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American Craft Beer Week, Day 3: Visits to the new guys

Wednesday was day three of the 9th Annual American Craft Beer Week and in keeping with my theme of visiting our local production breweries, brewpubs and gastropubs I decided that I would visit the two new tasting rooms that were not even in their construction phase last year at this time. Our first stop was at Absolution Brewing Company in Torrance.

Absolution Brewing opened their doors unofficially on March 1 with the official ribbon cutting taking place on April 25. Unlike most of the production breweries around here, Absolution brews in a more European style which really translates to lower carbonation. Some people that are only accustomed to “west coast” styles of craft beer like to suggest that the beer may be flat. If they ventured out of their comfort zone they would realize this is not the case at all. I have to think that Absolution Brewing has become very welcome as they are the one tasting room I visit that seems to constantly have a large number of customers. In the short time I was there they must have sold five kegs to go! I know some people complain that Absolution ran out of too many from their selection of 10 brews on the unofficial open but they do not realize that this was due primarily to Daily Breeze writer Nick Green being unable to stick to the facts and writing an article that appeared on the front page of the Breeze announcing that Absolution was opening two hours earlier than what it should have been. This resulted in a long line of people at the Absolution doors two and a half hours early. Naturally, they opened the doors and many brews were tapped out within minutes of when the actual opening time was supposed to be. I don’t know that the Absolution team realized just how popular their beers were going to be.

For American Craft Beer Week Absolution will begin phase two of their MUG Club, R U Feelin’ Wicked division. I joined the initial Founders division of the MUG Club and I have spoken with several other MUG Club members and I have yet to meet anyone that regretted their decision. The merchandise received, including t-shirts and a custom growler, combined with discounts and special events makes this a steal. You should stop by and sign up before they all sell out as there is a limit of 125 memberships. Absolution Brewing Company is located at 2878 Columbia Street in Torrance. Continue reading

American Craft Beer Week 2014, Day 2: It was an IPA kind of day

Tuesday was day two of the 9th Annual American Craft Beer Week and I really wanted an IPA. For those not in the know, we have been enduring a pretty bad heat wave and a couple cold beers were just what the doctor ordered. An IPA and some air conditioning would be even better. I decided to start off by heading to Long Beach for a visit to the Great American Beer Festival’s 2013 Mid-Size Brewpub of the Year, Beachwood BBQ & Brewing.

While Long Beach sounds like it would be cool, it was actually 105 degrees which was 10 more than home so the beer and air conditioning were quite welcome. When it comes to IPA’s, most locals would have to admit that it is pretty tough to beat the superb options provided by award winning head brewer Julian Shrago. Like I usually do, I opted for a flight consisting of three IPAs, Laurel, Pole Position and The Falcon which are all three fine examples of the West Coast IPA style. I finished the flight off with their Onyx Imperial Stout. In addition to their own fine brews and good food, Beachwood has a pretty amazing guest tap list. This just shows the confidence they have in their own beers. I decided to try the San Clemente IPA (Artifex Collaboration) from Pizza Port San Clemente and it was great. While Beachwood is not having any planned American Craft Beer Week events (because every week is American Craft Beer Week there) they were have a special bottle release for their Jean-Quad Van Damme Bourbon Barrel Aged Belgian-Style Dark Ale that was to be held Tuesday evening. They only bottled 100 so there was a limit of one bottle per customer. While 100 bottles would not usually last very long, Beachwood only announced it on the Instagram account and I mentioned it last night on the Craft Beer Guy Facebook page so there was limited exposure. I just called and there are still some bottles left so head over and grab one; or bring a friend and grab two. Be sure to tell them Craft Beer Guy sent you. Continue reading

The Dudes’ Brewing Company approved for tasting room

Toby & Jeff The Dudes'

The Dudes’

The Dudes’ Brewing Company, the only Torrance production brewery that does not have a tasting room, is one step closer to realizing the dream of many of the South Bay’s craft beer fans. Last night, Head Dude Toby Humes and head brewer Jeff Parker appeared at the Torrance Planning Commission to be heard on CUP14-00006, Planning Commission consideration for approval of a Conditional Use Permit to allow a tasting room in association with a brewery operation on property located at 1840 208th Street in Torrance. After Humes answered a few questions from the commission audience members were given an opportunity to give their opinion (yes, I read a prepared statement in support). Afterwards, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the request.

There were a couple conditions that need to be met before The Dudes’ can actually open the tasting room, but Humes seemed confident that they should be open by July at the latest. I think the commission might know how long we have been waiting as the permit is only good for one year; so it looks like Torrance will soon have another tasting room in our midst. Congrats to The Dudes’ Brewing Company and cheers!

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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Photos of the Absolution Brewing Company Ribbon Cutting

On Friday afternoon Torrance’s newest production craft brewery, Absolution Brewing Company (ABC), held their official grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The ribbon cutting was attended by Mayor Frank Scotto and several members of the Torrance City Council as well as the Torrance Chamber of Commerce and assorted other officials. After the ribbon cutting and presentations the beer flowed with the addition of three new brews to the extensive Absolution Brewing tap list with their Holy Cow milk stout, Wanderin’ Possessed Easter Candy English porter and their Cloistered red ale. The Creative Eats food truck was on-hand with a special menu that was paired with the various ABC brews.

As you can tell from the photos, it was a very well attended event. In fact, I left after an hour or so and came back a couple hours later to what seemed to be an even larger group than before. It is probably safe to say that Absolution Brewing Company is a very welcome addition to the local craft beer scene. Absolution Brewing Company is located at 2878 Columbia Street in Torrance. Cheers! Continue reading

Photos from the Pac City Brewery ribbon cutting

Tuesday afternoon I took advantage of the great Earth Day weather and rode out to the Los Angeles suburb of Pacoima to attend the ribbon cutting and soft opening of Pacoima’s first production brewery, Pac City Brewery. Pac City Brewery is a three (3) barrel microbrewery that will not have a tasting room in the foreseeable future but plans on working closely with local eateries and drinking holes to ensure their beers are readily available to those seeking it out. While they cannot have a tasting room, they will be able to hold events that include their beers on the spacious property that their brewery is located on.

The Pac City Brewing team is made up of CEO and head brewer Robert Cortez, Miguel Duran, Fernando Palacios and Robert’s brother Art Cortez. The ribbon cutting was attended by several friends and family members as well as the LA City Council, the Chamber of Commerce, LAPD and several representatives of the local craft beer scene.

After a short speech the ribbon was cut and guests were invited in to sample four of their brews, their Caramel IPA, Not so Amber Ale, Toasted Oat American Wheat Ale and their Chocolate Raspberry Coconut Porter. They also offered ginger ale and tea that are brewed on-site as well as pizza and sandwiches. Judging by the smiles, everyone had a good time. I will be sure to let you know when I hear about any special events that are open to the public. Pac City Brewing is located at 12780 Pierce Street, Unit #5 in Pacoima. Congratulations and good luck to Robert and all the team. Cheers! Continue reading

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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Temecula: It isn’t just about the wine any more

While it may not be as well-known as the Napa-Sonoma wine region of California, the Temecula Valley area of the Inland Empire has at least 35 wineries and has gained considerable respectability with the wines they provide. Like Napa-Sonoma has exploded with craft breweries, the same can be said for Temecula and the Inland Empire; even if not to the same extent. This past weekend I headed out to Temecula and spent a little time checking out the craft breweries that have popped up since my last visit in 2012.

Wiens Brewing Company, as it turns out, opened a couple weeks before I did my 2012 brewery tour. My son lives in the area and he told me about a special anniversary ale that he had heard great things about. Unfortunately, by the time we got there it was all gone. I guess that is to be expected with a limited release. If the Wiens name sounds familiar, it could be because they also own Wiens Family Cellars, a Temecula Valley winery. Wiens had about 11 different beers on tap so we opted for a flight to do a major sampling. At $1.00 each for their flagship beers, it was a great deal. We sampled their Front Street Lager (nice maltiness), Far Post brown ale, Stout, Red Ale, Millennium Falconers IPA, Type 3 IPA (probably my favorite), Insomnia IPA and Descend Black IPA. For dessert we tried their Niflheim Russian Imperial Stout. All the beers were solid brews with the IPAs being my favorite. They offer a few other big beers so I am going to have to plan an overnight trip to Temecula so I can walk back to my hotel after experimenting more. Wiens does bottle many of their beers, so we did pick up one or two to try at home. Wiens Brewing Company is located at 27941 Diaz Road in Temecula.

When we were driving to Wiens some of the street names sounded familiar so I knew we had to be close to Black Market Brewing Company, which we had visited in late 2012. While we were looking for places we had never visited before we had such a good time the first time we were there I was okay with making a return visit. Besides, after a year and a half there had to be some brews we had not tried yet. Black Market Brewing is in a word, huge; they also appear to have a nice barrel aging program. The first time we visited them we had a room at the La Quinta across the street so we were able to take advantage by getting each of the 10 beers they had on tap. By take advantage I mean, they were giving six ounce pours for $1.00 so I could order one of each. This time I was driving, so we limited ourselves to a flight of four; Espionage on Nitro, Rotating IPA, Quadrophenia and Embargo. In my opinion, their big beers really show off Black Market’s brewing skills. Luckily, they bottle and can so we bought a couple bottles to bring home for later. Black Market Brewing Company is located at 41740 Enterprise Circle North in Temecula. Continue reading

Walowski retains title at Smog City Battle of the Cask – Part 2

Saturday afternoon, Torrance production brewery Smog City Brewing held their second Battle of the Cask at their tasting room. Initially the competition was to be between the six Smog City employees, with each of them making their own little tweaks to the Amarilla Gorilla IPA that all used as the base for their cask recipes. As sometimes happens during fermentation, a couple of the casks “exploded” so they had to be disqualified. Luckily, they were able to put them on tap so we could at least try them. They were both amazing.

Anyway, we had five casks to sample and I have to say, this was a really tough decision and that was reflected in the final tally which was a mere five votes between the first and second place choices. Assistant brewer Chris Walowski, who won the Battle of the Casks in December, wowed the crowd again Saturday with his recipe consisting of Merlot Concentrate, Mosaic and Simcoe hops; narrowly edging out Smog City Brewing co-owner, Laurie Porter’s Mango and Muscat Oolong Tea, Peach Puree and Simcoe hops recipe. This made Walowski the undefeated holder of the coveted Budweiser Belt. All the entries were very good and I look forward to the third Battle of the Cask.

By the way, Smog City Brewing Company will be holding their first anniversary party on Saturday, May 17 from 12:00 PM – 8:00 PM. They will be releasing another new beer and they will have their first bottle release. You know there will be more surprises as the date draws closer, but you should probably mark it on your calendars. Cheers! Continue reading

The Birth of Absolution Brewing Company, Torrance

I guess it was sometime in August or September that I was enjoying a beer at Smog City Brewing Company when I was approached by Wes McCann; “I was told I should introduce myself to you” was his opening comment. McCann was a partner and the head brewer for the soon to be Absolution Brewing Company, the latest production craft brewery to open in Torrance. Unfortunately, he did not have any business cards with him and it took me a while to remember the word “absolution” but eventually I was able figure it out and I worked my way over to the location that the brewery and tasting room were to be constructed. It was not long before I met and befriended the other co-owners, Nigel Heath and Steve Farguson.

As you may notice from the photos, the construction was a series of one step forward and two steps back as they discovered things like the floor not being suitable to support the weight of the brewing equipment they hope to eventually grow into. In fact, the building dwarfs the current fermenting tanks; it only takes a brief glance to see that Absolution Brewing Company has plenty of room for growth. Judging by the turnouts at the MUG Club soft open and their official opening on Saturday it will not be long before they grow out of their current system. Cheers! Continue reading

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