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Photo Gallery | Out of Bounds Brewing emphasizes basic ingredient to achieve exceptional results

ROCKLIN, Calif. – Ask a brewer what makes a great beer and somewhere in his response will likely be the word “quality.” Whether in the hops, water, grains or equipment, the quality that goes into the brewing process is directly responsible for the quality that comes out in the final product.  Eric Johnson, CEO of Out of Bounds Brewing, has taken the same core principle, pulled it from the brew kettle and applied it to all facets of Rocklin’s new craft brewery.

Last Friday, Out of Bounds opened their doors to 600 beer lovers anxious to get a taste of the newest introduction to the Sacramento brewing scene. It was a moment nearly six months in the making, according to Johnson, but the obvious investment, both physically and financially, helped ensure the startup brewery hit the ground running. 

 “It’s very multifactorial,” explains Johnson.  “We have a great team that’s focusing on all the elements to make it happen.”

One of the key (if not the most important) members of the team is 37-year-old brewmaster Bruce MacPhee.  And while the humble brewmaster prefers to shy away from the spotlight, Johnson has no reservations touting the talents of his head brewer.

“Some breweries are known for one particular style of beer. Some are great with IPAs (India Pale Ales). Some are great with stouts. Bruce is great with every style. His black IPA is my favorite black IPA. His stout is my favorite stout.”

A Chico native, MacPhee polished his skills in Oregon at Deschuttes Brewing in Bend, before moving on to Coalition Brewing in Portland. During his formative years in the Pacific Northwest, MacPhee earned quick recognition, being named best new brewer on the west coast in 2011. In returning to Northern California, MacPhee says he hopes to bring with him a northwestern philosophy of balanced, approachable beers crafted from the finest ingredients.

“Drinking a beer should be a roller coaster, is the way I look at it,” says MacPhee. “It should come in, roll around, excite your mouth and then drop off. You should be ready for the next sip by the time you’re swallowing. When I came back down here, I was surprised to see all these big IPAs and Double IPAs. We went through that craze when I was still over at Deschuttes, but by the time I got up to Portland that was gone.  What I was seeing up there was people wanting to drink and still be active. Not fall down after a pint or have to scrape their tongue.” 

It’s a concept many Sacramentans can embrace, and while lovers of palate wrecking hop bombs may take a little more convincing, there’s surely plenty of beer drinkers salivating over a refreshing shift from bitter to balanced.

MacPhee definitely has the tools at his disposal to make the kind of impact both he and Johnson believe Out of Bounds can have on the local market. A custom-built, American-made, 36-barrel Marks brewing system, coupled with a cavernous 600-foot cooler for storage and any future barrel conditioning provide a dream workshop upon which to turn hops, water and malt into award-winning brews.

Currently, Out of Bounds features five beers (Railrider Black IPA, Joyrider IPA, Bad Ass Bitter ESB, Strong Ale and Wet Hope Ale) with the goal of having 10 to 12 flowing in the tasting room by year’s end.

“The idea is that we’ll have 10 standard beers and two seasonals for every season,” says Johnson. “That’s what I look forward to as a beer lover. Breweries that produce those seasonal beers like Pliny the Younger that people come from places like England, Japan, Australia to drink.”

One such beer Johnson believes could eventually be a seasonal that draws beer lovers to Rocklin is their wet hop ale, a beer style for which MacPhee has already earned accolades.  “Very few places can make it because you have to be close to a hop farm,” Johnson explains. “We sent our intern out to the hop farm and they harvested 150 pounds that went straight into our truck. Meanwhile, Bruce was here boiling the grain and wort. So as soon as it got here, less than an hour and a half after being cut, the hops went into the beer.  A wet hop is something you can only do in August so when it’s gone, it’s gone.”

But the wet hop ale is not exclusive in its inclusion of fresh, whole cone hops. MacPhee and Johnson say every beer brewed at Out of Bounds will be produced using only whole cone hops. It's an element that could be key to differentiating the fledgling brewery from a rapidly crowding local market.

Many breweries, especially those of the larger variety, use pellet hops in their beers as the dried, pressed pellets offer a more cost efficient option.

According to Johnson, brewing solely with whole cone hops is indeed the more expensive approach, but one that pays off it in the final product. “It’s challenging because there’s a hop shortage. But we feel it’s worth the effort and expense to bring them in because the taste is so much better. So, we’re sticking to our guns on the whole cone hops in our beers.”

This willingness to sacrifice immediate profits for superior quality carries over to a striking tasting room that’s already receiving glowing endorsements from the public.

“This place is well put together.  They invested a ton in the tasting room.  The bar is very nice, nice pine table top and a great big table with big screen for groups to mingle over some great craft beer,” wrote Jason D. of El Dorado Hills on Yelp.

“Clearly they have done a great job with the interior, and the design is nice,” seconded  Bryan L. of Rocklin.

It’s these types of comments Johnson was clearly shooting for when conceptualizing the look and feel of the impressive taproom.

“We’re trying to really make this experience in the tasting room a unique one,” he explains. “A lot of tasting rooms you go, it’s not really a place you want to sit for more than a beer. We want to make this a place where people want to come, and want to show their friends, and show their relatives a really unique place.”

The stylish, Euro-inspired room hits the mark in terms of exceptionality. Spacious, with three seating areas, including a side room available for private booking, the tasting room is decorated with a sense of regional relevance, blending wrought iron and raw wood throughout to tie in with a surrounding landscape of oaks and railways.  A large, Bavarian-style brewhouse table is the jewel of the taproom, drawing patrons together and inspiring the social atmosphere Johnson hoped to achieve in his earliest visions of opening a brewery.

“When people walk through the front door they should feel like it’s their bar, their pub, their place, their brewery.  Because it really is.  It’s the locals place.”

However, with their demanding standards and commitment to quality in personnel, ingredients, beer and atmosphere, Out of Bounds could soon become a place for more than just locals.