2005 | REGIONAL | WEST COAST
Sacramento's Rubicon Crosses Over To New Owner
By Brent Ainsworth and John W. Ostrom
On June 20, Sacramento’s Rubicon changed ownership
for the first time since its opening in 1987. After nearly
20 years of developing, building and running Sacramento’s
iconic Midtown brewpub, owners Ed and Susan Brown decided
to leave the business and sell the Rubicon to longtime friend
Glynn Phillips, who is backed by two other partners.
“I’ve known Glynn since he was a skinny little
kid,” Brown said. “He was great friends with my
nephews. They would gang up on me playing basketball.”
Also no stranger to the brewpub industry, Phillips has been
general manager for Marin Brewing for the past seven years
and previously managed Great Basin Brewing in Sparks, Nev.
A friend of Brown’s and his family for over 30 years,
Phillips had long expressed an interest in someday taking
over the Rubicon.
“This is a dream come true,” said Phillips. “I
told Ed 10 or 15 years ago that if he ever wanted to sell
this place, just tell me. I’ve always had a real spot
in my heart for the Rubicon.”
The Rubicon has been the most enduring brewpub in Sacramento,
maintaining a reputation for offering outstanding beers in
a wide range of styles and for providing one of the most comfortable
pub experiences in town. A fixture in the urban heart of Sacramento
long before the area became a popular spot for upscale restaurants
and loft living, the Rubicon helped define downtown Sacramento
as a place to go after all the state offices emptied out.
From the beginning, original brewer Phil Moeller developed
the Rubicon’s signature style of firmly hopped ales
and innovative seasonal beers, including the fabled Winter
Wheat Wine. The brewery quickly developed a national reputation
after winning several awards at the Great American Beer Festival,
including back-to-back gold medals for its flagship India
To maintain that reputation, Phillips has repeatedly affirmed
his interest in keeping brewmaster Scott Cramlet on board.
Cramlet, who learned commercial brewing while training with
Moeller, has been with the Rubicon for over 15 years. He continues
to brew not only the pub’s IPA, but also a changing
assortment of seasonal offerings and innovative creations.
“Scott is very open-minded about things because he’s
brewed so many different varieties through the years,”
Phillips said. “We’re working great together.
He keeps me grounded, and I think I’ve energized him
a little bit.”
The Rubicon has a reputation
for offering outstanding beers and for providing one
of the most comfortable pub experiences in town.
The ownership transition actually began in February when
Brown contacted Phillips and said it was time to make a change.
After arriving at a deal for the pub, Phillips moved his family
to nearby Elk Grove and began preparing to take over the day-to-day
In the near term, Phillips envisions the brewery and restaurant
remaining much the same as they are now. In the long run,
plans may include increasing Rubicon’s distribution
in the Sacramento region, which is currently limited to a
few outlets, and the possible opening of affiliated local
pubs in the McMenamins style. “Not the large hotel and
brewery,” as Phillips pointed out, but comfortable neighborhood
pubs located in some of Sacramento’s suburban outposts,
stocked with a full lineup of Rubicon beers.
Brown said he leaves Rubicon proud of several things: keeping
it open 18 years; having Rubicon voted the best brewpub in
Sacramento nearly every year; and “giving people a good
product for a good value.” He said the sale wasn’t
too hard for him emotionally, but it was hard for his wife,
Susan, who was Rubicon’s bookkeeper. She loved her job
and the Rubicon atmosphere.
As Ed Brown prepared to leave the Rubicon for the final time
before departing on a long European vacation, he summed up
his plans by saying, “I’ve got one more thing
in me. I just don’t know what it is.”
For his part, Phillips seems prepared to continue the Rubicon’s
tradition of outstanding beer served in a comfortable setting,
and he may even find a way to spread the Rubicon’s recipe
for a great pub experience to new neighborhoods throughout
the Sacramento region.
Rubicon Brewing Co.
2004 Capitol Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95814
Brent Ainsworth, a beer lover and resident
of Novato, Calif., is the Lifestyles editor at the Marin
John W. "Brook" Ostrom is an associate
editor of the Celebrator Beer News. He is a national
beer judge and an award-winning homebrewer living in Davis,