Sac State-adjacent Tower Brewing’s open mic night ends two-year hiatus

A quick trek from Hornet Crossing leads to a welcoming space for creatives


Casey Rafter

Open mic host Otto Hall welcomes the crowd on Feb. 28 at Tower Brewing. Hall began hosting Monday night open mic nights for the brewery in 2018 and said they were excited about the return of the event.

Casey Rafter, staff writer

Tower Brewing’s logo, a tall wheat head set in a cascade of mountains, glowed in hues of pink from the stage lighting as Otto Hall introduced Donrico De Castro. The crowd warmly applauded as a man in plaid with a ukulele took the stage on Feb. 15 for the second open mic at the brewery since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hall began hosting open mic events for Tower Brewing in 2018. Since then, they’ve worked with Tower Brewing to create what Hall called a “niche” event, intent not only in providing a free event for creatives to play and practice their craft, but also as a space to build community support, according to them.

“We have it both as an open mic and…we exchange goods and we’re a gender pronoun friendly space,” Hall said. “We try really hard to be super specific and purposeful with what we do. It’s just been really cool to see it grow.”

According to Tower Brewing’s taproom manager Kristen Madigan, Sacramento State students should bring their One Card when they visit the brewery.

“We used to just do student Tuesdays,” Madigan said. “Now we’re doing 15% off when you bring your student ID any day.”

At the first open mic event this year on Feb. 7, Hall saw many of the same faces that had taken the stage during their first two years hosting the event. In pre-pandemic open mic nights, Hall said they often had Sac State students sign up to perform — some of which have gone on to join or create bands.

Awkwardly hefting a keyboard onto the stage, Kelai Kanae, a player in local band “The Deviant Strays,” adjusts his microphone before playing “A Better Place to Be,” a song written by Harry Chapin. As a performer who’d attended earlier iterations of the open mics hosted by Hall at Tower Brewing, Kanae said he was excited to get back to it when Hall announced the return of the event.

“I’ve done these open mics for years,” he said. “There’s always been a very chill vibe.”

Hall said that after over two years without an open mic at Tower Brewing, seeing so many familiar faces return felt like a giant reunion.

“We even had folks that had completely moved away come back for that one night,” Hall said. “I try to play up the CSU thing because, right where that path ends, there’s a coffee shop and Beach Hut deli and there’s Tower Brewing. It’d be so easy for them to walk over before they go home.”

Though they’ve been excited to share stage and songs with returning friends, Hall said they hope to see the family of performers grow to include current Sac State students. As it is now, a hearty roster of well seasoned musicians can be found at Tower Brewing every Monday evening.

Madigan who also manages Tower’s marketing, said that  in addition to the weekly open mic night, the brewery is hosting monthly comedy nights, weekly in-house trivia and live music events each weekend.

Madigan, who’s a Sac State alumna, admitted that since classes began in January, the brewery has seen an uptick in business.

“We’ve seen more of an influx this year than we have in the past,” Madigan said.

She is hopeful that the student discount will continue to increase traffic at the brewery, according to her.

Sac State alumna and Tower Brewing’s taproom and marketing manager Kristen Madigan checks brewing equipment at Tower Brewing on Feb. 10. Madigan and open mic host Otto Hall expressed excitement over reviving the event after a two-year gap due to COVID-19. (Casey Rafter)

Though the brewery has mostly left the use of masks up to their customers, Madigan said the space they occupy can be opened up to allow for a substantial amount of airflow on warm days as well as offering outdoor seating.

“I’m super glad we have that big rollup door,” Madigan said. “We have masks available at all times and hand sanitizer everywhere. We’re trying to be open to everything.”