WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. - On Saturday, November 2, nearly 1,000 people, many with dog and/or child in tow, filtered through a small industrial space turned tasting room on Industrial Ave. to get a sample of West Sacramento's family friendly inclusion into the craft brewing scene.
The brainchild of four regional transportation agency workers and two wives, Bike Dog Brewing Co. officially went from a fantasy to a functioning craft brewery after months of preparation.
"The idea actually started as a pipe dream of mine and Raef's wives who wanted to open up a bar," explains Bike Dog brewer and marketing director A.J. Tendick.
After kicking around the idea, Tendick and partners Raef Porter, Pete Atwood (brewer) and Sage Smith (graphic designer) narrowed the focus to a craft beer bar, before Atwood eventually suggested a brewery.
The current pulse of the adult-beverage consuming public made the final choice the wise choice, as evidenced by the opening-day turnout. The team also seems to have scored an ace in terms of location.
"A lot of West Sacramento folks come in and say, 'we're so glad you're here to give us an option where we don't have to cross the river,'" reveals Porter.
To date, the majority of the craft beer action vigorously fermenting in the Sacramento region has been doing so on the east side of the river. However, Bike Dog's open policy to "well behaved" children and pets could have a large number of beer lovers heading across the river in the opposite direction.
As dog lovers themselves, each of the founding Bike Dog members saw the attraction inherent in an environment where beer drinkers could enjoy an afternoon and a few brews in the company of their furry companions.
So far, the idea has gone off without a hitch.
"I think if you say you're dog friendly, people that are going to bring their dogs are generally responsible dog owners. They're not going to have their dog come in and destroy the place. On our grand opening day, I couldn't tell you exactly how many, but there were a lot of dogs here. You hear the occasional bark, but there's a lot of tail wagging and happiness and people going up and petting them. No incidents. No dogs taking liberties on the floor," chuckled Porter.
"The dogs were well behaved, the kids were well behaved, the people were well behaved. They were just happy to be here. Happy to have a beer and talk with other people," added Tendick.
The concept plays perfectly into Bike Dog's vision of creating an atmosphere where people, including responsible parents and pet owners, can take a break with fellow craft beer appreciators over a brew or two without feeling rushed or anxious about getting back to their responsibilities.
"There's a social aspect to craft beer that inspires conversation. I do it all the time and I see it here. Just the other day we had three guys here who were probably like post-grad or seniors and this middle-aged guy. They didn't know each other before they came in here, but they hung out for like an hour-and-a-half just talking about beer."
Tendick says Bike Dog is planning to introduce a number of session beers (lower alcohol beers designed to allow drinkers to enjoy several beers without getting fall-down drunk) to advance the loiter, chat and imbibe goal of the tasting room.
As for Tendick, Porter, Atwood and Smith however, there's not much time to loiter these days. Maintaining their nine-to-five jobs as a marketing and outreach analyst, transportation modeling analyst, GIS mapping analyst and graphic designer respectively, all of their free time is devoted to getting Bike Dog Brewing Co. off to a solid start. Tendick and Porter have also recently taken on full-time roles as new fathers.
"We had this plan like, we can meet our numbers if we're brewing every other week," but according to Tendick, opening night quickly smashed that theory. "The opening wiped us out. We're in here brewing a couple times a week already."
But as many brewers have attested, when you love what you do, and you're passionate about your craft, it helps to take some of that extra weight off the shoulders and a few extra hours off the legs.
Still, a brewery with the most passionate employees and the friendliest confines won't survive if the beer isn't up to par. This seems to be a fact well understood by everyone on the Bike Dog team.
Tendick says the conceptual target in terms of designing their beers closely resembles that of their tasting room. Words like approachable and conversational surface when the West Sacramento native discusses the brewery's offerings.
The four initial releases, an IPA, Double IPA, American Wheat and Milk Stout have been well-received by patrons, with the Double IPA running out within hours of the opening and the regionally rare (and delicious) Milk Stout on nitro tap serving as a beer by which the brewery could eventually become known.
Regardless of whether Bike Dog Brewing Co. develops a reputation for their beers or their digs, the fledgling West Sacramento brewery is already earning a following that in time, could draw more of Sacramento's beer and dog-loving masses west.
By Paul Janes