It is a Tuesday morning and Occidental Brewing Company Proprietor Ben Engler just spent the weekend filling 300 cases of German-style beer at its new brew pub in Baldini’s Sports Casino. The part-owner flew down from Portland, Oregon, to oversee and help with the first canning which he said went pretty smoothly. Its canned Kolsch and Pilsner will soon be distributed to grocery stores and liquor shops in the area.
When High Sierra Brewing Company went out of business last fall, it presented an opportunity for Occidental to move in. With the acquisition came a 15-barrel brew house, four fermenting tanks, six Brite finishing tanks and a restaurant attached.
“We knew one of the owners from Baldini’s, our families go way back,” says Engler. “We took over the space and equipment. It was relatively easy to open this location with low risk,” he adds. This is the family’s only other Occidental facility outside of its flagship brewery in Portland, and its first one in Nevada.
“Beer is a very local thing. Since it’s fairly dense, it’s expensive to ship so that’s why more local breweries are popping up everywhere,” Engler says. Occidental took over the space Baldini’s this January and got its license to brew beer shortly after.
“The city was really easy to work with and I know Baldini’s loves doing business in Sparks,” Engler says. “We basically opened a brewery in five months, it was an incredibly fast timeline.”
Occidental has always specialized in German-style beers and began pairing it with German food and pub favorites. The restaurant keeps 8-10 of its beers on tap (plus a guest tap- currently it’s Revision IPA) and its most popular drafts include the Kolsch, Pilsner, and Hefeweizen.
“We have a couple of feel-fine-the-next-morning, easygoing straightforward beers,” says Engler.
Years ago, he started brewing beers with his uncle Dan and they ended up liking their own German-style beers the best. While craft beers were on the rise, no other businesses seemed to be focusing on those types of brews which helped Occidental stand out from the rest.
“I haven’t seen four Kolschs on tap anywhere,” Engler says. While he feels that IPA is the dominant style of beer in the US, German beers appeal to drinkers who like a more subtle, less hoppy tasting brew. Since its opening in Sparks, Occidental’s traditional German-style beers have been well-received and customers have even enjoyed the new one coming out.
At a bar filled with poker machines, I taste test the Pilsner, Hefeweizen, and 5.2 percent ABV Dunkel beers. The Hefeweizen is nice and light with hints of natural cloves and banana notes. The Dunkel has a sweet, roasty clean finish and the pilsner is fresh, sweet, and sharp.
“Plenty of German beer pairs very well with our menu items, but with a big, greasy burger (like the local’s favorite Awful Awful), I think the Pilsner pairs well with it- it helps wash it down,” Engler says.
Now that the first successful round of canning is over, you’ll probably start to see Occidental beers in local stores and more transformations to their restaurant.
“We’re trying to build Rock Boulevard as the place to get beer. The beer is produced here, we pay taxes here and employ people here. My wife and I love to ski and hike and be close to Lake Tahoe, so we’ll probably move here permanently in the fall,” Engler says. “We just want to be a solid local brewery and build this place into a local spot where people can eat good food and drink good beer,” he adds.
Occidental Brewing Company is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and is located within Baldini’s on Rock Boulevard. For more information and history about its beers, visit https://www.occidentalbrewing.com/.