As the year draws to a close, it is time to think back on what 2017 has brought to the craft beer world; more specifically what has happened in the Craft Beer Guy world. As 2016 came to a pretty crappy end for me, I did not do one last year; for that reason, I will begin with the end of 2016 as it segued into 2017.
My coverage of 2016 ended pretty much the way 2017 started, with the opening of Smog City Brewing Company’s satellite tasting room, Smog City – SteelCraft in the Bixby Knolls area of Long Beach. They opened the location at the end of December; by the middle of January they had applied for, and were granted the ability to sell growlers and bottles to go.
Later in January the inaugural L.A. Beer and Food Festival was presented by the Los Angeles County Brewers Guild. The sold-out event featured close to 50 member breweries of the LA Brewers Guild as well as 15 local food vendors. This year the L.A. Beer and Food Festival will be held Saturday, January 27. Buy your tickets now, before it sells out.
As I left Yuma I thought about the epic craft beer tour I was completing and decided that if I was going to make this series of articles truly coast-to-coast-to-coast, I was going to have to end it by visiting a California craft brewery that won a medal at the most recent GABF.
With at least 15 breweries in Southern California to choose from, my main obstacles were going to be the same as I had encountered over the past several weeks; day of the week, and time of day. As I looked over the list of GABF winners I realized that if I wanted to avoid rush hour traffic I was going to have to aim for breweries close to me. Fortunately, I live where I do and two of my favorite local breweries had won medals and they are both brewpubs, meaning they would be open by noon; Beachwood BBQ & Brewing in Long Beach, and HopSaint Brewing Company in Torrance. Continue reading
These photos were taken Tuesday, October 24 at Saddle Mountain Brewing Company in Goodyear, and Prison Hill Brewing Company in Yuma, Arizona.
When I woke up Tuesday in Las Cruces, I had one goal and that was to make it to Yuma by the end of the day. It was going to require close to 600 miles of driving, but with Arizona’s speed limits and the fact that I was going to gain another hour as soon as I hit the Arizona border, it was definitely doable. I had thought about stopping in Tucson but I received a text informing me some friends were in the Phoenix area, so I looked for something a little closer for them. I recalled that Saddle Mountain Brewing won gold at GABF, and they were close to I-10, so we made plans to meet at Saddle Mountain.
Saddle Mountain Brewing is a brewpub that opened in late 2014; I actually visited them once before in April 2016. They took gold at GABF this year for their Clan Destine Scottish Ale, so I was looking forward to experiencing Saddle Mountain 18 months later. Continue reading
Leaving El Paso, I headed west for about an hour to Las Cruces, New Mexico which was a planned stop for the day. I was aware of three craft breweries in Las Cruces, but as it was Monday, one was closed; I chose High Desert Brewing because it was the closest to my motel.
High Desert Brewing Company is a brewpub that has been open since July of 1997 and is apparently the second oldest brewery in New Mexico. Everything they brew is done in small batches of about 100 gallons each. Apparently they brew 27 different beers; on the night of my visit they had 11 available as well as their root beer.
While being shown around the brewhouse, I was told that High Desert Brewing never had any aspirations of becoming bigger than they are; they always just wanted to be a simple, local spot for craft beer and food lovers. Continue reading
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
These photos were taken Saturday, October 21 at the Great Raft Brewing 4th Anniversary, in Shreveport, Louisiana.
As I spent the previous night in Vicksburg, which is on the east side of the Mississippi, and Louisiana is only a couple hours wide from the Mississippi border to Texas, I was going to have to plan this well if I wanted to visit any breweries in Louisiana. Fortunately, a name that kept coming up in conversation east of the Mississippi was Great Raft Brewing. Great Raft is located in Shreveport which is almost on the Louisiana/Texas border. Since it was a 2 1/2 hour drive from Vicksburg to Shreveport, and Great Raft opens at noon on Saturdays, I figured I would be able to arrive at Great Raft close to opening time, making it easy to try a few beers and snap some photos prior to moving on to Texas. I have to admit, I was pretty surprised when I arrived shortly after they opened only to discover their parking lot was full and I was going to have to park at a second lot down the street. Continue reading
These photos were taken in Anniston, Alabama on October 19; and various parts of Mississippi on October 20, as I continued to work my way home.
There is something to be said for technology, but sometimes I wish I at least carried a decent paper map with me since trying to see the big picture on an S4’s screen is a lot easier said than done. When I left South Carolina I had decided that instead of taking I-20, I would take I-10. Unfortunately, I did not know what city to put in that would force my GPS to head to I-10 so I made a guess that was totally wrong. I would mention where I was, but I have no clue; I was not on an interstate, they were basically county roads. I was in the middle of nowhere South Carolina where it abuts nowhere Georgia. I also ended up on I-20.
What this meant for me craft beer-wise was that nothing in the part of Georgia I went through, including Atlanta, opened until 4:00 PM. I am sorry, but I was not going to stick around Atlanta for rush hour just to wait for a brewery to open. I will hit Georgia on another trip. Continue reading
These photos were taken over the course of two days; October 17 in Columbia and October 18 in Charleston, South Carolina.
When I left Charlotte, I set my sights for Blythewood, South Carolina where I would be spending the night with my brother Steve and his wife. A few weeks back I asked Steve if he had any favorite breweries we could visit; he responded that he had shared a flight once, with our dad, back in 2010. We were going to have to go another route.
Fortunately, Steve has friends that do know craft beer and we were directed to Conquest Brewing in Columbia. Conquest Brewing is a microbrewery that has been open about five years and is Columbia, South Carolina’s first production craft brewery. Continue reading
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
When I left off; my Craft Beer Tour 2017 was leaving the Grand Rapids area and honestly, I was not sure which way I wanted to go. As I saw it, I had two ways I could venture. On the one hand, I have had very little time in New England and the leaves were beginning to change colors, so that would be cool. On the other hand, I knew I was going to head down to the Carolinas, so New England would add another couple thousand miles to my trip. I would have been okay with that, but literally everywhere I went saw their weather worsen with my arrival!
I am not kidding, every evening I would get an alert on my phone that the weather would be anywhere from 10 to 20 degrees cooler the next day. I had people in North Carolina suggest I was Old Man Winter; relatives in South Carolina apologized for not having enough blankets, because “it never gets this cold.” I even heard the Dallas-Fort Worth weatherman say that they may have just experienced their last hot day of the year. Heck, even when I got home it was 102 at 2:00 PM; 24 hours later it was 73. I was getting a little paranoid as I had not really packed for inclement weather. I decided I could not risk the weather in New England and decided to head south instead. Continue reading