Alumnus resurrects Sacramento’s beer

When UC Davis School of Management alumnus Jan-Erik Paino conducted a real estate project on Sacramento, he thought to himself that the best way to learn about the city was to understand its history. While most of the books that he read reiterated the usual Sacramento history, he found one that discussed a small beer brewing business. It was then that Paino’s interest in brewing began.

Paino went on to learn all he could about Sacramento’s beer brewing history and discovered that a man named Frank Ruhstaller created the largest brewing industry west of the Mississippi, in the Sacramento region. Paino decided he wanted to bring back Ruhstaller’s legacy of creating a Sacramento beer using locally grown materials.

Paino founded Ruhstaller Beer in 2011, which now brews three types of beer that can be found in restaurants around Sacramento and Davis, including de Veres Irish Pub and The Davis Beer Shoppe.

“I’ve learned that Sacramento was the beer capital of the West Coast. Before Prohibition, Sacramento had a bigger brewing building than anything Anheuser-Busch had anywhere, even in their own hometown. So this is something we did really well,” Paino said. “Hops and barley grew like weeds, we had the best source of water coming from the Sierras and American River, we were German, Austrian and Swiss and knew how to make beer.”

Wanting to give Sacramento a beer of its own again in the name of Ruhstaller, he contacted Charlie Bamforth, dean of the School of Fermentation Science at UC Davis, to learn all he could about brewing beer. After researching it and still not knowing how to brew, Bamforth put Paino in contact with Peter Hoey, an already established brewmaster.

With a great love of Sacramento and the region and a passion for beer, Paino brought back the history and legacy of Sacramento brewing and Frank Ruhstaller by creating two beers with the help of Hoey.

The beers are manufactured out of three breweries located around the Sacramento region. His offerings include the 1881 California Red Ale, the Captain California Black IPA and the Hop Sac ’11.

“He is a tremendous guy — full of energy and passion and determined to resurrect a great Sacramento brewing name in a bottled beer, a product that speaks very much to a local provenance,” Bamforth said. “He has a crystal-clear vision of the route to take in making a success of whatever he turns his hand to. He is also humble and prepared to listen and seek counsel, and he strives for the best.”

Paino was born in San Francisco, moved to Houston, Texas when he was six months old and graduated from Memorial High School in Houston.  He then attended Princeton University and studied architecture. Once finished, he returned to California and worked in the vineyard industry and construction. Eventually he enrolled at UC Davis and became a real estate agent.

“One of my goals for Ruhstaller, when I know it’s successful, is when someone from Sacramento or Davis takes a Ruhstaller with them to San Diego or Seattle or San Francisco and says, ‘Fellows and friends, this is my beer and I want you guys to try it.’ I want it to be something we all can be proud of,” Paino said.

Eric Tang, a student at the UC Davis School of Management and intern for Paino, said that Paino’s work ethic, dedication, commitment to the community, history of Ruhstaller and quality of the beer are all aspects that make him successful.

“I think it is great how Paino is making Ruhstaller beer into more than just another brewery. He is using the history of Ruhstaller to create a brand that the entire Sacramento region can rally behind and be proud of,” Tang said. “On the beer side, it is really exciting that Ruhstaller has found a way to join the movement toward local products. Sourcing the barley from California adds another element to the beer that all Californians can relate to.”

Paino said that there are no shortcuts to success. You have to work hard and put in some time in order to achieve what you want, and you have to fight because there are going to be both good and tough days, he said.

“There are two things. Follow whatever you are passionate about — if you’re passionate about something, whatever it is, you’re going to be successful. The other thing is you’re going to have opportunities you normally wouldn’t have if you just tried to copy someone. You won’t experience the top,” Paino said.

PRISCILLA WONG can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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