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Craft Beer Tour 2017: Texas

These photos were taken over the course of three days in Texas, beginning with Grapevine Craft Brewery on October 21, Jester King Brewery, Freetail Brewing, and Pint & Plow on October 22, and finishing with Ode Brewing on October 23.

When I left Louisiana I set my sights on Grapevine, Texas and Grapevine Craft Brewery.

Grapevine Craft Brewery is a production brewery that has been around for four years. I picked it as a destination primarily because I thought Grapevine was Van Horn; which meant once again I had no idea where I was. I had meant to avoid Dallas, but there I was; at least I had a friend that lived down the road a piece and she met me at Grapevine. Continue reading

Craft Beer Tour 2017: North Carolina

These photos were taken at Bond Brothers Beer Company, Heist Brewery, and The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery on October 16 and 17 as my Craft Beer Tour 2017 continued into North Carolina.

When I first decided I was going to take this trip I only had five specific destinations; GABF, Three Floyds, Grand Rapids, MI, Charleston, SC and Yuma, AZ. Everything else would just happen, sort of.

Shortly before I left for GABF I was talking to Beer Paper owner (formerly Beer Paper LA), Daniel Drennon about my plans. Since he knows people around the country, I thought he might have a couple of ideas for stops. He handed me a bundle of the latest issue of Beer Paper and asked me to deliver it to his friend Whit Baker, the Certified Cicerone Brewmaster at Bond Brothers Beer Company in Cary. Continue reading

Central Arizona Craft Beer: It is exploding

For those of you that noticed that this site was a little silent last week, that was due to the fact that I made my annual journey to Tempe, AZ to photograph a trade show. Since I do not have a lot of time to go out and explore when I am working, I pretty much had to rely on what the hotel bar or Hooters had on tap; which was generally Bud, Guinness and Kilt Lifter for what seemed forever.

In 2013, World of Beer opened a couple blocks from the event location, so my free time was generally spent there as they have a great selection of beers from not only breweries around the world, but around Arizona generally as well.

In 2014 I decided to come into Tempe early and discovered that there were quite a few breweries in surrounding cities that were not too far away, but nothing that was going to be close enough for me to visit while working. World of Beer to the rescue; again. Continue reading

A Craft Beer Valentine’s Day in the South Bay

As I sat down to write this, I asked Tanya what we did last year for Valentine’s Day. Neither of us could recall off hand but after a little research we discovered that we may be becoming creatures of habit with traditions we did not realize we had.

Anyway, this year Smog City Brewing re-released their Death By Hops DIPA so we decided to start the day off there. They had a brisk business going on with many beerlebrity sightings as hop heads from near and far came to check out the latest release; they would not be disappointed. Regular readers of Craft Beer Guy have probably noticed that I do not do beer reviews on this site (you can visit my Untappd account if you want those) but I will say that this batch is amazing. If you enjoy a good in-your-face hop bomb you will want to get over there before it is all gone. One thing that came to mind as I enjoyed it was just how lucky we are to live in an area that turns out so many great brews and the double IPAs. When you stop to think about Smog City’s Death By Hops, Strand Brewing’s White Sand, El Segundo Brewing’s Hammerland, and The Brewery at Abigaile’s Beetlejuice, to name but a few, the South Bay is turning out some of the best brews around.

After enjoying a beer at Smog City and speaking with a few people we headed down Western to Mulligan Family Fun Center to race go-karts. They have gas powered karts and governors equipped to prevent them from going very fast but it was still a lot of fun. No photos of this part of the day are available because I have yet to figure out how to race and work the camera at the same time. Continue reading

LA Beer Week continues: Torrance tasting rooms & Caskforce at Beachwood

Sunday was day two of the 6th Annual LA Beer Week and I decided to start the day off by visiting a couple of the Torrance tasting rooms since they were not around last year. The afternoon began at Torrance’s oldest production brewery, Strand Brewing Company. It was not particularly crowded, but they did have a nice group in there; due in part to LA Craft Beer Tours bringing a group in. I had the opportunity to visit with a few people and wish Nikki good luck as she will be leaving us soon to take on a new job with Drake’s Brewing. Congratulations, Nikki. Strand Brewing Company is located at 23520 Telo Avenue in Torrance.

I then headed over to The Dudes’ Brewing Company to see what has been going on there since their grand opening last week. The first thing I noticed was that they now have ample seating for everyone; to celebrate LA Beer Week The Dudes’ held raffles for beer, shirts, hats and other swag over the weekend. In addition to eight or nine beers on tap they also offered one on nitro and one on cask. It looks like The Dudes’ have gotten the hang of the tasting room and they should be quite successful as time goes on. The Dudes’ Brewing Company is located at 1840 W. 208th Street in Torrance.

For my final production brewery stop, I paid a visit to Absolution Brewing Company. It has been a few weeks since I was there and again, one of the first things I noticed was that they rearranged their pews to make it easier for people to sit together and talk while enjoying a guilt free Absolution brew. Judging by all the new kegs that were waiting to be filled it would be safe to presume that their distribution to bars and restaurants must be doing pretty well. Absolution Brewing Company is located at 2878 Columbia Street in Torrance. Continue reading

Antelope Valley Breweries and Home Brew Competition Awards

A few weeks ago the Antelope Valley Fair held their second annual Antelope Valley Fair Home Brew Competition, which was sponsored by Bravery Brewing in Lancaster. This past Friday the 2014 Antelope Valley Fair Home Brew Competition Awards Ceremony was held, again at Bravery Brewing. A couple of the principles invited me to come out and photograph the awards ceremony which I was more than willing to do; since Lancaster is almost 100 miles away from me and I really did not feel like dealing with a Friday evening of rush hour traffic, I decided to make a day of it and see what kind of craft beer I could find in the Lancaster area. It turns out, that there currently is not a lot to choose from in that area. In fact, I could only find two breweries in the vast Antelope Valley; Kinetic Brewing and Bravery Brewing, both located in Lancaster.

I was somewhat familiar with Kinetic Brewing Company as I have seen them at a couple beer festivals, but I had only had a couple of their brews; their Potential Blonde Kölsch and Citrafuge Harvest Ale. Kinetic Brewing is a brewpub and normally we would have gone there to try the food as well, but a prior engagement resulted in our not really being hungry so we started off with a flight consisting of the seven brews they had available. The flight was made up of their Kölsch, American Brown Ale, American IPA, Porter, a couple variations of Berliner Weisse and their Belgian Strong Ale. All in all, the beers were solid with the Propulsion IPA being my definite favorite; no contest really. I enjoyed their Fusion Porter and Rusted Gear Brown Ale also, but found the two Berliner Weisse a little light for my tastes.

While we had not come in hungry we were there for a while and I eventually started checking out their food menu. They have a pretty good menu with everything from salads and pretzels to steak or pan-fried Ahi tuna. What caught my eye was their bread pudding; when you spot the photo of it, let me just say that if you think it looks good, I am not sure the photo does it justice. It was very good. If you find yourself in the Lancaster area and want a good craft beer and some food; you should check out Kinetic Brewing Company. They are located at 735 W. Lancaster Boulevard in Lancaster. Continue reading

Stone Brewing Company: Pasadena and Escondido

The photos in this gallery were taken over the course of two days. On Tuesday we headed over to the Stone Company Store in Pasadena to check out the Enjoy By 08.16.14 and w00tstout 2.0 on tap before deciding how many bottles to buy. Unfortunately, the Enjoy By seems to fluctuate a lot lately but this batch is great. The w00tstout 2.0 was also worth bringing home. They had a couple Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Stations; The Sacred Druid Hot and Lil’ Miami Tart available that were quite fun. Between those and the stash we brought home it was well worth the drive. It has been a while since I have been to the Stone Company Store due in large part to the fact that my daughter moved out of Pasadena. It is always a good place to look for the new releases; especially if you want them on tap.

If you have never been, it is at the Metro Station on Raymond. They have a full tap room for pours and filling growlers; they sell kegs, bottles, t-shirts, mustard and anything else Stone Brewing makes. Their tap list has everything you might find at the brewery itself and it is about 70 miles closer than Escondido. It is a clean setup and if you want a wide variety of Stone brews on tap, this is where you want to be. Their 4 oz pours are less than $2.00. Stone Company Store is located at 220 S. Raymond Avenue in Pasadena, CA. They are open seven days a week from 11:00 AM until 9:00 PM.

The next day I was planning on going back to my son’s to check out his Glacier Summer Ale. That morning he said they wanted to take me to lunch for my birthday so it was decided that we would meet at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido. While there was a time that Stone Brewing Company was the only real game in town for me, things have changed and it had been probably three years since the last time I was there. I looked forward to experiencing it again. Continue reading

Craft beers of New Orleans

Last week I spent a few days in New Orleans photographing a trade show; in my free time I decided to seek out locally brewed craft beers, preferably from New Orleans but anything brewed in Louisiana would do. For those of you familiar with the New Orleans area, I was staying by the New Orleans Convention Center which is about a mile from the French Quarter.

When I first arrived on Wednesday afternoon I met up with a couple of friends and we walked over to Crescent City Brewhouse, a brewpub that is across the street from the Jackson Brewery building. Apparently Jackson Brewery was once one of the largest breweries in the country; I did not make it inside. Crescent City Brewhouse offered five of their beers on tap; a Kölsch (my personal favorite), a pilsner, a Vienna lager, a Dunkel Munich Lager and a hefeweizen. All five were solid beers but there were no IPA’s and hoppiness was pretty much nonexistent; the ABV’s of all five were pretty low. Our server said they all range from 5% to 6% ABV; their Untappd information only lists the ABV of the Kölsch and shows it to be a 4.5%.

I had the Alligator Sausage Poboy sandwich which was pretty good. Since our server gave the impression that he was pretty knowledgeable about everything craft beer related in New Orleans I asked him for suggestions on other breweries or brewpubs in the area that I should visit. In fact, I specifically asked about NOLA Brewing and was told that they were solely a production brewery with no tasting room. I found out later that our server was pretty clueless about the craft beer scene in New Orleans or he intentionally misled me. It was hard to say. Crescent City Brewhouse is located at 527 Decatur Street in New Orleans. It is the only brewpub I found in New Orleans; the prices are fair, the food is okay and I would say that their beers represent the Louisiana style fairly well. They are open seven days a week and do have growlers to go. Continue reading

Craft breweries along the 101: From Paso Robles to Agoura Hills

Day two of our craft beer tour started where we left off, Paso Robles. We knew that Firestone Walker would be a definite stop as the visitor’s center and brewery store would provide brews that we could not obtain at the taproom the previous night. Not wanting to appear too eager, we decided to see what else was available in Paso Robles that was open and new to us. We had places we wanted to revisit, like BarrelHouse Brewing, but no one seemed to open before 2:00 and I did not have that kind of time to spend in Paso that day. Tanya found the Downtown Brewing Company brewpub on her phone, so we headed over there only to discover that they were currently in a transition as far as brewing is concerned. Apparently they were brewing off-site but are preparing to begin brewing there; but that will not happen for another three months. They appeared to have a nice tap list but the same could be said for pretty much any bar I noticed in the area. We said farewell and headed back over to Firestone Walker’s visitor’s center.

While the Paso Taproom Restaurant offers many great options; we really wanted to pick up a few bottles that were not available at the taproom, such as XVII Anniversary, Parabola and Lil Opal. We were also able to sample a couple beers that we did not have time to try the night before. I do not think you can tell just how massive the Firestone Walker operation is after dark. The taproom/restaurant and the visitor’s center is maybe half of the operation. When walking around the facility we discovered several more large buildings including their Keg Shed, a shop for equipment repairs and hidden around the back, their brewery store. The store sells things like hats, shirts and home brewing equipment; it also houses a large cold box that is like the Holy Grail of Firestone Walker. Beers you cannot find elsewhere will be found back here; I highly recommend checking it out. We grabbed a couple bottles of Bretta Rose to bring home. Continue reading

Craft beer from Buellton to Paso Robles

Earlier this week my fiancee and I decided to take an overnight craft beer trip to visit some of the breweries and brewpubs that we missed when we did our tour back in February. The reason was two-fold; one was that I had some reward points from La Quinta Inns that were going to expire and my fiancee has developed an affinity for barrel-aged beers and there were a lot at Firestone Walker that she wanted to sample and purchase. Who am I to deprive her of such deliciousness; after all, happy wife, happy life.

We started off by heading to Solvang Brewing Company, a brewpub located in downtown Solvang. It has been a couple years since I went there but at the time they were just opening and were not yet brewing their own beer. I figured it would be a good stop because we could try some new brews while getting some food at the same time. When we do these craft beer tours we rely a lot on the Internet and there is nothing that irritates me more than to discover that a brewery has ignored the importance of the Internet. Especially since California is a craft beer destination; simple matters like ensuring the correct information is listed on Google Places as well as correct information on their websites. The reason I mention this with Solvang Brewing is that Google Places said they did not open until 5:00 PM whereas the Solvang Brewing website clearly stated that they are open seven days a week from 11:00 AM until 2:00 AM. I was more than a little irritated when we arrived around 1:00 PM to discover that on Wednesdays they do not open until 4:00 PM! It will probably be a while before I give them another chance. Continue reading

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