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Lots Brewing in the Pomona Valley

Two weeks ago I was out in Covina visiting REV Brewing and Alosta Brewing companies and during my conversations with the owners of both breweries a common thought was made; there is no love shown for the breweries on the east side of town. What they were talking about was not about acceptance by the local community, but rather they did not see things like stories about their breweries and the beers tours that have become so prevalent on the west side of Los Angeles County never come out there. As I pressed for more information a couple breweries I was unfamiliar with were mentioned at both locations; Rök House Brewing Company and Dale Bros. Brewery, both located in Upland. Since Claremont Craft Ales was in the vicinity and I had not been there in over 18 months, I decided to stop by there as well. I had an event to photograph in Irwindale on Sunday evening so I decided to head out to the Pomona Valley early and make a day of it.

You should not feel too bad if you are unfamiliar with Rok House Brewery as they have only been open for six or seven months. Brewing with a 6 Bbl brew house, Rok House offered 10 different options from their taps ranging from their Kiska Blond Kölsch and Battle’s End Orange Wit to their Eric the Red Ale and Midnight Sun Black IPA with a couple IPAs, porters and brown ales for good measure.

A “Rök House” was the stone structures that Vikings brewed their beers in and co-owner/brewmeister Lars Bennett has Norse heritage so together with co-owner/brewmeister Mark Heffernan they took on the Icelandic/Norse/Viking theme in both decor and names for their tasty brews. Continue reading

The 2014 Craft Beer Guy Year in Review

As 2014 winds down I faced the question posed to me by a few people; “Will Craft Beer Guy be writing an article about the year?” Initially I thought I would do a Top 10 list and just discuss the Top 10 breweries and brewpubs in the South Bay. I figured it would be easy because there were only 10 craft brewers here, but in the last month so many new locations have opened that we now have 12 if you count Phantom Carriage that has not “officially” opened yet. The South Bay now has the following breweries and brewpubs in its confines; in order of seniority (I think) they are: Red Car Brewery, San Pedro Brewing Company, Strand Brewing Company, El Segundo Brewing Company, Monkish Brewing Company, The Brewery at Abigaile, Smog City Brewing, The Dudes’ Brewing Company, Absolution Brewing Company, King Harbor Brewing Company, Three Weavers Brewing and Phantom Carriage. 2015 should bring us a few more including Hop Saint, Brouwerij West and Port Town Brewing; and those are just the ones that come to mind. There will also be some moves and expansions among those listed above. With that I now present you The 2014 Craft Beer Guy Year in Review.

January 2014

Noble flight

Noble Ale Works Flight

As I look through my articles from January I see that it was a pretty mellow month or the calm before the storm if you prefer. I would have to say my personal highlight of the month was a Sunday afternoon that we spent visiting several of the Orange County craft brewery tasting rooms and brewpubs. The day included stops at Bootlegger’s Brewery, Taps Fish House & Brewery, Noble Ale Works, Tustin Brewing Company and Brewbakers. Each of these stops were first time visits and I would not have a problem recommending any of them. The thing is, in the past year Orange County has opened so many new tasting rooms and brewpubs that it is getting tough to try and keep up with them all; but I will try. Continue reading

Wanderin’ Star Bottle Release at Absolution Brewing

On Sunday evening, members of Absolution Brewing Company’s MUG Club were invited to Absolution’s first bottle release; the Wanderin’ Star Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Porter. Muggers were treated to pours of the newly released brew along with various snacks and sweets to snack on as they enjoyed their beers.

The limited release Wanderin’ Star Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Porter comes in individually numbered 750ml champagne bottles and are available at the Absolution tasting room for $18.00 each. They also have gift packages that include Absolution Brewing Company glassware for $30.00 at the tasting room. You can reserve yours by emailing nigel@absolutionbrewingcompany.com. This would make a nice Christmas gift for the beer geek in your family.

While at Absolution you might ask them about their ABC MUG Club; an exclusive membership for fans of Absolution Brewing Company and comes with many perks, including discounts and invitations to private parties like this bottle release. It really is a great deal and would make a wonderful Christmas present. Cheers! Continue reading

Photos from Crude, Cocoa and Donuts at El Segundo Brewing Company

On Sunday afternoon, El Segundo Brewing Company held their Crude, Cocoa and Donuts Christmas Party along with their Second Annual Ugly Sweater Contest. The event was held in conjunctions with the El Segundo Main Street Christmas Parade, which took place right outside the door to the tasting room.

Crude, Cocoa and Donuts featured the return of Bourbon Barrel-Aged Standard Crude, as well as Standard Crude on Cask along with all the other wonderful brews currently on the El Segundo Brewing Company tap list. For the kids there was free cocoa along with cinnamon and sugar donuts. Rumor has it that these paired well with the Standard Crude; I would not doubt it.

The Ugly Sweater Contest first place winners Matthew McIvor and Jennalee Infanto won a penny growler fill for every month of 2015, a set of glassware and an ESBC shirt and hat. Second place winner Z Dewart won a penny pint for every week of 2015. I took third place winning a tour and tasting for four; stay tuned on this as I will come up with a contest to share this prize with people that have installed the Craft Beer Guy mobile app or follow the Craft Beer Guy Facebook page. Cheers! Continue reading

A visit to REV Brewing and Alosta Brewing Company – Covina

On Saturday I had a couple of events to photograph out in Irwindale so I decided to use the opportunity to visit two new craft breweries in neighboring Covina; REV Brewing Company and Alosta Brewing Company.

Our first stop was REV Brewing Company, a production brewery that opened the doors to their tasting room a week ago. REV Brewing is a craft brewery that grew from their original REV Winery, so this tasting room offers beer and wine and provides lots of wine barrels that will be used later in the brewery’s upcoming barrel program.

REV’s Brew Master is Erick “Riggz” Villar, a home brewer for 10 years and most recently was the head brewer at Ohana Brewing Company. Since Riggz is an old friend of wine maker and owner Eddie Romero it did not take much for Riggz to come on board with REV Brewing. Continue reading

A Visit to Three Weavers Brewing Company

On Sunday afternoon I finally made it out to Inglewood to visit the South Bay area’s newest craft production brewery; Three Weavers Brewing Company. Located on Manchester Boulevard, just around the corner from world famous landmark, Randy’s Donuts, the location may be a little difficult to locate but the U-turn will be worth it if you happen to miss their driveway the first time you go there. While this may be the newest production brewery in the area, a visit to their tasting room makes it abundantly clear that they are here for the long run.

Having watched a few new breweries build from the ground up, like King Harbor and Absolution Brewing, the size of this operation is on par with some long time operations as far as brewing capability. The five tall tanks are one of the first things you will notice when you walk in and they are impressive on their own but a stroll around the corner of the brewhouse reveals a huge cold box. My initial thought was that you could probably fit every cold box in the South Bay into the Three Weavers box and still have room for beer. I had an opportunity to chat with Three Weavers head brewer, Alexandra Nowell, and she informed me that it is 1,000 square feet (bigger than my first home) with plans to add a 3,000 square foot cold box in the near future. As Nowell put it, if you are going to brew a lot of beer you need somewhere to put it. It is pretty obvious that they plan on brewing a lot of beer and have already begun bottling some, including their collaboration with Noble Ale Works, The Messenger IPA. Continue reading

Movember Shave-Off at The Dudes’ Brewing Company

As most of you are probably aware, the month of November has been designated by The Movember Foundation as Movember; the month for raising funds for and awareness of mens health issues, specifically prostate and testicular cancer. As part of the month-long campaign, men around the world were encouraged to grow a mustache for the month. I participated in this fundraiser in 2010 but my mustache grows so slow that I have decided to just keep it and participate in the fundraising efforts via other avenues. Local craft brewery, The Dudes’ Brewing Company, participated by holding a Movember Celebration and Shave-Off over this past weekend.

Over the course of the weekend they donated $1.00 from every Double Trunk DIPA sold in the tasting room to the Movember Foundation. On Saturday they had raffles throughout the day and a Best Mustache Contest with the first place prize being a $100 gift certificate, second place receiving a case of The Dudes’ brew and the third place winner receiving a growler and fill. I am afraid I missed Saturday’s festivities so I cannot tell you who won that contest. Continue reading

Small Business Saturday and Craft Beer

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

Bourbon County Black Friday Release at Bar 225

These photos are from the 2014 Bourbon County Black Friday release which was held at Bar 225 which is inside Whole Foods Venice. This is the second year that Goose Island’s annual event included the Los Angeles area market, which is most likely a direct result of the 2011 purchase of Goose Island by Anheuser-Busch InBev back in 2011. While the Brewers Association immediately downgraded Goose Island from being considered craft due to this change of ownership, I have yet to meet more than a handful of people that have turned their noses at their Bourbon County Brand Stout (BCBS). In my personal opinion, the merger has not changed much except now BCBS is now available locally.

When I was approached to cover the event, I immediately accepted for several reasons. I guess the most obvious was that I can always use the work, followed closely by the fact that I now knew I would be able to score some of the latest release without having to drive around town trying to find someone that still had it in stock. Apparently no one was supposed to sell it before Black Friday but rumor has it some locations were selling [out of] their stock on the day before Thanksgiving. The third reason was that it seems that over the past year or two I have met several people in the craft beer industry that included Whole Foods Venice on their resume. I have come to realize that not all Whole Foods are created equal so I looked forward to seeing what the Venice location had to offer with their Bar 225.

I had forgotten who it was that told me they had worked at Whole Foods Venice and was pleasantly surprised that one of them was Drew Murphy, the manager of Bar 225, whom I had done some work for back in February. Goose Island Brand Ambassador Raul Moran was there assisting in pouring flights consisting of several high octane brews carrying the Goose Island name for those that were there for more than the purchase of whatever Bourbon County brews they could get their hands on. Continue reading

Darkstar November Release at Bottle Logic

About two and a half weeks ago I was at the Shelton Brother’s Festival 2014 at the Port of Los Angeles. While I was wandering around trying beers from breweries I had never heard of, my fiancee was bouncing around between a few we were familiar with that had brought bourbon barrel-aged beers (her favorite style) with them. She had a pretty nice selection available to her with Firestone’s Parabola, Beachwood’s Sadie and Faction Brewing’s Nyx-goddess of the Night; heck, The Bruery even brought out some Black Tuesday. She would bring me a sample of each and they were all very good, but I remember when she brought me one in particular from Bottle Logic; it was outstanding. So much so that I went to their booth to find out what it was called; Darkstar November. I told them straight out; “You need to bottle this stuff.” I was happy to hear that this plan was already in motion and I made a mental note to reserve a day towards the end of the month. That day was today.

Bottle Logic Brewing is a production brewery with a tasting room out in Anaheim, which is a little more than 30 miles from us. Since their release did not begin until 4:00 PM and it was the day before Thanksgiving, I knew that the drive could be a bit of a hassle. We have only visited Bottle Logic once before, back in August, and there was a decent but not excessive amount of people there. I was not really sure what kind of crowd they might have there at 4:00 PM on a workday. When we were turning off La Palma onto Armando it became pretty evident that they were having a good showing. To be honest, as we drove around trying to find a parking spot we weighed the option of going elsewhere first, then coming back after the crowd died down. I knew only 3,000 bottles were available and there was a four bottle limit so I did the math and decided we had better stick it out. Continue reading

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