Local brewery owner continues the legacy of Ruhstaller Beer

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"The Captain," Gilt Edge," "1881" are the three main brews Ruhstaller Beer distributes. 

Erika Bradley

Owner of Ruhstaller Beer, J.E. Paino, said before Sacramento State was built, the land consisted of hops fields due to its proximity to the river, which provided the best soil and growing conditions.

Paino has become part of Sacramento’s unique history as he continues the legacy of Captain Frank Ruhstaller, a prominent brewer during the late 1800s, by bringing back the Ruhstaller name.

“We [Sacramentans] were born to make beer,” Paino said. “The idea of being a great brewer and the farming aspect was everything for us.”

Paino started the company four years ago and continues to expand how much it farms, grows and brews.

“Sacramento (Valley) used to be the largest hop growing region in the world,” Paino said. “People joke we’re the Napa Valley of hops.”

Before the Prohibition,  Sacramento was producing beer in amounts that large companies are doing today, without the use of modern technology.

“There was no other town on the West Coast that could harvest ice and snow all winter long, store it and then brew and deliver the fresh beer all summer long,” Paino said.

When he discovered the history behind Ruhstaller and his prominence as a brewer in Sacramento, Paino was inspired to continue the legacy.

The building, located on the corner of 9th and J Streets, was the original Ruhstaller headquarters. Founded in 1890, it was the largest brewing company west of the Mississippi River.

Ruhstaller is more than just its history. Another draw is the beer is made from locally grown hops. The Ruhstaller farm and yard, located along the I-80 freeway in Dixon, is one and a half acres, but expected to expand to nearly eight acres by the end of the month.

The three main brews the company distributes are the “1881”, “The Captain” and “Gilt Edge.”

The “1881” is light and crisp beer and it pairs well with food as it has a balanced and sophisticated taste, while “The Captain” is a dark beer in color, but light in terms of taste. It expresses a more aromatic quality of the hops. The “Gilt Edge” is a layered beer in terms of flavor, but very “hoppy.”

Paino has brought the brand back through his work with Darrell Corti, owner of Corti Brothers grocery store, who helped him get in contact with local hop farmers. He is also in contact with the Ruhstaller family, who supports him in continuing Frank Ruhstaller’s legacy.

Ruhstaller Beer can be found in about 70 different locations in the Sacramento area and throughout California, including Corti Brothers, Nugget Markets and Grange restaurant.

Nickolas Duren, general manager of Grange Restaurant and Bar, said Ruhstaller Beer is the featured happy hour draft and has been very successful.

“The guests that don’t know about [Ruhstaller] are intrigued by the history,” Duren said. “Anything pre-prohibition is a success now from a marketing standpoint. The variety of beers produced that work well with our food is an added bonus.”

Alex Costa, an employee at the brewing company, has a passion for hand-crafted beers and said he likes the way Ruhstaller has marketed its beer.

“This isn’t just a craft brewery,” Costa said. “It’s a story (and is) a legacy that we’re trying to carry on to as many people as we can.”