: of the 1,679 brewers in operation*, only 74 were around in 1990. Among those was Sacramento’s own favorite, Rubicon Brewing Company (which was in its third year of operation in 1990), with the young and unheralded brew master, Scott Cramlet.
To fully appreciate Cramlet’s contribution, a look at the broader picture of American brewing is needed. For instance, the biggest category of beers judged at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival (America’s largest beer competition) in Denver, Colorado, was the American-style India Pale Ale (IPA). This style of beer was introduced to the GABF in 1990, the year Cramlet took the helm, and Rubicon Brewing brought home gold medals that year and the following year, essentially defining the blossoming style for American palates. Also consider the American beer style, Wheat Wine, which was first created at Rubicon.
In addition to its place in beer history, Rubicon and Cramlet have hosted a number of “interns” for the American Brewers Guild and UC Davis – brewers that have gone on to successful brewing careers of their own. One such brewer is the owner and brew master at the hip new joint in Auburn, The Auburn Alehouse, Brian Ford. “This may be a bit biased since I worked under Scott Cramlet as a rookie brewer, but I maintain that he is one of the most intuitive, knowledgeable and intense Craft Brewers that I have ever known.”
Cramlet has gold medals on the wall from the GABF and World Beer Cups, arguably the highest honors for brewers in the world. Not to be lost in the brewery’s own success is the man most frequently seen in old shorts and rubber boots, the man who works long hours and has forgotten more about beer and the American beer industry than most beer geeks will ever learn.
For more information on Rubicon Brewing, click here.