Roseville Brewing Company holds ground in crowed industry

Local craft beer boom has been blessing and curse for business
By: Andrew Westrope,
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501 Derek Place, Roseville

Mon-Fri 5-8 p.m.

Saturday 2-6 p.m.

(916) 783-2337

When Kelly Rue opened Roseville Brewing Company in February 2012, craft beer was a niche market around Roseville and his was the only game in town.

Three and a half years later, he’s competing with more than half a dozen breweries in South Placer, hoping to open a pub at some point and turning out about 400 barrels a year – almost twice the volume he started with.

Rue was running clothing stores when he moved to Roseville in 2000, but he’d picked up an interest in the brewing business while working at a microbrew restaurant during his college years in Nebraska, and his affinity for it never left him. He was enticed by the brewing process, and once in Roseville he teamed with Brett Ratcliff, still his head brewer, to create the job he really wanted.

“I had been in corporate (work) for quite a while, and I have a family, and I wanted to have more of a community. I just love the community atmosphere around a brewery,” he said, talking over a pint in his industrial taproom on Derek Place. “Where we are, we get people that walk here from Diamond Oaks, from Kaseberg, and they just walk over here and we know them all… It’s like a little family in here. Of course we do distribution too, but my dream was to have a place that I could come and really enjoy just going to work.”

At about 400 barrels a year, Rue’s company is still a relatively small operation, but with that he’s staked out a place in the region. Today his beers are available on tap at Bar 101, Bunz & Co., California Pizza Kitchen, Country Club Saloon, Broderick Restaurant & Bar, Woodcreek Golf Course, both Boneshakers locations in Rocklin, Craft Beer Vault in Rocklin and Beach Hut Deli in Lincoln. Bottles are available at Total Wine in Roseville, Folsom and Sacramento, at Nugget in Roseville and West Sacramento, and Whole Foods in Roseville.

Aside from bottling and distribution, Rue said his business has also grown through events, as Roseville Brewing Company serves thousands of people at HP’s employee parties and regularly provides refreshments for local companies and organizations at private and corporate parties, holidays, birthday parties, Oktoberfest events and food cook-offs, among many others.

The company’s five flagship beers, which it bottles, have railroad-themed names – Big Engine Blackberry Wheat, Heavy Rail Pale Ale, Steam Horse Stout, Armstrong Amber and Spike Driver Double IPA – and it makes anywhere from six to 12 others on rotation.

“We’re so small that we can experiment on a regular basis,” he said. “We put them on tap, see what people think and then they might become more mainstream. When we start bottling, that means we know that people like them.”

In December, Rue plans to bring back a chocolate peppermint milk stout that had a popular trial run last Christmas, along with a new chocolate coffee stout this winter.

Variety is an essential draw for his customers, but that means they’re interested in the competition, too. Rue said his was the second brewery to open in South Placer after Loomis Basin, but since then Boneshakers, Out of Bounds, Dragas, GoatHouse and Monk’s Cellar have also entered the game, not to mention others in Auburn.

“There’s part of me that loves it, because we have things happening in Placer County, especially right now, where people are actually traveling here because there are a bunch of brewery tours being set up,” he said. “We have a good eight breweries in this area, so it’s really nice to get in a limousine and go around to all the breweries. We have people actually setting up companies to do those tours, so that would only happen if there are enough breweries in one area.”

On the other hand, Rue said, the proliferation of options for beer drinkers has meant their money is divided among more brands, especially on grocery store shelves, so he isn’t yet certain what the local craft-beer boom has done for his business. But he’s looking forward, hoping to build his own pub restaurant at some point in the next three years, a proper retail presence with food and more seating.

“I’ve been looking around, and of course money is a huge thing, whether we have the money or not to open another business,” he said. “That’s kind of the goal.”