Mike Conrad / Owner & Head Brewer and Taylor Conrad / Taproom Manager, At Ease Brewing, Sacramento, California
Retired Army Col. Mike Conrad may have left active duty after two decades of service, but he keeps the military spirit alive with his retirement project, At Ease Brewing Company.
Located in midtown Sacramento, At Ease is a family business, with daughter Taylor Conrad running the taproom. At Ease features a subtle military theme with beer names like Depth Charge and Basic Training, a menu board of “Now in Service” beers and a playful “Sortie Draft Card” for ordering flights. It’s also worked with veterans organizations Sacramento Stand Down, Fisher House Foundation and the National Association of Black Veterans since opening three years ago.
Despite its familiarity to present and former service members, At Ease prides itself on making beers for every civilian taste. The daily changing selection might feature hazy and pale ales, German märzens and hefeweizens and IPA’s inspired by New England, New Zealand and the West Coast. Lemon Coriander Wheat and a kettle sour called Ruffles and Flourishes made with The Perfect Purée Prickly Pear Puree keep customers coming back for more surprises. Kiwi Cranberry with The Perfect Purée Kiwi Puree is a nod to fall with a refreshing sweet-tart flavor.
“Prickly Pear is an unusual fruit – so we think it will draw people into at least trying it,” Taylor says. “Sour beers tend to be one of our more popular styles – and generally, the funkier the better.”
Mike was a home brew enthusiast long before he retired from the Army and has a lot of advice for brewing with fruit in all forms. He started brewing with purées after sampling them at a brewer’s conference and says they’re the easiest way he’s found to add flavor to beers—particularly sours.
“There isn’t a lot of preparation or follow-up procedures once it’s added,” he says.
Mike adds purée towards the end of fermentation, when the wort is about 80 percent fermented, though it can be added at other stages.
“I’ve had good results with flavor when adding purée at that stage,” Mike says.
Lastly, he recommends forcing carbon dioxide into the cone of the fermenter to mix the purée into the beer.
Like the institutions that inspired it, At Ease observes high standards of service and—rare for any establishment—gets consistent five-star reviews. A welcoming atmosphere for families and dogs, outdoor seating, attentive staff and on-site food trucks make At Ease one of Sacramento’s favorite destinations.