March 8, 2016

By BIS Contributor: Mary McCune

As Sacramento’s second oldest brewery relocates to Carmichael, Beth Ayres-Biro is experiencing more than a few firsts.

Joining the River City Brewing Company family in 2001, Beth has served as the co-owner and General Manager since 2006. She is overseeing her first major construction project in the move to Carmichael’s hottest development project, Milagro.  

She has learned throughout this new venture how tedious the process of relocating a business can be, as she recalls how many times River City’s opening date has been pushed back.

“We are so close to opening our new location in Carmichael, but also so far away. I kind of say that seriously and jokingly,” said Beth. “I never realized how many obstacles get in the way of trying to get up and going.

In addition to managing the reopening of River City, Beth has also acquired the new role of “mommy”!  

The construction project has allowed Beth to spend much of her time with her one-year-old “Half Pint,” although she says many of her patrons at the old River City location already look forward to seeing him again.

I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down with this incredible woman to talk about River City’s next chapter in Carmichael, the challenges of being a female business owner, and even had her adorable Half Pint give me a tour of new location while it is still under construction.

What is your involvement with River City? I understand you might still be prepping for the grand opening at your new location in Carmichael, but aside from this prep, what does a normal day look like for you? If it varies, what are some of your favorite responsibilities?

Since we have our closed downtown location we still are involved in beer festivals and the Brewers Guild activities. I have also spent lots of time at the County Building, ABC, Fire Department and all of the other agencies that have to sign off on this project (in addition to designers and all the representatives for equipment and supplies). 

If we were up and running my day would look somewhat different. I am at the brewery 5-6 days per week. I start in the morning, but when I leave it is always different. I oversee the whole restaurant, so depending on the day, things differ. My business partner Steve and I are in constant contact with our brewer and making timelines and calendars of brewing schedule, ordering of supplies and what events are going on. Either Steve or I will always represent River City at beer festivals and non-profit events. 

My favorite things about the job are spending time with the customers, and getting to sample product and help make the decision on our menu.

What factors did River City take into consideration when deciding to move to Carmichael?

Honestly, our first pick was to stay downtown, but after two years of trying to find the right location, we realized it just wasn't going to work. My family and Steve’s family both live in Carmichael though, so we're pretty familiar with the area. We both realize that Carmichael needs a lot of attention when it comes to places to go for food and drinks. What I love about the new location, and the Milagro project in general, is that it's going to bring some of the amazing local dining and drinking scene to the suburbs that's usually only found downtown. We will also be the only brewery in the area, which I think is a great thing for us and the community.

I think the community of Carmichael has been wanting more places to go and more things to do. People are going to have more options when it comes to “farm-to-fork” cuisine. Ironically, a lot of our lunch regulars that work downtown said that they would at least see us at night at our new location because they live in Carmichael.

What changes can we expect to see at River City?

You will definitely see some changes at River City. I have been working on updating our logo for a while now, but you will still see that "running man" and know it’s River City. We are also excited to do some big changes on our food and beer menus, including brewing a kid-friendly crisp root beer! We will all admit that towards the end when we knew we were getting kicked out of downtown, we got stagnant with what we were doing. We are excited to jump in and revamp River City!

What are the challenges you have seen entering into the field of brewing and beer, especially from the lens of a woman?

I actually started managing a restaurant in Kansas City owned by the Rock Bottom Brewery Corporation called Old Chicago Pizza when I was 22. They had 101 beers from around the world and it was my responsibility to format the menu outside of the 20 beers that were mandatory to have on the menu. It took me almost a month to sample all the beers from the different providers, and every time they came in they were surprised to see that it was a woman going to taste beer and make decisions and not a man.

I definitely have more restaurant knowledge than brewery knowledge, but I think I've held my own for the past 16 years in a "man's world." I don't think the beer industry is so much that way anymore.  More and more women are becoming beer lovers and it is not so surprising anymore to see a brewery where a majority of the patrons are female.

What advice do you have for women trying to break into the field of brewing/small business ownership?

As far as ownership I would tell anyone that it is a lot of hard work, is stressful, and you truly have to love it. I would also tell you that it is an absolute blast to be in this business. Most of the people I know in this business are pretty cool and you could just go talk to them and pick their brain for information, if you are interested in this field.

Do you have mentors or others in the field that you look up to?

Being from Kansas City, I have always been fascinated with Boulevard Brewing Company. I can remember when they first got their start and I will always consider their unfiltered wheat as my first favorite beer. They are a true success story in this business and I can see a lot of other businesses here in California making that same jump.

Lastly, what is your favorite beer?

I am not like the masses in the brewery world, my favorite beers are lagers, and I really enjoyed this chocolate porter our brewer did last year. Oh and I absolutely love our witbier in a hot Sac summer. However, IPAs are our number-one sellers.

Edited by: Mike Witherow

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