Ol’ Republic Brewery growing, bottling beer in Nevada City

THE REGION’S CRAFT BREWERIES are booming, largely due to talented brewers who are helping to revitalize the area, just like chefs, farmers and winemakers. They’re passionate about making the best craft beer, and they figure the customers will follow.

It has worked at Auburn’s Knee Deep Brewing Co., where brewmaster Jeremy Warren has created some of the top-ranked IPAs in the nation. Now Knee Deep is distributing its beer all over, including Hawaii. Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co. in Nevada City is prospering, thanks to great food and quality craft beer from veteran brewer Dave Cowie. They join stalwarts, such as Auburn Alehouse.

The most exciting emerging “ale tale” for a single local brewery probably goes to ol’ Republic Brewing Co. of Nevada City and founders-brewers Jim Harte and Simon Olney. It’s a real Cinderella story, not just for a brewer but for any small business that is reshaping our region’s identity.

Simply put, Jim and Simon are two longtime friends with a love of good beer. Jim has been a brewer for more than 30 years, and Simon grew up in England, where his grandparents and great-grandparents owned pubs.

“There’s only one thing I like more than making beer, and that’s knowing people love drinking the beer I make,” says Jim.

We first got wind of ol’ Republic’s plans in March 2011, when we noticed brewing equipment being quietly outfitted in a space under the SPD Market in the Seven Hills District.

Jim disclosed plans for a craft brewery that would end a long dry spell for brewing in Nevada City. Western Nevada County had almost a dozen breweries during the Gold Rush era. Since then, the number has dwindled.

When ol’ Republic opened in February 2012 it became an instant community gathering place. Locals lined up for craft beer on tap. On Fridays, a food truck with tacos or savory pies would roll up to provide the beer pairing, and live music played in the background. Customers also might buy a stainless steel growler and bring the beer home.

In its short history, ol’ Republic has helped reignite a beer boom in western Nevada County. A gastropub called Jernigan’s Tap House & Grill opened across the street. Jernigan’s customers include

Charles Bamforth of UC Davis’ brewing program; Tom Dalldorf, publisher of the Celebrator Beer News; and Tom McCormick, executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association. Ol’ Republic has been expanding rapidly, more than doubling its size in a nearby building. “Our goal is to become a full production brewery,” not just a taproom, says Simon.

The brewery also has been selling kegs of its beer to Five Mile House and Matteo’s Public in Nevada City, as well as Sergio’s Caffé, the Holbrooke Hotel, Smiley Guys SmokeHouse and Pete’s Pizza in Grass Valley. Its beer also is sold at Final Gravity in Roseville, the Capital Beer & Tap Room and Rubicon Brewery in Sacramento, among others.

In October, ol’ Republic began bottling six of its beers, and it has new labels for each: Frontier Amber for its California Common; Bläk for its Bavarian-style black lager; Pub Ale for its English-style ale; Celtic Red for its Irish-style ale; Dead Canary Lager for its Dortmunder-style Export; and Hell Beer for its Munich-style lager. Simon, a veteran graphic artist, led in the label design.

The brewery’s beer is being sold in 22-ounce bottles at Briar Patch Co-op, SPD Markets in Nevada City and Grass Valley; Natural Selections, Long’s Bottle Shop and the Station House in Grass Valley; and Harmony Ridge Market in Nevada City.

In Sacramento, ‘ol Republic has a standing order with Darrell Corti, the grocer and gourmand behind Corti Bros., for its newly bottled beer. It also is distributing its beer at Taylor’s Market, Sacramento’s other gourmet grocery store. In San Francisco, ol’ Republic now has a dozen accounts for its tap beer, most notably the prestigious Olympic Club near Union Square.

To cap off its success story, ol’ Republic Brewery won a “Best of Show” award for its California Common beer at the California State Fair this summer. Its growth spurt shows the potential for small businesses in our region.

(Photo: Jim Beckett, Sugar Pine Studios)

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