Last weekend, I drove into the middle of California Gold Country for an annual superfriends camping trip in which we all meet up at the South Yuba Campground outside of Nevada City. Despite being 30 minute drive from anywhere with a cash register, good beer was definitely not in short supply.
On the way out of Sacramento, I stopped by the Trader Joe’s in Roseville and was stoked to discover that they were stocking six-packs of every canned 21st Amendment beer (did I mention that I love casual grocery store beer shopping in Northern California–like that time I saw week-old Plineys on the shelf at a Whole Foods in the Mission District?). Cans of beer are a camper’s best sidekick, so of course I bought a case of my favorite, Back in Black, and threw it in the ice chest along with a six pack of Mammoth Brewing’s Epic IPA from the previous weekend and bunch of other bottles that I had dreamt about drinking in the wilderness.Next day, I was hiking out a mile from the campsite with a river rat innertube and a backpack full of beer only to spend nearly 2 hours slowly floating down nature’s lazy river popping open cans and trying not to get burned alive by the sun.
On the way back home, our buddies who live out that way mentioned a new brewery that had just opened in town, knowing that I’d have to stop by and taste everything. Ol’ Republic hangs out in what looks like a mountaineering supply store on the outskirts of Nevada City just behind the area’s only supermarket. It’s a far cry visually from the Victorian-looking Downtown leftover from the city’s 1850s heydey, but the beers pay homage to a history that not many brewers even think about anymore.
As their name might (or might not?) imply, Ol’ Republic brews only English and European-style beers (okay, they also like old American recipes, but only if they’ve been out of fashion for a while) and as a result, their stout is a bitter foreign export, their IPA a malt bomb by West Coast standards and their blondest beer is probably their funky French saison. Brewing a bunch of old school recipes might turn off the new craft-beerheads, but in a town as small and historic as Nevada City, a hometown watering hole with classicly-styled beers is all the residents need.
Ol’ Republic also is the first brewery I’ve been to that carries stainless steel growlers (the owner claims he is the first in the country to order them) and fills all their to-go containers (which includes a grolsch-top 1-liter growler) in this crazy contraption that kind of looks like a Jamba Juice blender pod. Apparently, it pressurizes the beer and seals it off like a cup of Boba or something so if you don’t open it, it’ll keep for months like a regular bottle from the line would. I’m not sure how necessary a machine like that is, but it sure as hell looks cool.
Ol’ Republic is located at 124 Argall Way, Nevada City, CA, (530) 264-7263, olrepublicbrewery.com