What could be better than bikes, dogs and craft beer?
Let’s pretend you’re a loan officer in a bank and the following occurs: four young guys walk into your office and say that they want a loan to start a craft brewery. They happily respond to all of your follow-up questions: No, they don’t have any professional brewing experience, or even restaurant experience to speak of. No, they’re not going to leave their day jobs to pursue this dream full time. No, they don’t have lofty ambitions to get their beer on every table in America; in fact, they plan on making a relatively miniscule amount of beer. They want to build the brewery in an industrial complex in a town with no existing craft beer scene. They’re not going to serve food to encourage customers to make that trek, but they might let some food trucks park nearby. They plan on allowing dogs to wander the premises. And they don’t really have a clever name for the brewery, so they’ll probably just call the place Bike Dog Brewing, because, you know, bikes and dogs are cool.
Perhaps a forward-thinking, beer-loving banker would have made the right choice, but fortunately the four founders of Bike Dog Brewing never had to make that pitch. A.J. Tendick, Sage Smith, Raef Porter and Pete Atwood met while working for Sacramento Area Council of Governments. While chatting around the proverbial watercooler, they realized they shared many interests, chief among them quality beer, riding bicycles, and an affinity for man’s best friend. While those sorts of shared interests among colleagues often inspire endless follow-up conversations and maybe even shared pints outside of work, these four chose to take it a few steps further.
By choosing a site for the brewery that was outside of the pricy downtown grid, and by starting small, they were able to keep startup costs relatively low. After concluding that they could start the brewery debt-free, they crowd-funded $20,000 from a Sacramento public that was itching for a West Sacramento-based craft beer to call their own and cobbled together the remaining $130,000 themselves. And in October of 2013, they held the much-anticipated grand opening of Bike Dog Brewing, located between a flooring store and a truck-parts distributor at 2534 Industrial Boulevard in West Sacramento.
They launched to a full house, serving the enthusiastic crowd their now locally-famous wheat, IPA, double IPA, milk stout, and saison. Their brewing apparatus at launch consisted of a tiny 3.5-barrel unit, purchased from Portland Kettleworks. And, while that’s served them well, demand for their beers has grown so much since launch that they’ve doubled their brew space and are building a 15-barrel brewhouse with equipment from Brewbilt in Nevada City. There are even plans to double the brewing capacity again as soon as next year. That’s because their current demand is so high, they have to turn away most accounts that approach them to buy their beer. Furthermore, their core beers are so popular they seldom have the space to brew the seasonal, aged, and specialty beers that most excite them personally. The increased capacity will also allow them to add restaurant and store accounts locally and in the Bay Area.
Despite Bike Dog’s tremendous popularity, all four still work for local government, where they gather at the watercooler to discuss beer, bikes, and dogs. Presumably they have less time to ride their bikes now, but access to beer is obviously not a problem and they get to bring their pups to their other job. You can bring your pup too. The brewery is open Thursday through Sunday, when you will almost always find many dogs and bikes amongst the crowds of hop-heads vying for a refill at the industrial-chic concrete bar of the taproom. If you’re not into dogs or crowds, you can find several of Bike Dogs’ beers in bottles at many of Sacramento’s better-stocked groceries. That said, there’s nothing like a fresh pint of milk stout enjoyed with a dinner from one of the taproom’s visiting food trucks and a happy pup at your feet.