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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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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

Absolution Brewing Company MUG Club Private Launch Party

Friday evening, Torrance’s newest production craft brewery, Absolution Brewing Company, held a private launch party for members of their ABC MUG Club. The MUG Club is an exclusive membership for fans of Absolution Brewing Company that has many perks, one of which was being invited to last night’s launch party. They had a very nice turnout with about 75-100 people showing up. MUG Club members received Absolution Brewing Company t-shirts, caps and custom stainless steel growlers; and beer, lots of good beer.

The craft beers offered included their Tribulation Cream Ale with both the house yeast and an experimental; Sinner Stout, Wanderin’ Possessed Porter; Cardinal Sin Red Ale, again with both the house yeast and an experimental; and Angel’s Demise IPA with both the house yeast and an experimental yeast. In addition to the beers there was Forbidden Cider, Sweet Reformation Dry Strawberry Mead as well as their Redeemer Root Beer and Confession Cream Soda. For a launch party they really had a lot to offer and I think it is pretty obvious that Absolution Brewing Company is going to be a great addition to the South Bay craft beer scene.

While membership to the ABC MUG Club is limited to 125 the first year, there are still some openings left. As a member of the ABC MUG Club you will get to experience all of Absolution’s new beers before they are released to the general public and you will be invited to their exclusive MUG events and cask nights. In addition to the above you will receive an Absolution Brewing Company t-shirt, cap and a custom 64 ounce growler with a free first fill. Members also receive $1.00 off every full pour at the tasting room as well as $1.00 off every subsequent growler fill and receive 20% off any additional ABC gear purchased. You can find all the details on the Absolution Brewing Company website or by calling them at (310) 490-4860. If last night was any indication of things to come I think it is safe to say this is going to be a great investment. Cheers! Continue reading

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