This article is sponsored by Hood Hops Ranch, Sacramento County
Grow Local, Source Local, Drink Local



Craft beer’s stock in California’s Capitol, Sacramento, is on the rise. Thanks in part to February’s, Sacramento Beer Week, in which Sacramento produced record crowds for the throngs of craft beer centered establishments. The recent Farm To Fork Week, which took place in September, furthered the craft beer push, highlighting not just great local brews, but also a smattering of local culinary cuisine. So why in recent past are Sacramento events either craft beer or food centered, and not both? Well, that trend seems to be changing.

I recently became aware of the Craft Beer Dinners at Dawson’s at the Hyatt in downtown Sacramento. The craft beer and food paired/tasting dinners took place once a month from June to October, with the seasons finale kicking off this past Friday. Dawson's had partnered with the likes of Track 7, Lagunitas, Ruhstaller, and now Sudwerk. I had to find out for myself what all the buzz was about.

Dawson’s, established in 1988, located on the first floor of the Hyatt, can be found directly across from the State Capitol. Dawson's lends credence to the idea that leather-bound chairs and finely sculpted wood decor does bring you back to a time of comfort and fine dining. Food is not food, without character, and Dawson’s does not disappoint on atmosphere.


As we entered under the overhanging Dawson’s sign, our party of 3 was greeted with sleek pilsner glassware filled to the brim with Sudwerk Fest Harvest Lager. Not a bad way to kick off this craft beer dinner! The event was casually informal, allowing for people to mingle, sipping their brews and delving into the smattering of h’orderves. As the top of the hour approached, we were seated by a lovely hostess, and graciously welcomed to an announcement on the nights festivities by Chef De Cuisine Michael Grande of Dawson’s and Thomas Miller of Sudwerk Brewing Co. Grande, charismatic in tone, talked about the 4 course menu, as if it had life itself. He was brokered by the equally compelling Miller, as this Sudwerk co-founder, described the brews to be served, and the pairings to be rendered. Do not be confused, their was no wine to be found, and the night was void of any pub food. This was an event with exquisite food, a high caliber chef, and local craft beer. This was a Craft Beer Dinner like no other. 

As Grande departed to the back of the kitchen and Miller joined his table in the dining area, it wasn’t long before throngs of Dawson’s servers enveloped the eatery, bringing the first course of food and brew to the hungry group of denizens. Dawson’s started us off with Shave Root Vegetable Salad, made with spice pecans, laura chenel tome, and fine herbs, and was paired with one of my favorites, Sudwerk California Dry Hop Lager. While, I’ll admit, I am not much of a salad connoisseur, the spice pecans more than brought home the dry hopped lager. The 2nd course delved into House-Made Weisswurst, with warm fingerling potato salad, whole grain mustard vinaigrette, and parsley, paired with one of Sudwerk seasonal brews, the Fest Harvest Lager. Our table easily cleared the communal plate of weisswurst, as it was tender, juicy, and most importantly filling. The 3rd course ushered in chef’s Pork Schnitzel, with braised greens, glazed heirloom apples, and whole grain mustard spatzle, and if that wasn’t enough, it was paired with my favorite, the Cascaderade India Pale Lager. Hands down, my favorite pairing, as the glazed heirloom apples brought out the flavors in the pork, and lest I forget the spatzle, a topic of conversation amongst our curious table for some time. The finale and dessert, brought us the Beeramisu, with lady fingers, espresso infused mascarpone, and cocoa, and of course, was paired with a fan favorite, Sudwerk 3 Best Friends Coffee Vanilla Lager. While 3 Best Friends can be enjoyed on its own volition, how can you pass up a decadent dessert with the name beeramisu.

Grande, has worked at Dawson’s for about 2 years, and was a recent winner of the local Sac Burger Battle championship last month, so it was of no consequence that his rising stock has added great depth to the craft beer dinners at the Hyatt. Grande hales from Long Island New York, and grew up in the kitchen, finding his way around the cooks room at the early age of 5, behind his mother and grandmothers recipes. Predestined as it was, Grande’s mother gave him a chef’s hat at 5, and Grande grew up making the family meatballs and gravy with his Grandfather every Sunday. “I knew from 16 or 17 years old that I wanted to be a chef.” Grande said. Grande’s formal education came at New Hampshire’s University for the Culinary Arts Program, where he also received his Bachelors of Arts in Hospitality Management. Beyond Grande’s formal education, he has gained invaluable culinary experience, working in kitchens from New England, Boston, and Washington DC. Grande is a craft beer enthusiast, and speaks on styles and flavor profiles, as if they inspire food directly. Grande spoke on food complexity, and talked about inspiration, saying, “Craft beer inspires recipes.” When asked what his favorite brew was, Grande was quick to mention his favorite style of craft beer as a Cascadian Dark Ale, which harkens back to the great brewing history of ages past. Bringing us back to the conversation of food, Grande became mesmerized in thought, and spoke about this regions food scene, highlighting the Hyatt's emphasis on local and seasonal foods, harvested from the local farms, which have lend him creative and tantalizing direction in his food preparation. Focusing on the California purveyors of proteins, Grande mentioned his sourcing from Sun Fed Beef in Dixon and Llano Seco Pork based in Chico. Grande has a local focus, looking for local dairy for his cheeses, and local purveyors for his home-made sausages, bringing exposure to local artisanal products at every turn.

From left to right: Ted Rozalski, Michael Grande, Scott Scoville

From left to right: Ted Rozalski, Michael Grande, Scott Scoville

While chef's culinary masterpiece delighted the crowd, we are Beers In Sac, thus we could not leave without speaking with one of the reason’s for this night’s craft beer dinner, Miller of Sudwerk.

Miller started working for Sudwerk in 2011, harnessing his craft beer skills within the brewery’s bottling line. It wasn't long before Miller was promoted to a Sales Representative position within the company, further establishing himself within the brewery. And in early 2012, the company was for sale, and Miller, along with a number of other employees purchased it outright, in hopes of continuing the long tradition of Sudwerk Brewing Company. Miller had a front-row seat to the change of guard and had an integral role in rewriting the business plan for the new and improved Sudwerk. “I have seen dramatic changes in branding, beer styles produced, energy levels inside the brewery and the reaction from the community over the last year. But I can safely say that we are still just as dedicated to the integrity and the quality of our beers.” stated Miller. Miller continued saying, “We are currently trying to redefine the American lager, and really showcase what a lager can be.” And what do you have to look forward from Sudwerk in the future, Miiler explains, Even more unorthodox, west-coast craft lager beers.” Miller's passion for beer, Sudwerk, and this region were contagious, and the future is bright for Miller and his cohorts in Davis. 

House-Made Weisswurst

House-Made Weisswurst

Dawson’s at the Hyatt is building relationships with local food and beer purveyors, and is helping redefine the way we experience food and beer, establishing themselves in a new and unique way. They are also expanding their craft beer selection.

Dawson's Current Selection Of Brews:

  • Ruhstaller’s 1881 Red Amber Ale
  • Firestone Double Barrel Ale
  • Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
  • American Coloma Brown Ale

Will the Craft Beer Dinners return to Dawson's at the Hyatt soon? Well, your just going to have to come in and ask them yourself.

Written by Beers In Sac's co-founder Scott Scoville. 

Celebrate Coffee Week tomorrow night (10/17) at Old Soul @ 40 Acres for Cafe Au Ale.