Join us for Tag Along, where local writers, artists, food authorities, and celebrities lead us to the best food and drinks in their favorite Bay Area neighborhoods.
Walking into Urban Roots Brewing in Sacramento, you might not know that Rob Archie owns the place. It’s a busy Friday night and Archie doesn’t want to disrupt the bartenders’ rhythm, so he stands in line waiting to order a beer like any other customer — not that he isn’t recognized. A constant stream of customers, employees, and industry friends stop to chat with him, and each time, Archie pauses to listen attentively to what the person has to say.
It takes two days and several hundred miles crisscrossing greater Sacramento visiting Archie’s favorite local breweries to realize he approaches life with this neighborly mindset. Archie considers himself a member of the communities he operates in, whether it be brewing, sports, or Sacramento. “I feel like as a small business our job — and responsibility — is to be a value-add to the canvas of our community,” Archie says.
Aside from being co-owner of Urban Roots with head brewer Peter Hoey, Archie is the founder of Pangaea Bier Cafe. Since it opened in 2008, professional and homebrewers have gathered there to drink and discuss craft beers, making it arguably one of Sacramento’s most important beer bars. Before becoming a bar owner, Archie played basketball professionally in the European league in Italy; it was there he became enamored with Belgian and European beers and beer bars. The exposure cemented the idea of opening Pangaea, as well as his commitment to serving national and local craft brews.
Urban Roots, which opened in 2018, was a chance for Archie and Hoey to explore a broad range of beer styles. The brewery aims to make something for everyone, although if you look closely, a few of the beers hint at Archie’s personal history and interests. Archie was born in Sacramento and raised in Woodland, where he spent a lot of time with his dad who was a truck driver hauling everything from pears to grain. Taste of Home, a barrel-aged peach sour made in collaboration with Wild Beer, references mornings Archie spent in the Central Valley city of Reedley, sitting in a truck cabin permeated by the perfume of the ripe peaches they were transporting. Urban Roots’ black lager, called Nothing Is Certain, is a style Archie enjoys because it reminds him of his favorite coffee drink, an Americano.
“It’s watered down a little bit, it’s light, but it’s dark, it has some chocolate notes, that’s what it is,” Archie says. The beer is also a nod to Moonlight Brewing’s classic Death & Taxes, the name referencing the adage “nothing is certain but death and taxes.”
Tag along as Archie takes us to his five favorite Sacramento-area breweries, each adding a different talent to the local beer community.
Claimstake Brewing Company
Strength: West Coast IPAs
11366 Monier Park Place, Rancho Cordova
Claimstake Brewing Company occupies both a geographical and metaphysical center of this list. Owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Brian and Tina Palmer, Claimstake specializes in West Coast IPAs, the crisp and clear IPA style with citrus- and pine-focused hop aromatics. Palmer’s Oakland A’s-themed Green & Gold is loaded with Mosaic, Idaho 7, Simcoe, and Amarillo hop aromatics that burst out of the glass, though the beer remains crisp and refreshing.
The menu board lists four collaboration beers during our visit: two with other breweries we’re going to visit (Slice and Flatland), and one with Urban Roots. At the bar, Archie runs into his friend, avid homebrewer and retired basketball coach Scott Gradin, who first introduced Archie to Claimstake. Archie notes that Gradin coached a lot of basketball players, including Steve Nash, while he was an assistant coach at Santa Clara University in the ’90s. Gradin explains they’re there because his wife wanted pizza from Benji’s Woodfire Pizza, a mobile pizza business parked on the side of the building. (Named after chef Andray Mikayelyan’s son, the pizzas are outstanding, but especially the Hot Honey Ricotta — its crispy, chewy crust topped with a combination of white garlic sauce, mozzarella, and ricotta, as well as a sweet and spicy hot honey.)
Slice Beer Co.
665 Sixth Street, Lincoln
Slice is the tour’s northernmost brewery, found just west of Auburn. Slice’s head brewer and co-owner Zack Frasher is what Archie describes as “a maniac with hops — the weed-man of hops, with that old-school danky dank.”
Frasher made his name as head brewer at cult-favorite Moonraker, although the focus here is less on hazy IPAs and more on West Coast styles of IPA. Mega Mo blends both Mosaic whole cone and cryo (a method of using subzero temperatures to extract more of the lupulin glands, the primary flavor and aroma component, from whole hops). You would expect Mega Mo to taste like citrus and berries, but Frasher tunes it to focus on the sultry hop dank instead. Gruesome Greens, a collaboration with Oakland’s Ghost Town Brewing, blends Nelson, Riwaka, Mosaic, and Simcoe cryo hops; it’s wonderfully verdant, herbal, and piney, demonstrating how Frasher works with hops like very few can.
There is no pizza at Slice, but it is right next door to Old Town Pizza, the company that got co-owner of both businesses Russ Yeager into craft beer. On the way out, Yeager and Frasher lament to Archie that despite being connected by ownership, Slice isn’t legally allowed to sell kegs of beer to Old Town next door; instead, it’s required to use a distributor.
As we pull up to our next stop, Archie’s on the phone and looks a little surprised. He explains he just received a call that a bill to allow self-distribution within a few miles from a craft brewery is going to be introduced into the California Senate, meaning it would address the exact issue Frasher and Yeager were discussing at Slice.
Moksa Brewing Co.
Strength: Barrel-aged beer
5860 Pacific Street, Rocklin
Moksa Brewing Co.’s specialty is barrel-aged imperial stouts made by head brewer Derek Gallanosa, formerly of Abnormal Beer in San Diego. Archie describes Gallanosa’s beers as using barrel aging and other ingredients like spices, fruit, and a confectioner’s arsenal (chocolate, vanilla, unique sweeteners, coconut) to create layers of flavors. Fruit sours and imperial stouts both get a slumber in used oak for very different results: a sour called One Million Blueberries bursts with tart fruit, while Smells Like C.R.E.A.M. Spirit, an imperial stout aged with port barrel maple syrup, vanilla beans, and coffee drinks like a dessert wine. The ingredients stretch, expand, and breathe deep after 20 months in oak, where the flavors concentrate and coalesce.
Flatland Brewing Company
Strength: Fruit sours
9183 Survey Road, Unit 104, Elk Grove
Entering the address for Flatland Brewing into a GPS will direct you to an office parking lot that’s dark and desolate at night. Walk toward the back and a patio glowing with string lights greets you. It’s surprising to see so many families in this neighborhood brewery, all drawn in for pizza and by the cute patio space (plus, for the adults, the beer).
What started as a one-barrel beer system (“Just barely bigger than a homebrew kit,” Archie says) has grown into a 10-barrel brewhouse. Opened in 2016 by husband-and-wife team Andrew and Michelle Mohsenzadegan, Flatland uses 24 oak barrels for their sour beers. Flatlands specializes in fruit sours like the Beach Bar Party Time, a kettle sour with mango, raspberry, and watermelon, which reads like fruit salad, but drinks breezy and tropical. “He’s really passionate about what he does — Andrew is definitely putting the art before anything else in his beers,” Archie says.
Strength: Lagers and pilsners
2001 Second Street, Davis
Not far from UC Davis, Sudwerk Brewing is one of the oldest craft breweries in the area, and certainly one of the oldest specializing in lagers and pilsners. Sudwerk (pronounced sood-verk) received the brewery of the year award from the Great American Beer Festival in 2021. “They have not only survived but endured and they are still making great lagers,” Archie says.
Started by two German immigrants, Ron Broward and Dean Unger, Sudwerk was sold to Unger’s grandson Trent Yackzan in 2013. Yackzan and business partner Ryan Fry have continued making lagers and pilsners, like the People’s Pilsner, a northern German style brewed with German hops (Hallertauer and Tettnang), and the Märzen Amber. The pilsner is super refreshing, clean, and crisp, making it perfect for the outdoor space. The Märzen is wonderfully malty without being sweet or too strong, yet still thirst-quenching. “Those guys were the first craft lager brewery [in 1989] before the craze,” Archie says of the recent trend toward brewing lighter and less hoppy beers like pilsners and lagers.
On a sunny day, the outdoor patio is lively — the large space is laid out with bistro chairs and large wooden picnic tables that are filled with students and locals. Order at the open roll-up door called the Dock for beers and food, and don’t miss the sliders, made from beef raised on the spent grain from the brewery and reared at UC Davis.