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Oak Park Brewing Company Prepares for October Opening: More than Great Beer

It’s becoming a frequently asked question these days. Breweries hear it. Social media tweets it. People talk about it. Can Sacramento support the boom in breweries we’ve seen over the last couple years? So far, it seems clear that the answer to that question is yes. On a recent beer crawl with a fellow beer enthusiast, we visited five local breweries, all of which have opened in the last two years. Sure there were commonalities – small batch beer, shared space for tasting and brewing, and an emphasis on locally grown hops. Yet, they were all incredibly different, with a unique line of offerings on tap, different flavor profiles, and distinct personalities in terms of how they interact with their customers. All the breweries were good.

Sacramento, let’s welcome Oak Park Brewing Company. In late October, a much anticipated opening of OPBC will give us the opportunity to witness another brewery developing their identity in the Sacramento craft beer scene. Oak Park Brewing Company is led by a team that includes Tom Karvonen, David Estis, Robert Stoddard (head brewer), and Christopher Davis-Murai (head chef). OPBC has been renovating a historic building at 35th Street on Broadway and making big plans to contribute to the Sacramento beer scene.

“This won’t be freezer to fryer. It’s farm to fork.”

So what makes OPBC unique amidst the collective breweries in our beer-craved city? In a recent interview with the Sous chef, Eric Marais, I learned what might make OPBC different from the rest. Eric is a local chef, trained first at the American River Community College Restaurant Management program, and then at the Culinary Institute of America in San Francisco. After years of cooking for kids at the Sacramento State Children’s Center, he decided to gain some international experience by traveling throughout Southeast Asia, taking cooking classes to learn new techniques. Eric returned to Sacramento in 2000, and cut his cooking teeth at several local restaurants, including Tuli Bistro, the Waterboy, and One Speed before learning about the vision of OPBC. Eric explained it as an affordable, fine- dining experience inspired by fresh, local ingredients, and a menu created in collaboration with the beer. Think Magpie at a brewery. This goes far beyond pub food. Eric noted, “This won’t be freezer to fryer. It’s farm to fork.” Christopher (head chef) and his team have taken their time to travel to local farms to ensure that they select produce and proteins that have been farmed sustainably, and raised humanely. Eric noted his excitement about OPBC using the freshest ingredients from local farms, which reflects the passion Sacramento has for healthy and delicious food.

                                                             Sous Chef Eric Marais Photo credit: Scott Scoville

                                                             Sous Chef Eric Marais

Photo credit: Scott Scoville

The menu will be seasonal, and Christopher has created an open kitchen to provide an experience that brings the customer into the preparation of both the food and the beer. Eric assured me that the open kitchen concept is still rare because it makes everything transparent. But OPBC wants that. In a recent visit to the location, I envisioned myself sitting at a table, taking in the aroma of my beer and the sight of the brewing equipment while I watch my food prepared by Christopher and Eric. This is what I want – to connect what I smell and taste to its preparation. That’s what farm to table is all about. And after dinner, you’ll be able to enjoy dessert, prepared by pastry chef Kathy Dominic.

Eric assured me that the beer and food won’t compete with one another. In fact, the vision is to create an experience where the beer and food complement each other. The kitchen will be using beer as an ingredient in many of their dishes. In addition, recommendations will be provided for beer and food pairings. You might find yourself ordering a soup made with a stout, or a spicy bison burger with a recommended pairing of an IPA. Whether the beer is used as an ingredient or filled to the brim in a pint glass, the beer and food will surely complement one another.   

But I know that my dinner selection is limited to a burger or taco

This solves a major problem I have when I go out. If I want a great local beer, I know exactly where to go. Nothing against Bike Dog, Device, Rubicon, New Glory, Track 7, and the other amazing breweries – their beer offerings are creating a buzz in Sacramento and beyond. But I know that my dinner selection is limited to a burger or taco (which I’ll love, especially after a couple beers). However, if I want great food, I also know to venture elsewhere, and usually my favorite restaurants have a nice selection of craft beer, with one or two local beers represented. But I want the best of these two worlds – a great brewery experience and excellent food. And this is what makes the Sacramento community excited about OPBC. Something different and unique, these guys have a real passion for beer and food and want to share it with Sacramento.

It’s exciting to see the Oak Park community welcome such a creative idea. Terre Johnson from the Oak Park Business Association expressed his anticipation. “The community is so excited about their opening. They are sure to be a success both here in the community and throughout the city.” Old Soul at 40 acres also contributed when Jaime Mason said, “We're really excited about Oak Park Brewing. It's going to enhance the community, and help people to understand the community we have here in Oak Park." So get ready Sacramento. Look forward to a late October opening and make it a priority to head over to 3514 Broadway, or follow these guys on Twitter for updates on their opening at @OakParkBrewCo.

Thanks Eric. Cheers, Sacramento!

Follow Nick on Twitter at @nicsbrewreview

You can email him at nick@beersinsac.com