Rubicon Brewing Company – A Conversation with Brewer Chris Keeton
At bustling midtown Rubicon Brewing, I had the opportunity to sit down and sip a beer with Brewer Chris Keeton to discuss brewing, beer, challenges, successes and community of this industry.
Who is Rubicon Brewing you may ask? It’s the Rubicon IPA that personally delighted our want for hops years ago, the ever popular Monkey Knife Fight pale ale, Rubicon’s new R.B.I.P.A West Coast IPA created for Raley Field and our Sacramento River Cats, Kampai SMASH Ale – The second installment of Rubicon’s summer SMASH ale series using a new malted barley that their friends at Brewer’s Supply Group have asked Rubicon to evaluate – Rahr Synergy 2-row malt and featuring Sorachi Ace hops.
It is obvious that the quality and creativity of these brews is here to stay by the recent gold medal at the California State Fair Commercial Craft Beer competition for Rubicon Brewing’s Grapefruit Hopsauce. And yes, this brew is flavored with local grapefruit picked by Chris himself.
Stating that “ farm-to-fork has exploded in restaurants and has begun moving its way into the brewery world, especially for us in Sacramento.” Chris also sources some of his hops locally via United Hops Farm. “If I can make a beer with local ingredients from local sources, it’s good for the customers and it’s good for the farms.”
How did you become a brewer?
Chris’s journey to become a professional craft brewer in Sacramento began at One Speed Pizza with Chef Rick Mahon, and hanging out at Rubicon Brewing. Then one day, Thanksgiving to be exact, Rubicon Brewing’s Owner Glynn Phillips ask Chris if he had a pair of boots, and voila! 3 years at Rubicon and continuing on the legacy that was left by former Brew Master Scott Cramlet and keeping it Rubicon. Chris explained to me that “brewing is ultimately microbiology, chemistry, and art . You must understand how a machine works, cleanliness, understand the recipe, and ultimately, you’ve got to trust your gut.”
What are the biggest reasons for the continual growth of craft beer?
“Pure and simple – the Joys of the craft. Take IPA for instance. No one IPA is the same. The difference is in who is operating the system. That in itself determines the beer. “
How do you decide on new beers to brew?
“Seasonality. We look to the seasons for our flavor point of view.”
“For instance as we head in to Fall we look at the harvest, the produce, the spices.”
But what about the sours, sessions, and adjuncts that I see popping up? “It’s hard for us to look at something that’s popular for a year and redirect ourselves to that because we have 28 years pointing us in a general direction. If we were to turn the corner and go after every trend, we would be turning our back on the history that we have here.”
How do you reach beyond the hard core beer drinkers and into the general public to sell your beer? “We make beer drinkable to the masses”
What are the biggest road blocks to the growth of craft beer?
“Regulation. We must be respectful on how our beer is marketed and pay close attention to environmental issues.” Chris talked with great admiration of Sierra Nevada Brewing’s Sustainability…specifically their resource recovery and water management.
If there were a beer that you could brew with no regards to cost, production, or sales what would it be? “I’m brewing it now! This beer is truly farm to glass with all concepts of the harvest and using all local ingredients.” Keep your eyes open for the release of On the grid California Common late September. All four ingredients were individually sourced from United Hop Farm, Great Western California grown barley, Sudwerk’s house lager yeast, and water supplied from the American River.
Together, past and present, Rubicon Brewing’s 28 year heritage and pride is a testament to success in today’s Craft Brewing community.