Flights Beer Bar


Ninkasi tasting at Library Alehouse

As you have probably noticed; I attend quite a few beer festivals of various sizes. I recently had someone tell me that they like to get a list of the beers that will be there then write down the names of the beers that they will sample. The other day at the Alpine Kraft Bierfest I spoke with attendees that try to find their favorite brews and a few that go out to seek new beers. That is pretty much my game plan. I try to find breweries I have never sampled before; then I concentrate on beers brewed by breweries I have limited experience with, primarily focusing on the beer I have never tried. It was at Taste of Brews in Long Beach last August that I first became aware of Ninkasi Brewing Company and more specifically, their Total Domination IPA.

Ninkasi Brewing Company was established in 2006 in Eugene, Oregon where they began brewing in some space they leased at a local restaurant. By 2007 they had moved to their current location where they continued to expand their production to the point that they now have a 55-barrel brewing system, with the capacity of producing 95,000 barrels per year of Ninkasi goodness. With all that beer in a state the size of Oregon it only made sense that they increased their distribution to include Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.

It was a few weeks after the Taste of Brews that I noticed Ninkasi’s Tricerahops Double IPA while I was doing some beer shopping at Total Wine. I remembered with fondness the taster I had at the beer festival, and I do enjoy a DIPA, so it did not take much convincing for me to grab a bottle; the $4.99 price tag on the 22oz bottle sealed the deal. A couple days later I was back at Total Wine, this time trying their Believer Double Red Ale. It was another very nice beer with an outstanding price tag. I rarely shop by price, but Ninkasi Brewing turns out a quality product and at $5.00 for a 22oz bomber, how can you go wrong? Continue reading

The 2nd Annual Alpine Bierfest: A great success

These photos are from the 2nd Annual Alpine Kraft Bierfest which was held Sunday afternoon in the Alpine Inn at Alpine Village in Torrance, CA. For those of you that attended, thank you very much; for those of you that missed it, you really missed it. I will admit that I took special interest in seeing this event succeed because I went to the first Alpine Kraft Bierfest and I did not want to see a repeat of last year’s dismal attendance. I was aware of the vision Otto Radtke, GM Of the Alpine Village Center, to see his craft beer festival bloom and grow into an internationally recognized beer festival. Last year there may have been 200 attendees; this year there were closer to 500. With growth like that, Radtke’s vision may come to fruition before too long.

An event of this size is rarely going to come off trouble free, but whatever issues were encountered yesterday were relatively minor and everyone seemed to be having a great time. There were about 50 breweries represented with [I am told] 101 different beers to choose from. Probably the most difficult task was tracking down specific beers that I wanted to try because many of the breweries did not send representatives or signage. Luckily, the organizers put together a map to assist attendees locate their favorite brews. Then it was just a matter of figuring out where to start and in what order. One day I am going to sit down and figure out a game plan before the event begins; I have heard of people that tried doing that, although I have yet to meet anyone that was able to stick to their plan.

I would like to congratulate Radtke, Todd Worley and the entire staff of the Alpine Inn for a job well done and I would like to thank all the Craft Beer Guy followers that came up an introduced themselves; I truly do enjoy meeting you. I hope to see all of you next year at the 3rd Annual Alpine Kraft Bierfest. Cheers! Continue reading

New Brew Thursday comes to the South Bay

Saturday afternoon had a few events going on, plus there were last minute preparations for the 2nd Annual Alpine Kraft Bierfest to help out with, primarily making sure everyone knew about Sunday’s event; so I decided to go out and deliver the last of my fliers beginning with Strand Brewing Company. While there I took the opportunity to try out their new Expression Session Pale Ale which made the trip worthwhile on its own. While I was there I was talking to co-owner Rich Marcello and he mentioned that he was heading over to Total Wine & More in Redondo Beach to meet the guys from New Brew Thursday to participate in a podcast to promote the Strand Brewing Company 4th Anniversary party which is coming up on December 7. Since Total Wine is essentially across the street from me and I had to stop by the house to pick up my girlfriend anyway, I decided to head over to Total Wine to watch the podcast being made.

New Brew Thursday is a website run by four beer fans; Stephen Johnson, John Holzer, Matt Becker and Dr. Bill Sysak. In addition to the website, they [obviously] also produce a podcast where they review various craft beers and do some food and beer pairings. They did two podcasts on Saturday, the first being with a couple of Total Wine employees who discussed a new release from Innis & Gunn. When they finished that, Rich was interviewed while they enjoyed several of Strand’s brews; discussing the history of Strand Brewing Company, the boon of the South Bay craft beer scene and of course, the upcoming 4th Anniversary Party that Strand is having December 7, 2013 from 12:00-8:00 PM.

Strand Brewing Company is located at 23520 Telo Avenue, Unit #1 in Torrance; Total Wine is located at 1505 Hawthorne Boulevard in Redondo Beach. Cheers! Continue reading

Business & Beer returns to El Segundo Brewing Company

These photos are from our Business & Beer gathering which was held Thursday evening at El Segundo brewing Company. Business & Beer is a local business networking group in the South Bay that was founded in July 2012 by my girlfriend and me. For the first year we met weekly at a different microbrewery, brewpub or gastropub in the South Bay. In July of 2013 we changed the format from weekly to monthly because the attendance numbers had started to dwindle a little, so now we meet on the second Thursday of the month at a different craft brewery or brewpub in the South Bay. With the recent explosion of breweries around here it will not be long before we have a location for every month. If you find networking to be a valuable part of your business and you enjoy craft beer, you really should check out It is a nice group of people that really do want to meet you.

We would like to thank El Segundo Brewing Company for hosting our event and many thanks to Brett & Travis for keeping their delicious brews flowing. If you have not visited El Segundo Brewing Company in a while, you really should. In addition to the pale ales, IPAs and stouts you are familiar with, head brewer Rob Croxall has included a saison, a lager and a Scotch ale to his ever expanding list of beer styles he is brewing. If you have never been, they are now open seven days a week; you will enjoy it. I suggest getting a flight. El Segundo Brewing Company is located at 140 Main Street in El Segundo, CA. Cheers! Continue reading

Strand Brewers Club November meeting

On the second Wednesday of the month Strand Brewers Club, a local home brewing club, holds their monthly meetings at South Bay Brewing Supply in Torrance. I try to come as frequently as I can as it is a nice group of people that are very enthusiastic about home brewing and are eager to show off their home brewed beers as well as provide information about home brewing to anyone that asks.

Last night was their November meeting which included sampling of many homebrews, a presentation on how to grow your own hops by Nate and the election of new officers to the Strand Brewers Club board. The campaigns for the various offices were fought with minimal mudslinging and a new board was elected. Your new officers will be David, Ryan, Rich, Doug and Bob. It looks like they are in good hands for a while. Rives set the bar high during his term as President and I know the entire group appreciates his efforts.

If you live in the South Bay and do home brewing or are considering it, you should really consider joining Strand Brewers Club. The dues are only $37 a year and includes the camaraderie of other beer brewers who will assist you as much as they can as well as lots of beers to sample and even some sandwiches at their monthly meetings. It is a good deal and a lot of fun. Cheers! Continue reading

A visit to The Bruery

I know there are many that would consider it heresy for a craft beer fan to say this; but when it comes to sours, I have never been a huge fan. Truth be told, I was never much of a fan at any level. The first sour I recall trying was at a bottle share at Sophie’s Place I attended a couple years ago. I took one sip and immediately poured the rest of the taster into the spit bucket. Other attendees looked at me with shock and informed me that I had dumped the most expensive brew at the event. What can I say; obviously my palate was not refined enough to enjoy an expensive sour.

Probably a year later, Smog City Brewing introduced me to their Quercus Circus; I found that to be a very nice entry level sour. I even ventured away from my standard taster pours and ordered a couple full pours. I felt more comfortable with sours and I was going to do my best to develop my palate to the point that I could enjoy them. It wasn’t too much after this that I went back to Sophie’s and the bartender offered me something from a growler he had bought at The Bruery; I discovered that my palate was not quite as developed as I had hoped.

As I attended more beer festivals I started getting a sour or two; some I liked, others not so much. Eventually I got to the point that I got bottles from Three Floyds and Russian River. I could see that I was learning to appreciate sours a little more each time. I even found myself enjoying the pours I got from The Bruery, no longer was it too much for me. 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

Red Car Brewery – the oldest brewpub in Torrance

To those that know me, the following is not exactly earth-shattering news; I am a pretty opinionated guy. That being said, while I may be opinionated, I do try to be open-minded as well; especially when it comes to beer. The fact is that palates evolve and when combined with knowledge a beer I might not have enjoyed a year ago might come across as more enjoyable today. That is what happened on Friday.

Over the weekend my dad celebrated another birthday, so I invited him to lunch at the location of his choice. I knew where he would want to go before I asked; Red Car Brewery, a brewpub in Torrance. I had been to Red Car two times over the years and really did not find either experience particularly memorable. Once was for a fundraiser, which may have just involved my stopping by and donating some cash and then again a couple years ago for another birthday with my dad. I do recall wondering why I was not enjoying any of the beers; I attributed it to an aroma in the air that was messing with my taste buds. While I personally never got into any of their brews I was aware that Red Car Brewery had a very loyal fan base, so there must be something I was missing.

A few weeks ago I was talking to Torrance City Councilman Pat Furey and he told me a little about the history of Red Car and how owner/brewer Bob Brandt had struck a deal with the City of Torrance to build the brewpub at their current location on Torrance Boulevard and Sartori. I do not recall all the details but apparently the city extended a loan to Brandt and he paid it back five years early. It reminded me of when the US implemented tariffs on imported motorcycles to help Harley-Davidson back in the 1980’s and H-D told them they could remove the tariffs about five years earlier than scheduled. This deal between Torrance and Red Car was back in 2000 making Red Car Brewery the oldest brewery in Torrance by a long shot. I knew I was going to have to give them another chance. Continue reading

Homebrewing an Everyday IPA

For some reason a lot of people think that because I enjoy craft beer so much I must also be a home brewer; well, that is not the case. Primarily because when I first got into craft beer it was due to being on the road more than I was home, so I never really considered it. As time progressed to 2013 I knew I would eventually take the step, but it was not a priority and I was doing other things. In July some friends gave me a Brooklyn Brewshop Beer Making Kit. It was decided that I would write an article about the experience as a first time home brewer. Since it was July and they did not build homes with air conditioning around here, I knew I did not want to boil anything in my kitchen for a couple more months. I looked at the box with its five easy steps and figured “How hard can it be?” I would read the instructions a few times, hit up YouTube and breeze right through this. Not exactly. So, this is written from the perspective of a first time home brewer to a first time home brewer. Or should I say, a first time all-grain home brewer.

I might as well address this first; I am not sure that it would change my experience because I had no say in the matter. I am talking about brewing from extract or all-grain. To tell you the truth, people would ask which way I was doing it and I would say it was a kit. I seem to recall they all presumed it was extract; I did not know what the difference was until after I did my first home brew. If you do not know, I will summarize it for you. If you brew from an extract they have essentially made the wort for you and you just add water and boil. Sounds really easy, I could get into that. The other method is all-grain; it is more work but if you know what you are doing you have a lot more control. If your kit came with a bag of fluid, you are brewing from extract; if it comes with a bag of grain you aren’t. So, brewing from extract is fun; brewing from all-grain is almost work, at least for a beginner. For the record, the Everyday IPA is an all-grain mix; it never mentions that fact on the box although it does show you making mash, so they presume you know the difference.

Actually, while my beer is fermenting I have talked to friends that have suggested that Brooklyn Brewshop is presuming a lot of things, which I discovered a little too late in the process, so learn by my mistakes. On the box they do tell you that you are going to need a six quart pot (a second pot is handy), a fine mesh strainer and a funnel. Since all the instructions I have seen hinted that this was “as easy as making oatmeal” and since Tanya, my girlfriend, is pretty handy around the kitchen I was confident that whatever cooking supplies we did not own would not be a problem in obtaining. Continue reading

The Ultimate Beerfest OC – The good, the bad & the ugly

On Saturday October 19, a fundraiser for Villa Chardonnay, a 501(c)(3) non-profit horse rescue operation in Temecula, CA was held at the Costa Mesa Fairgrounds in the form of The Ultimate Beerfest OC. The event was scheduled to have 20+ breweries, food trucks, a beer pong tournament and a Best of Show beer competition voted on by attendees that had VIP tickets. The Ultimate Beerfest OC was one of six scheduled beer festivals put on by the organizers with the others being scheduled for Los Angeles, San Diego, Pasadena, San Francisco and San Jose. The Los Angeles event was originally scheduled as the first but was postponed until 2014 due to logistical issues with the selected venue. When I first learned of the event, the Los Angeles venue was the one I planned on attending. When it was postponed I volunteered to cover the event in Costa Mesa.

The event was scheduled to be held over the course of two sessions; the first beginning at 11:00 AM for VIP entries and noon for general admission and running until 3:00 PM with the second session running from 6:00 – 9:00 PM with VIP getting in an hour early. While the Ultimate Beerfest website specifically stated to “plan on arriving up to one hour early for event check-in” I really did not pay much heed to that suggestion as I have yet to attend a beer festival that had that many people show up; I kind of figured it was wishful thinking. It turned out that this was going to be bigger than I imagined.

As the event was outside, I was able to look in the beer garden as we approached and even though it was about 15 minutes until the VIP admission was to begin it was readily apparent that not all of the breweries had arrived. As I was coming from the opposite direction that the line to get in was forming, I could see that there was a pretty long line forming. I attributed it to the fact that many people were there as general admission and they were arriving an hour early as suggested. After all, VIP admission was $75 and General Admission was $50; it never dawned on me that everyone in line had paid for VIP admission. Continue reading

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