In taking us back to the beery years after the years after the Gold Rush, Sacramento historian Ed Carroll describes a rough and tumble scene with no lack of libation.
"A typical street scene back in the 1860s would have been wooden horse carts, dirt roads, wagon tracks, horse manure and lots of beer," Carroll says.
The beer was only about 4% alcohol, compared to today's 5% to 6% brews. So, it was no big deal to drink all day. Saloons even had something we'd call take-out. "You'd go get a pail of beer for your night, probably even send your kids down there and they'd bring it back."
But in 1919 the Volstead Act, known as Prohibition, stopped the party. By then, one man had already made a beer fortune -- Captain Frank Ruhstaller. At the corner of 9th and J, an 1890s Queen Anne is evidence of the grandeur beer built.
Called The Ruhstaller building, it's now home to the Christian Science Reading Room. But the fancy turreted structure has special meaning for businessman J-E Paino.
"This was the center of the Ruhstaller empire," Paino says. "This building was his headquarters, it was where he entertained."
"It just represents the remarkable position that Capt. Frank Ruhstaller had in Sacramento," Paino says. "That's the legacy we're trying to pay homage to."
Paino also makes a beer called Ruhstaller. He says the original Ruhstaller beer would qualify today as premium craft beer made with local hops, fresh water from the city's two rivers and brewed by German, Austrian and Swiss immigrants who knew how to make beer. Captain Ruhstaller, who was merely a ceremonial captain, was a marketing genius.
"The marketing slogan was best beer brewed," Paino says, having researched the original Ruhstaller beer and the captain's life. "The beer was called gilt-edged. Gilt-edged lager, gilt-edged steam beer, gilt-edged porter. And all the glassware had a gilt edge on it - gold."
With ingredients and techniques different from Ruhstaller's day, Paino and his partners developed their vision of premium craft beers. To keep quality high, Paino buys hops and barley from around Northern California, sometimes Oregon. Paino saves money by brewing his Ruhstaller in existing breweries. One is Hoppy Brewing in East Sacramento, where equipment is so technically savvy the Captain would never have imagined such advances.
Paino offers three beers in his Ruhstaller line - a red Ale; a hops harvest beer in August called Hop Sac, and a black India Pale Ale called The Captain.
In using the Ruhstaller name, Paino was in for a big surprise. Shortly before he rolled out his beer, Paino found out Captain Frank Ruhstaller has living descendants - four great-grandsons in Stockton. What would they think of him using the family name?
Turns out, the Ruhstaller clan loves being back in the family business. Recently, J-E Paino and the eldest great-grandson met down at Mulvaney's B & L restaurant to sampe the new Ruhstaller 1881 Red Ale on tap.
Frank Larry Ruhstaller, nicknamed Frank IV, is a county supervisor in San Joaquin Country. "Yes, my family is the original Ruhstallers of Ruhstallers Gilt edge and Buffalo beer," he says. And he likes the new brew. It's red with orange undertones.
"I just love the piney flavor that comes through because of the hops," Larry Ruhstaller says.
Bubbling in the background is Capt Frank's original 130-year-old secret recipe. The question now is whether Paino can replicate it using 21st Century beer technology.