On a blazing July day in Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood, the guys from Oak Park Brewing Company (OPBC) and the Thirsty Fork hosted their annual backyard Big Brew Day. Chef Christopher Davis-Murai presided over a Patagonian pig roast while the OPBC guys poured their craft brews for guests. Drizzled with Davis-Murai’s secret Asian-fusion sauce (which caramelized over time) the pig roasted on a home-made spit over pear wood. The usual chatter and good cheer that accompanies such grub and brew fests distracted from the heat, but there was an additional undercurrent of excitement as guests re-filled cups. The guys were just days away from securing a location for The Thirsty Fork and Oak Park Brewing Company, so their collaborative gastro pub plans could finally come to fruition. Between laptop alarms and thermometer checks for a brew in-progress, Tom from OPBC shared the brewing company’s evolution. He and his partner have been brewing beer for five years, but two years ago they decided to get serious and pursue craft brewing as a business.
If you’re familiar with the Sacramento area, you know restaurants have been popping up all over the place lately, and most locals appreciate craft beer. That said, we struggled to understand the pull, from a business perspective, given that the Sacramento economy isn’t exactly thriving. Tom busted out statistics in order to clarify our confusion. He said the craft beer industry increased 12-15% during the recession. He further explained Sacramento is the perfect place for their craft brew because the city “has gone through a renaissance in the last 5-10 years. There’s a demand for diverse, reasonably priced food and beer.”
As a recognized beer judge, Tom holds street cred. that allows OPBC to mix up original beer recipes. Traditional British and Belgium beers have lower levels of hops and alcohol. In their own twist on the style, OPBC raises the hops and alcohol but maintains the malt balance indicative of the brew. The guys also embrace Farm-to-Fork by locally sourcing their hops, nectarines and apricots and are looking into growing their own hops in West Sacramento in the future.
While OPBC isn’t yet open, the guys continue to brew and brew well. Their Midnight Wheat won 2nd place at the 2012 CA State Fair. They also prove they understand the meaning of craft as they devise recipes. Their Joyland Imperial Red is malty and hoppy but still balanced, yet with a whopping 9.5% alcohol it “doesn’t taste boozy.” Their Neck Thumper stout merges caramel, dates and raisins. They even plan to age it in bourbon barrels, which will infuse the brew with bourbon, toasty oak and vanilla notes.
Yes, we know, you’re ready for a mug of Neck-Thumping goodness or a trip to Joyland. We are too. The great news is we won’t have to wait too much longer before we can sip an Oak Park Brewing Company brew while munching on some outstanding grub at the Thirsty Fork. We advise you to follow OPBC on Facebook, so you can be first in line to taste their craft brews.