March of the Microbrews

ALONG WITH LOCALLY MADE WINES, craft beers are on a roll. Though American beer consumption is flat, the microbrew market is booming, with double-digit sales growth last year.

Craft brews have more than doubled their U.S. market share to nearly 6 percent in the past decade and 250 breweries opened last year. The more than 2,000 now operating are the most since the 1880s, according to the Brewers Association.

Earlier this year, Chico’s Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. said it would open its first East Coast brewery, in western North Carolina, to meet growing demand.

The buy-local movement is benefiting local brewers, as more palates demand local flavors. A new generation of beer drinkers in their 20s and 30s, raised on choice, are more likely to pick up a local IPA than a Bud. Chefs are encouraging microbrew and food pairings, just as they do with wine.

Here are some restaurants and brewpubs in the foothills and Sierra specializing in craft brews on tap:

MATTEO’S PUBLIC
This Nevada City beer and wine pub is committed to local, sustainable and organic. The beer menu is extensive, featuring Auburn Alehouse and brews like Mammoth 395 IPA, Gold Digger IPA, Allagash Curieux and seasonal brews. Our favorite experience: Any three, five or seven beers on tap as four-ounce ale tasters, just like wine flights. Outdoor patio. MatteosPublic.com

OL’ REPUBLIC BREWERY
A new brewery in Nevada City featuring its own handcrafted ales and lagers. Beers include California Common (a rich amber color and deep malty body), India Pale Ale and Schwarzbier (a Bavarian black lager). An outdoor beer garden. The brewery is new hot spot in town. OlRepublicBrewery.com

151 UNION SQUARE
In the heart of historic Grass Valley, this sophisticated, loft-style setting with local art- work is an ideal place to relax. One of the best selections of microbrews and seasonal beers around, including Alaskan White, Speakeasy Ale’s Big Daddy IPA and Widmer Bros.’ Drifter Pale Ale. 151UnionSquare.com

Other restaurants that feature craft beers include Tofanelli’s Gold Country Bistro (Sierra Nevada Summerfest, Widmer Hefeweizen and Wyder’s Pear Cider) and Smiley Guys Smokehouse in Grass Valley (“Hell or High Watermelon” wheat beer from 21st Amendment, Great White from Lost Coast and Kilt Lifter from Moylan’s Brewery—in all, 18 craft brews on tap).

There’s also Lefty’s Grill in Nevada City (Howling Wolf Heffeweizen and Sweet Grass IPA from Grand Teton Brewery) and Gold Rush Burgers & BBQ in Grass Valley (Anchor Steam, Kona Long Board, Deschutes Black Butte Porter and Fat Tire). In Truckee, Burger Me has Lagunitas IPA and Shock Top Belgian White on tap.

(photo credit: Mike Lang, AnotherPintPlease.com)

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