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Taking a self-guided craft beer tour of California Highway 99

This particular self-guided craft beer tour will be a five (5) part series that covers a visit to 22 production breweries and brewpubs between Los Angeles and Santa Rosa. Let there be no mistake, there are far more than 22 craft breweries in that geographical area but we had a set amount of time. It was another of those “so many beers, so little time” situations. When I set out from LA there were three basic routes to take; I could drive Interstate 5 which is definitely the fastest route but the desert is a barren wasteland when it comes to craft beer. Taking US 101 up the coast takes significantly longer than I-5, but there are barrels and barrels of beer all along the way and if time is of any importance, there are far too many distractions. The third option and the one I opted to take was California Highway 99. When I opted to take 99 I knew the drive would take a little longer, but I also know that I would be able to find some craft beer along the way. This particular route was set going northbound, but you can easily reverse the map provided below and plug in your own starting point.

The locations visited on this leg of the self-guided craft beer tour were Lengthwise Brewing in Bakersfield, Full Circle Brewing Company in Fresno and Dust Bowl Brewing Company in Turlock. You can find the photos of the three locations at http://craftbeerguy.com/lengthwise-full-circle-dust-bowl-brewing/.


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Taking a self-guided craft beer tour of the South Bay

I am a firm believer that if one person suggests something, there is a good chance that dozens of others are thinking the same thing. Since I have had many people tell me that I should include maps of the craft brewery tours I write about, I have decided to add a new feature, maps of the various breweries and their relationship to each other. I have decided to use MapQuest since they allow you to plug in your starting point; Google Maps seems to eliminated that feature, so we will use MapQuest until something better comes along.

These maps will be set up to show the easiest way to visit each of the breweries visited and will usually form a circular pattern so you are not bouncing around from one end of town to another and back again. I am beginning with the South Bay area of Southern California for a couple reasons. The first, and most logical, is because that is where I live. The second being that there has been such an explosion of microbreweries around here that I know people from other areas would like to know the easiest way to see all that the South Bay offers. Whenever possible, these tours will begin with one freeway close location and end with another freeway close destination. If you are a first time visitor to any of these locations I recommend a purchasing a flight so you can sample what each brewery offers,

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Craft beer in the Phoenix, AZ area

When I left off, we had visited Coachella Valley Brewing and La Quinta Brewing in the Inland Empire and began our drive to Arizona. Unfortunately, there were not a lot of options available to us between the Palm Springs area and our final destination, Tempe. Since it was a Wednesday afternoon there were some breweries that were open in the Phoenix area but most would be closed before we arrived; besides, we needed food as well so a brewpub would be the preferred choice or a gastropub if no brewpubs were available.

Tanya got online with her iPhone and discovered that SunUp Brewing, a brewpub in Phoenix, would be open so I set our GPS for Camelback Road. SunUp Brewing has a fairly wide food selection, primarily made up of the kinds of foods you would expect to find in the Southwest like nachos and chili, but also offering several salads, sandwiches and burgers. I left the food choice up to Tanya which resulted in our having a spinach salad, some chili and peach cobbler. The salad and chili were good, but the peaches were a little crunchy. But I was there for the beer. Our server, Emily, provided us with a flight of all nine of the brews they had on tap that night. We started with their Horizon Hefeweizen and Light Rail Cream Ale which were both solid but a little light for me, although the cloves and banana flavor of the hefeweizen were nice. The Stinger Pale Ale, Amber, Trooper IPA, Amber (w/ Cascade), Falcon Red, Vanilla Porter and Coffee Oatmeal Stout were more my style and quite enjoyable. All of their beers could qualify as session beers, so feel free to order a flight or a couple pints; you should be able to walk a straight line later. SunUp Brewing is located at 322 E. Camelback Road in Phoenix. Continue reading

LA Beer Bloggers Summit #9 at 38 Degrees Ale House

Sunday afternoon I headed out to Alhambra to attend the 9th LA Beer Bloggers Summit which was held at 38 Degrees Ale House & Grill. In addition to the networking opportunities with other beer bloggers and other various media formats we were treated to talks by 38 Degrees co-owner Clay Harding, Danny and Franny Fullpint and the Ohana Brewing Company crew. Clay Harding talked about his history and how 38 Degrees Ale House & Grill came about and spoke a little on their upcoming events. Danny Fullpint and Franny Fullpint gave us a brief rundown on how they got The Full Pint to its current position in the craft beer world. Ohana Brewing Company owner Andrew Luthi introduced us to his brewing team consisting of Eric McLaughlin, Erick “Riggs” Villar and Robert Sanchez. Ohana Brewing also provided samples of three of their craft beers; Pacific Ale, Saison Noir and Wee Smokey. As Ohana Brewing was just recently granted a Conditional Use Permit to open a tasting room and growler fill station literally right next door to 38 Degrees, we were given the opportunity to visit the storefront location. All in all it was another fun afternoon of networking and enjoying good craft beers.

LA Beer Bloggers is an informal network of bloggers from Los Angeles and Orange Counties that dedicate their time towards the promotion and growth of the local craft beer scene. With all the new craft breweries popping up brewers and brewery owners rely on word of mouth to become known to the beer drinking public; beer writers help make this possible on a larger scale.

38 Degrees Ale House & Grill is located at 100 W. Main Street in Alhambra, CA. They have a very nice tap list and very good food. When Ohana Brewing gets their tasting room open you will want to be sure to kill two birds with one stone and visit both locations. Cheers! Continue reading

Beachwood Brewing’s 3rd Annual “Pliny Fights Cancer” Raffle Coming Soon

In the craft beer world there are few annual releases that are awaited with such anticipation as Russian River Brewing’s annual release of Pliny the Younger. Initially brewed in 2004, Pliny the Younger is released on the first Friday of every February. This true triple IPA is made in very limited quantities so is limited to draught pours at the Russian River pub for a mere two weeks at which point a few kegs are sent out to select Russian River accounts. One of these special accounts is Beachwood BBQ & Brewing who will have it at both their Long Beach and Seal Beach locations in February.

As you might imagine, it is not uncommon to see long lines outside of these locations when Pliny comes to town. I went to a Pliny release party last year that had 400 people lined up outside; the event started at 11:00 AM and the first guy in line had been there since 7:30 AM! The folks at Beachwood, being the nice guys they are, decided that instead of dealing with long lines of beer aficionados clamoring to get their yearly Pliny fix they would make this a fundraiser by selling raffle tickets for the chance at one of the 130 pints they will have available between the two locations with 100% of the proceeds benefiting the Melanoma Research Foundation. This is the third year they have done this; raising $7,000 in 2012, $9,000 in 2013 with a goal of $10,000 for 2014.

The tickets, a mere $5.00 each, went on sale January 14 and will continue through February 22. Be advised, the raffle tickets are a cash only deal, so when you visit Beachwood for some of their great beers and/or food, be sure to bring some cash for the tickets. They won’t add it to your bill. On February 24th, 2014, 130 raffle tickets will be drawn at random. The drawing will be streamed live on the New Brew Thursday webcast; winners will also be notified via email or phone. Winners will be able to redeem their Pliny the Younger pint between February 25 and March 6, 2014; Because of the limited quantities, winners will be directed to either Long Beach or Seal Beach to get their Pliny. Continue reading

Beachwood BBQ celebrates 7 years

Regular readers have probably figured out that I am a pretty big fan of Beachwood BBQ and Brewing, named Mid-Size Brewpub of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) this past October. What you may not know is that they started off as a gastropub in Seal Beach, called simply, Beachwood BBQ back in 2006. It was not until 2011 that Beachwood BBQ owner, Gabe Gordon teamed up with brewer Julian Shrago to open their brewpub, Beachwood BBQ and Brewing, in Long Beach.

A friend of mine introduced me to Beachwood BBQ in November of 2010; at the time they were essentially a barbecue joint that served craft beer with 24 rotating taps. Beachwood had not even started brewing beer yet. When I look back at photos from my first visit I cannot help but admire the guest tap list which consisted of beers from breweries that I was not all that familiar with (a lot can change in three years). Fast-forward to present day and seven years have passed since Gabe Gordon first opened his Seal Beach location.

Yesterday, December 17, Beachwood started their week long commemoration of their 7th Anniversary by introducing Beachwood Seven Double IPA, a double IPA made with seven varieties of hops (Warrior, Citra, Amarillo, Nelson Sauvin, El Dorado, Galaxy, and Mosaic); one for each year they have been in business. They offered Beachwood Seven in bottles and on tap; but as expected, the bottles sold out within hours. I would highly advise heading to one of their two locations to try it on tap; it is delicious. If you are in the neighborhood, the Seal Beach location is celebrating Beachwood BBQ’s Anniversary Week, December 17-22, with a great line up of seasonal winter beers and food specials. Throughout the week, in addition to their standard food menu there are food specials such as Oysters Rockefeller, Crusted King Crab Legs and a special Dessert Sampler. Continue reading

Photos from Sophie’s Movember Social

In 2003, Travis Garone and Luke Slattery from Melbourne Australia were having a beer, discussing fashion trends and mustaches. Apparently, in Australia they were few and far between and Travis and Luke decided they were going to bring it back in fashion, at least for the month of November. Inspired by a friend’s mother who was fundraising for breast cancer, they decided to start a campaign about men’s health and prostate cancer. They got 30 friends to join them in growing mustaches for the month of November, and Movember was born. Unfortunately, they raised no funds that first year but a tradition was born. 10 years later, 4 million people around the world were participating in the Movember movement and more than $433,649,258 has been raised since 2003.

Sophie’s Place, a gastropub in the Riviera Village section of Redondo Beach has been participating in Movember for the past few years (as long as I have known them anyway) with the owners and employees participating in the fundraising effort with their Movember Team “Sophie’s Stache’s.” Wednesday evening they held their annual Sophie’s Movember Social. The evening had drink specials and donations to “Sophie’s Stache’s” were accepted. It was a fun night for a good cause.

Sophie’s Place is located at 1708 S. Catalina in Redondo Beach. Cheers! Continue reading

BeerFest for BeerGeeks at Stout Burgers & Beer

Sunday afternoon November 4, Stout Burgers & Beer gastropub held their second BeerFest for BeerGeeks at their Studio City location. This beer festival was truly one for beer geeks and aficionados as Stout gathered about 20 different craft breweries from around the country and even a couple from Europe; each featuring barrel aged, sours or unique one-offs. There were about 38 different brews available to attendees. Due to constraints imposed by the city, only 200 tickets were available which meant that lines were non-existent and there were no concerns of running out of great beer. The timing of the event meant that some people had to choose between San Diego Beer Week (SDBW) and Stout’s BeerFest for BeerGeeks but SDBW goes on for 10 days and this beer festival was only a few hours long, so it was not a tough decision for me. A look at the beers available proves that the event at Stout easily compared with most events you will find in San Diego.

A few of the brews made available included Weizen Bam Bière by Jolly Pumpkin, A Hoppy Lovin’ Christmas by Mikkeller, Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale aged In Red Wine Barrels, Total Crystalation by Ninkasi Brewing Company and White Pomeranian (White Dog W/ Pomegranate) by El Segundo Brewing Company. I could go on but suffice it to say, there was something for every palate no matter how advanced and a few that a beer newbie could easily enjoy; like American Dark Lager by Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company. Breweries represented included Almanac Beer Company, Ninkasi Brewing Company, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Shipyard Brewing Company, Anderson Valley Brewing Company, Hangar 24 Craft Brewery, New Belgium Brewing, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, Drake’s Brewing Company, Mikkeller, Stone Brewing Company, Allagash Brewing Company, Phantom Carriage, Rodenbach Brewery, Boon Brewery, El Segundo Brewing Company, Valiant Brewing Company and Wolf Creek Brewery.

In addition to the fine beers, Stout Burgers & Beer provided some tasty treats free for attendees and their restaurant was open if you desired a little more than snacks. After speaking with organizers Joey and Jimmy it was evident that they are doing this for the love of the beer and to give craft beer more exposure. An event like this would have to charge $100 per person to come close to being a profitable venture so from one beer geek to another; if you see me post about another of these events, you might want to take a closer look. This was a great time for everyone that attended. Cheers! Continue reading

National Taco Day & craft beer in the South Bay

If you did not know that October 4 is National Taco Day, do not feel like the Lone Ranger; it seems that this is a rather well-kept secret. The fact of the matter is I did not know it was National Taco Day until almost noon when I saw it float by on my Facebook feed. I decided that since it seems every gastropub and sports bar in Los Angeles County has a Taco Tuesday, I would see what they had to offer for National Taco Day. I put out the question, “where can I get good tacos and craft beer” on Facebook and was given several suggestions. The problem was that a majority of the suggested locations did not see the value of having a website that provided a menu of their food or available beers. Since I was not about to drive 25-40 miles each way on a maybe, I decided that I would stay local.

One of the suggestions I got was Hot’s Kitchen, a gastropub in Hermosa Beach. Hot’s has a very good tap list with 56 craft brews available on tap at any one time. They have an extensive list of tacos but had no idea it was National Taco Day; we did not let that stop us. The initial intent of this journey was to visit three locations and split a couple tacos at each location. After splitting a Thai and Lamb Taco between the two of us at Hot’s Kitchen, we both had serious reservations about whether or not we could eat two tacos at the remaining locations. The tacos and beer (Anchor California Lager and Duvel) were great; they had a fly issue that took away from the experience. One of the problems of the beach I guess.

Since we were in the neighborhood and I was aware that they had a Taco Tuesday, we headed over to Game Changers sports bar. Game Changers has 54 beers on tap, so it is usually pretty easy to find something you might like; I went with a Levitation Ale. I forgot that they changed up their food menu and many of the tacos had shellfish which my girl, Tanya, can’t eat, so we were kind of limited on the choices. We went with a Buzzer Beater which was huge; tasty, but huge. We were going to have issues trying to have another taco at our third destination. Continue reading

LA Beer Week visit to Library Alehouse & San Pedro Brewing Company

I have some friends that just flew into LA from Paris, France to begin a road trip around the southwest; as they are fans of Craft Beer Guy and LA Beer Week (LABW5) is still going on they expressed a desire to go somewhere that served craft beer. Since they were staying in Santa Monica and I am not all that familiar with the gastropubs in the area, I put out a request for suggestions on my Facebook page; one of the suggestions was Library Alehouse, located at 2911 Main Street in Santa Monica.

The Library Alehouse looks pretty small from out front, but they have a pretty spacious patio in the back; if you have a party of more than two, that is probably the direction you want to head. They have a pretty respectable tap list and they do offer flights of four for $10; well, it is theoretically $10, but you have to be careful about the beers you choose as they can easily hit the $15 range. Our French guests both had the bison burger and really enjoyed it; we had the All-American and it was okay. It’s a burger, what can I say. I don’t spend a lot of time in Santa Monica, but I would not hesitate returning or recommending it to someone that wanted a good craft beer.

Since it was Friday and I had visited two of LA’s gold medal breweries the day before, I decided that I would head over to San Pedro and visit another award winning brewery, San Pedro Brewing Company (SPBC). SPBC is a brewpub nestled on 6th Street in San Pedro that has been in business since 1999. Back then there were a lot of “Brewcos” in the area with Manhattan Beach Brewing Company, Redondo Beach Brewing Company and San Pedro Brewing Company as just three of our local examples. It seems that most of them that opened back then either threw in the towel as far as brewing was concerned and became gastropubs, or they settled into a comfort zone and kept producing the same beers using the same recipes for years and years. SPBC is different in that they kept changing it up, being innovative and experimental, and the list of awards they have won under head brewer Jason Welke since they brought him on in 2006 shows that this is working for them. Continue reading

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