Last week I was invited to participate in a beer tasting put on by Craft Beer Guild Distributing and hosted by STACKED: Food Well Built in Cerritos. I know that I frequently discuss location when it comes to the invitations I choose to accept and Cerritos isn’t exactly next door, it is a little less than 20 miles from my home, but since Craft Beer Guild Distributing has been on my radar lately I thought we would go ahead and deal with the traffic on the 91. We went last night and in retrospect, I am glad we did.
While I do not usually discuss food on this site, STACKED is different than most gastropubs that I visit. The primary difference is that while the menu is made up primarily of burgers, sandwiches, pizzas and salads, the customer is the one that designs the meal. Virtually every item on the food menu is “build your own.” The brainchild of STACKED co-founder and CEO Paul Montenko, STACKED provides every table with an iPad and a menu that allows you to drop and drag the items you want on your burger or pizza. While Burger King may have been the first to let you “hold the pickles, hold the lettuce” STACKED takes it further by not charging you for the pickles or lettuce you did not ask for and letting you add any of 18 toppings including pastrami, pulled pork or caramelized onions. They have six bun options (one of which is no bun), six cheese options and even eight different types of meat for your patty. After creating your meal you simply hit submit and a few minutes later you start receiving your order. One of the nice things about this is that you can order your drinks, they have a full bar, and have that delivered while you peruse the menu. If you want an appetizer before your meal, order it up on the iPad and it will show up before the main course. It really is pretty cool.
A couple last words on the food: Candied Bacon. Man, oh man, that is some good stuff. As usual, since Tanya and I typically split meals I let her build our burger which brought up another issue: eyes and their relationships to stomachs. It is really easy to build a burger that is bigger than you will ever fit in your mouth. A gentleman at the table next to us did just that; I suspect that after you have been there a couple times you should be able to figure out how to make the perfect burger for yourself. Tanya really enjoys Mac ‘n’ Cheese so she ordered a basic one to check it out; I have to admit it was pretty tasty. Continue reading
For the past four years Beachwood has been having a charity raffle for chances to win one (or more) of the 130 pints they will have available between their Seal Beach and Long Beach locations. The beneficiary of 100% of the monies raised goes to the Melanoma Research Foundation done in memory of a long time Beachwood friend, Tony Carbone who passed away in 2008 from Stage 3 Melanoma.The process is simple and if you read this through to the end, there is a special offer for you. Raffle tickets are $5.00 each and there will be 130 winners. Tickets are on sale at both the Seal Beach and Long Beach locations between January 20 and February 21, 2015 at 10:00 PM. All ticket purchases are cash only. The drawing will be held Monday, February 23 and will be streamed live via the Four Brewers webcast. Winners will be directed to which location they can get their pint and they must be redeemed between February 24 and March 5, 2015; you want to drink Pliny fresh. Continue reading
November 29 was Small Business Saturday and I suppose if you did not know that, you should not feel like the Lone Ranger. First established in 2010, Small Business Saturday takes place the first Saturday following Thanksgiving and is meant to coincide with Black Friday and Cyber Monday but with the idea that we should “Buy Local” and is targeted towards brick and mortar, mom and pop shops. To be honest, I am not sure that this is being promoted very well. The only advertising I noticed were specials that seemed to require owning and using an American Express card (probably because American Express is such a mom and pop operation); and the City of Torrance declared November 29 through December 6 as Small Business Week. I am not sure that anyone that did not attend last week’s city council meeting would know this though.
Since I like to do my Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve, Small Business Saturday would take a different twist for me. I decided I would spend Saturday visiting small businesses that specialized in craft beer, with an emphasis on Torrance businesses since our mayor did request residents to support Torrance business.
We started off by going to Torrance’s first production brewery, Strand Brewing Company. Strand Brewing opened five years ago and is always a crowd favorite due to a combination of great beer and a very personable Rich Marcello, co-owner and the main sales guy. His enthusiasm for their product is contagious and that has a lot to do with their success. The tasting room is on the small side and can fill up quickly, but everyone just seems to start talking to whomever is close and by the time you leave you have a new friend. Continue reading
When I was a young speed demon, racing fast cars and motorcycles, we had a saying; “there is no substitute for cubic inches.” I have come to the conclusion that in the craft beer world, specifically when it comes to tap takeovers, there is no substitute for experience. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy each of our local craft breweries and I attempt to go to as many of their tap takeovers as possible; but the oldest production brewery in the South Bay is Strand Brewing Company and they will be celebrating their fifth anniversary in December. Last night we headed to Brewco in Manhattan Beach for a Firestone Walker tap takeover and Firestone Walker Regional Sales Manager Shane Kral pretty much pulled all the stops with this one, featuring brews ranging from their 2011 Parabola to their XVIII Anniversary Ale.
This was a tap takeover that drew people from near and far as the tap list was something that you would have difficulty emulating without taking a trip to Firestone Walker’s Buellton or Paso Robles locations; even then it might prove difficult. In addition to Firestone’s core beers on tap, DBA, Union Jack, Pivo Pils and Velvet Merlin, they also offered 2011 Black Xantus, 2013 Double DBA, 2014 Agrestic, 2014 Velvet Merkin and the Firestone XVIII Anniversary Ale. For good measure there were bottles of 2011 Parabola and 2013 Sucaba also available. As if these were not enough, for dessert they offered Pazookis (a hot brownie cake) topped with Velvet Merlin Ice Cream crafted from Sweet Rose Creamery in Santa Monica. To say it was delicious would be like saying Union Jack is hoppy.
Since the main problem with an event like this is how to sample all these wonderful [and somewhat high-octane] brews in one sitting, Brewco created a couple flights for the occasion. The Lion and Bear Flight consisted of Pivo Pils, DBA, Union Jack and Agrestic. Their Vintage Flight was made up of tasters consisting of 2011 Black Xantus, 2013 Double DBA, 2014 Velvet Merkin and the 18th (XVIII) Anniversary Ale. Those that opted for full pours also got to bring their Firestone Walker glassware home with them. Rumor is that there are only one or two kegs of the 2011 Black Xantus left on the face of the earth, so that beer alone pretty much made this a one-of-a-kind event. Continue reading
I remember the first time we visited Hudson House, a gastropub located in Redondo Beach; it was during American Craft Beer Week in 2012. At the time, the craft beer scene in the South Bay was just getting started or I was just starting to notice it anyway. Since it was the first time that my fiancee Tanya was able to actually join me in my craft beer adventures we had set out to discover as many American craft beers as possible. A search of Google led us to Hudson House, which was described as a gastropub; to be honest, I am not entirely sure I knew the true definition of what a gastropub was. What I did know was that they advertised having more than 50 craft beers available. The downside, at the time, was that of those 50+ brews only four of them were available on draught.
We did return about a year later because it was close to somewhere we had to be and Tanya had enjoyed their burgers. I honestly don’t recall a lot about the visit other than I had been able to buy a bottle of Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA and I was not impressed by our dessert choice, their version of bread pudding; a chocolate banana croissant pudding. Be that as it may, we decided to revisit Hudson House on Monday evening. What a difference a couple of years make. Continue reading
Saturday afternoon I decided to check out a couple relatively new production breweries that I had not visited yet and pay a return visit to the only craft brewery that has seen fit to name a beer after me. The tasting rooms I visited were Bottle Logic Brewing, Pacific Plate Brewing and Pac City Brewery; with a stop by Lucky Baldwin’s Delirium for a bite to eat.
Our first stop was Bottle Logic Brewing in Anaheim. Bottle Logic opened in February of this year and while this was my first visit to their tasting room, I did have an opportunity to try a couple of their beers at The Bruery’s Sucréversary event back in May so I had a fairly good idea of what to expect as far as their brews were concerned; I was not disappointed. On the day of our visit they had about 14 beers on tap, with the tap list being broken up to their five “Constants” which make up their flagship beers; and their six “Variables” which consist of their seasonal beers. There were also a few others that are experimental and one-offs. We started off with a flight of their Constants and their Lucky Panda; my fiancee really enjoyed their rice lagers, Hanamichi and Lucky Panda. For me, the Double Actuator Double IPA was my favorite, by far. I then tried the Dr. Strangematter Imperial Saison and immediately requested a bottle to go; it is delicious.
Bottle Logic founder and president Steve Napolitano gave me a little tour of the brewhouse and I have to say that for a brewery that is only six months old they have a pretty impressive setup with room to grow. Included in the growth plans is a barrel program that will soon include sours, which will require an additional brewhouse to avoid cross-contamination. I look forward to visiting them again in a few months to see how much they have progressed. Bottle Logic Brewing is located at 1072 N. Armando Street in Anaheim and is open Thursday through Monday. Continue reading
My daughter wanted to take me out to lunch this past Sunday, specifically somewhere I had not yet visited. As she rattled off the various craft breweries and gastropubs that were midway between where she lives and me it was discovered that I had visited each of them. She then mentioned Bonaventure Brewing in downtown Los Angeles. I had been meaning to stop by there for a while, so we decided to meet there for lunch. Unfortunately, it never dawned on me that they would not open until 4:00 PM, so we arrived at The Bonaventure a couple hours before the brewery opened and the hotel’s cocktail lounge did not even sell the beer brewed on premise. This was not what I wanted to hear. As we were meeting my daughter there we had to find a quick substitute before she went through the trouble and expense of dealing with the valet. Tanya got on her iPhone to query Google and started looking for brewpubs in the downtown LA vicinity; the closest to us was Barbara’s at the Brewery. I had heard of the place but had never been there so it sounded like the place to be.
As we passed Union Station and Olvera Street I mentioned that Barbara’s must be part of Angel City Brewery; I have only been there once and I recalled that it was a pretty large facility so it was entirely possible that I had missed something. As we pulled up to Barbara’s I quickly realized that this was not associated with Angel City; but it sure did not look like they had room for a brewery either. There was a large smokestack that had “BREWERY” painted on it which did nothing to ease my confusion. When I walked in it quickly became evident that Google had misled me once again.
Barbara’s at the Brewery is not a brewpub, I am not even sure I would classify it as a gastropub either; it is a restaurant that serves craft beer. I asked our server what the deal was with the brewery smokestack and the “at the Brewery” in their name and was informed that the complex they are located in used to be a Pabst Blue Ribbon brewery many years ago. She thought that it may have been a brewery for someone else before PBR brewed there. The complex itself is called “The Brewery” and is now probably best described as an art colony, with Barbara’s being the location for food and drink. Continue reading
On Saturday afternoon we headed out to Alhambra to attend the 38 Degrees Ale House & Grill’s 5th Anniversary Celebration. Unfortunately, Caltrans decided they were going to close several lanes of the 710 freeway turning what should have been a 30 minute drive into an hour-long battle. As we finally turned down Main Street and approached 38 Degrees we immediately noticed that they had a very long line of people waiting to get in. To be honest, I was not ready to stand in any line; I wanted a beer. Luckily for us, Ohana Brewing Company had opened their tasting room a few months ago and they are literally around the corner from 38 Degrees so they became our first stop.
I had an opportunity to visit the Ohana Brewing tasting room back in January shortly after they had been granted their Conditional Use Permit and it was pretty much just a storefront with dreams of what the future would bring. Yesterday, we discovered six taps of Ohana brews, displays featuring their glassware, growlers, shirts and snacks and several customers lined up at the counter trying flights and filling growlers. We ordered up a flight consisting of their Pacific Ale, Hollenbeck Amber Ale, Saison Kau Wela, #Hashtag Hops IPA, Spawater Saison, Surf Shack Saison and Acorn Ambition. All the beers were solid brews; I really enjoyed the Surf Shack Saison which is a very good entry level sour. Owner Andrew Luthi informed me that they have a Double IPA getting ready to be released and after trying the #Hashtag Hops I look forward to trying it. The Ohana Brewing Company tasting room is located at 7 S. 1st Street in Alhambra. Continue reading
Saturday evening I joined a few dozen others for the South Bay Progressive’s second “pub crawl” which included five South Bay venues that specialize in craft beer; each of whom showcased a different American craft brewery. The five venues and the breweries they featured were Brewco, Manhattan Beach featuring Smog City Brewing; The Brewery at Abigaile featuring Stone Brewing Company; Silvio’s Brazilian Barbecue featuring Modern Times Beer; Naja’s Place featuring The Bruery; and Select Beer Store who featured Great Divide Brewing Company. Transportation for the event was provided by LA Craft Beer Tours.
We started our tour at Naja’s Place since it was the closest with the best parking options; the fact that they were showcasing The Bruery made the decision process a little easier. I have to admit, I was a little shocked when I saw the Naja’s tap list as it was emptier than I have ever seen. I was then reminded that Naja’s is having their 6th Annual IPA Festival this coming Wednesday so they are in the process of cleaning all their lines. If you enjoy IPAs you will want to head to Naja’s Place for this week long event.
My intent was to visit The Brewery at Abigaile next with a stop by Silvio’s on the way back but a scheduling conflict resulted in Silvio’s closing at 7:00 PM for a private party so we headed to Silvio’s first then walked up the street to Abigaile. After grabbing a beer, some food and photos we headed to Brewco in Manhattan Beach. As one might imagine, Saturday night in Manhattan Beach meant a pretty large crowd but the service was fast and the people were friendly. After enjoying a beer most of us got back on the bus and headed back to Naja’s Place which was now jumping with live music and an even more lively audience.
South Bay Progressive is a collaboration between the five South Bay venues with a cross-promotion of some of the production breweries that have helped make the South Bay a craft beer destination. The event started last September for LA Beer Week and included four of last night’s participating five venues, with The Brewery at Abigaile joining in the fun this time around. This was the first time I have participated in an event like this but I have to say, if South Bay Progressive continues I will do my best to be there next time as well. Cheers! Continue reading
Monday May 12 was day one of the 9th Annual American Craft Beer Week, and it is the third consecutive year that I have covered the event. In 2012 I participated by trying to find as many American craft beer locations as possible in the South Bay. In 2013 I set out to visit as many Great American Beer Festival gold medal award winning breweries as possible. Since there has been such an explosion of growth in the craft beer sector around here, I decided that this year will be devoted to the local craft breweries, brewpubs and gastropubs.
I started off by visiting San Pedro Brewing Company (SPBC), a brewpub that has been around for close to 15 years. They have won more than 40 medals at local county fairs, commercial beer competitions and international beer festivals. They have not entered competitions such as the Great American Beer Festival because they have a small brewing system and do not currently have the capacity to brew enough beers to handle the increased demand winning a competition like that would bring. That may soon change though as they are in the process of dealing with the paperwork to open a new location around the corner which will be called Port Town Brewing. SPBC Head Brewer Jason Welke will likely do the brewing for SPBC and Port Town with the SPBC system being used for experimental batches. The hope is to have Port Town Brewing open by next American Craft Beer Week. For those that like bourbon barrel aged brews, Wednesday evening at 6:30 SPBC will have their 2nd Bourbon Barrel Aged Beer Night featuring their Blitzen Belgian Winter Ale and Sunken City Imperial Stout. I went to their first barrel aged event in February and they had some delicious brews. If you are looking for something to do, you really cannot miss by attending this event. San Pedro Brewing Company is located at 331 W. 6th Street in San Pedro and is open seven days a week. Continue reading