Whether you believe beer is the golden elixir of life, or whether you just like to hang out with friends, family, nosh on dinner from a food truck (or BYO Taco Tree) and play cornhole and foosball, Knee Deep Brewery is the place to be any day of the week.
Even children and dogs are welcome.
"We never have down time," lead beertender, Katie Bohnet said on a recent Tuesday evening.
Bohnet stood in the middle of the warehouse, surrounded by beer enthusiasts enjoying pizza at long picnic tables while raucous rock n' roll streamed from the speakers. In one section, a group of four men cheered and groaned over their lively game of cornhole, and on the other side, a brown lab named Jed occasionally barked a hello at passing dogs.
The brewery has come a long way since Bohnet first discovered it six years ago in an alley behind what was (and is again) Beerman's in Lincoln.
Knee Deep had just begun brewing its own beer and offered Friday Growler Sales from the loading dock.
"It kind of felt illegal," Bohnet laughed.
Knee Deep soon outgrew its space in Lincoln and moved into the 28,000-foot facility near the airport in North Auburn where the UC Davis-trained brewmasters are working with a 40-barrel, four-vessel system. From the grain and malt to the bottle, everything is done right there before the customers' viewing pleasure.
"It's all very scientific," Bohnet said.
"Kinda," said brewmaster Jesse Durand.
Durand took a quick break from brewing, and, while keeping one eye on his watch, explained the process of making beer: the grain, the grist holder, the boil kettle, the three stages of hops, the whirlpool and the enzymes.
"It's all about pulling sugar from the grain and adding yeast to ferment it," he said, making a complicated process sound really simple.
Once the concoction is finally, magically made into beer, some of it is aged for six months in whiskey barrels, Bohnet said.
All of the beer is kegged and bottled. Some of it is sent to the tap room on site; some of it is shipped to 30 states and five different countries --
as far away as Japan.
To keep the local customers happy and returning to the tap room, Knee Deep offers its "Aviator" series -- small batches of experimental beers that may only be purchased at the brewery.
Between its year-round offerings and its Aviator series, Knee Deep offers 24 beers at its site -- something for everyone. If customers aren't sure what they'd prefer, Bohnet recommends a four-draft flight.
Two popular brews right now are Breaking Bud and No Seeds, No Stems.
And once a customer falls in love with one beer or another, she's welcome to purchase a re-fillable growler or bring a clean one from home.
Many customers pop in to get their growlers filled on their way to Tahoe.
"We don't open until noon, but most days we have someone here at 11 a.m. asking if we'll fill their growler," Bohnet said. "We try to be prepared."
Tuesday evening, one Citrus Heights resident was waiting in line to have his growler filled. He was in Auburn visiting his dentist, he said, and decided to try Knee Deep while in the area.
"My wife is home making pork tenderloin," he said, rubbing his hands together. "And I'm bringing the beer."
Knee Deep Brewery will be one of several local breweries featured at Foothill Brewfest, hosted by Auburn Rotary, Saturday, May 6 at Gold Country Fairgrounds. For more information, visit FoothillsBrewfest.com
Knee Deep Brewery
Open noon to 9 p.m., seven days a week
Located at 13395 New Airport Rd. Ste. H.