Saturday was an afternoon of great beer and stunning upsets as Smog City Brewing held their Battle of the Casks, Part 3. The concept was started back in December, 2013 with Battle of the Casks, a friendly competition began which featured five beers on cask, each using Smog City’s Bloody Knuckle Porter as the base beer the five Smog City team members; Jonathan and Laurie Porter, Chris Walowski, Mike Freeman and Ryan Trousdale each created their own tweaks. It was a tight competition with Walowski’s Raspberry Chocolate Sticks Porter Cask getting the most votes; thus entitling him to the coveted Budweiser Belt and bragging rights.
Fast forward four months to April 2014 and the Battle of the Casks, Part 2. In four months Smog City Brewing had grown; plus when there is a champion in town, more people want to take a shot at the title. There were supposed to be six contestants but a couple of casks had technical difficulties and had to be disqualified. This time Amarilla Gorilla IPA was used as the base beer and the result was the same, Walowski wowed the crowd again with his recipe consisting of Merlot Concentrate, Mosaic and Simcoe hops. To be honest, he was looking invincible … until Saturday afternoon. Continue reading
On Saturday afternoon we headed out to Alhambra to attend the 38 Degrees Ale House & Grill’s 5th Anniversary Celebration. Unfortunately, Caltrans decided they were going to close several lanes of the 710 freeway turning what should have been a 30 minute drive into an hour-long battle. As we finally turned down Main Street and approached 38 Degrees we immediately noticed that they had a very long line of people waiting to get in. To be honest, I was not ready to stand in any line; I wanted a beer. Luckily for us, Ohana Brewing Company had opened their tasting room a few months ago and they are literally around the corner from 38 Degrees so they became our first stop.
I had an opportunity to visit the Ohana Brewing tasting room back in January shortly after they had been granted their Conditional Use Permit and it was pretty much just a storefront with dreams of what the future would bring. Yesterday, we discovered six taps of Ohana brews, displays featuring their glassware, growlers, shirts and snacks and several customers lined up at the counter trying flights and filling growlers. We ordered up a flight consisting of their Pacific Ale, Hollenbeck Amber Ale, Saison Kau Wela, #Hashtag Hops IPA, Spawater Saison, Surf Shack Saison and Acorn Ambition. All the beers were solid brews; I really enjoyed the Surf Shack Saison which is a very good entry level sour. Owner Andrew Luthi informed me that they have a Double IPA getting ready to be released and after trying the #Hashtag Hops I look forward to trying it. The Ohana Brewing Company tasting room is located at 7 S. 1st Street in Alhambra. Continue reading
I was invited to attend an event on Saturday featuring an Angry Horse Brewing tasting party for supporters of their Indiegogo campaign which was immediately followed by a birthday party for Angry Horse co-owner and head brewer Luis “Angry Lou” Michel. Before heading out to Montebello for the party I decided to read over their Indiegogo page again and noticed that they spoke of being inspired by the recent opening of Progress Brewing in a neighboring city. Since I was unfamiliar with Progress Brewing I decided to Google them and find out where they were in relation to the Angry Horse event. When I saw that they were only about five miles away from each other it was decided that we would stop by Progress Brewing in South El Monte before going to Montebello.
I will admit that after visiting the Progress Brewing website I was not really sure what to expect; I read a couple articles that seemed to emphasize the fact that Progress was in a Latino neighborhood, the brewer was Latino and they were the first microbrewery in South El Monte which was 85% Latino. When we first pulled up to Progress Brewing the Latino influence was readily apparent from the building design and the painted advertising on the walls. If I had not been looking for a brewery I would have thought it was a neighborhood carniceria. When I walked inside the motif continued to remind me of some cantinas I have visited in Baja with its bare walls, bench seating and tile floors. What really surprised me was their tap list and the pricing.
I started talking with co-owner Kevin Ogilby and discovered that Progress Brewing has only been open for about 10 months. I was immediately impressed because their tap list offered 10 different brews ranging from their Blonde Kölsch and Gold Rush Witbier to a really nice Porter and Fat Henry Russian Imperial Stout. In fact, at one point Tanya (my fiancee) mentioned that they had everything but a sour or barrel-aged option. When Ogilby asked our thoughts about their brews I mentioned Tanya’s observation and he said they were preparing a barrel-aged anniversary brew with a sour soon to be available. Continue reading
These photos are of the June 2014 gathering of Business & Beer which was held Thursday evening at El Segundo Brewing Company. Business & Beer is an informal business networking group that was established in July of 2012 and currently meets of the second Thursday of every month at one of the tasting rooms or brewpubs found in the South Bay. This is a very informal group in that unlike other business networking groups there are no dues, no mandatory meetings and no restrictions on the type or number of businesses represented. The attendees cover a wide range of occupations including plumbing, accounting, insurance, web development and more. Frequently there will be members of the craft beer industry joining in, including professional brewers, home brewers and people that help new breweries get started. In a nutshell, everyone is welcome with the common denominator being that everyone enjoys craft beer. One of the advantages of joining the Business & Beer networking group is that you will have an opportunity to visit all the craft breweries the South Bay has to offer.
El Segundo Brewing Company had a full menu of their brews available both on tap and in bottles and everyone was able to find something they liked whether it was a hoppy Two 5 Left DIPA, a malty Station No. 1 red ale or a rich Standard Crude Imperial Stout. El Segundo Brewing Company is located at 140 Main Street in El Segundo. Cheers! Continue reading
Last week I spent a few days in New Orleans photographing a trade show; in my free time I decided to seek out locally brewed craft beers, preferably from New Orleans but anything brewed in Louisiana would do. For those of you familiar with the New Orleans area, I was staying by the New Orleans Convention Center which is about a mile from the French Quarter.
When I first arrived on Wednesday afternoon I met up with a couple of friends and we walked over to Crescent City Brewhouse, a brewpub that is across the street from the Jackson Brewery building. Apparently Jackson Brewery was once one of the largest breweries in the country; I did not make it inside. Crescent City Brewhouse offered five of their beers on tap; a Kölsch (my personal favorite), a pilsner, a Vienna lager, a Dunkel Munich Lager and a hefeweizen. All five were solid beers but there were no IPA’s and hoppiness was pretty much nonexistent; the ABV’s of all five were pretty low. Our server said they all range from 5% to 6% ABV; their Untappd information only lists the ABV of the Kölsch and shows it to be a 4.5%.
I had the Alligator Sausage Poboy sandwich which was pretty good. Since our server gave the impression that he was pretty knowledgeable about everything craft beer related in New Orleans I asked him for suggestions on other breweries or brewpubs in the area that I should visit. In fact, I specifically asked about NOLA Brewing and was told that they were solely a production brewery with no tasting room. I found out later that our server was pretty clueless about the craft beer scene in New Orleans or he intentionally misled me. It was hard to say. Crescent City Brewhouse is located at 527 Decatur Street in New Orleans. It is the only brewpub I found in New Orleans; the prices are fair, the food is okay and I would say that their beers represent the Louisiana style fairly well. They are open seven days a week and do have growlers to go. Continue reading
Day two of our craft beer tour started where we left off, Paso Robles. We knew that Firestone Walker would be a definite stop as the visitor’s center and brewery store would provide brews that we could not obtain at the taproom the previous night. Not wanting to appear too eager, we decided to see what else was available in Paso Robles that was open and new to us. We had places we wanted to revisit, like BarrelHouse Brewing, but no one seemed to open before 2:00 and I did not have that kind of time to spend in Paso that day. Tanya found the Downtown Brewing Company brewpub on her phone, so we headed over there only to discover that they were currently in a transition as far as brewing is concerned. Apparently they were brewing off-site but are preparing to begin brewing there; but that will not happen for another three months. They appeared to have a nice tap list but the same could be said for pretty much any bar I noticed in the area. We said farewell and headed back over to Firestone Walker’s visitor’s center.
While the Paso Taproom Restaurant offers many great options; we really wanted to pick up a few bottles that were not available at the taproom, such as XVII Anniversary, Parabola and Lil Opal. We were also able to sample a couple beers that we did not have time to try the night before. I do not think you can tell just how massive the Firestone Walker operation is after dark. The taproom/restaurant and the visitor’s center is maybe half of the operation. When walking around the facility we discovered several more large buildings including their Keg Shed, a shop for equipment repairs and hidden around the back, their brewery store. The store sells things like hats, shirts and home brewing equipment; it also houses a large cold box that is like the Holy Grail of Firestone Walker. Beers you cannot find elsewhere will be found back here; I highly recommend checking it out. We grabbed a couple bottles of Bretta Rose to bring home. Continue reading
Earlier this week my fiancee and I decided to take an overnight craft beer trip to visit some of the breweries and brewpubs that we missed when we did our tour back in February. The reason was two-fold; one was that I had some reward points from La Quinta Inns that were going to expire and my fiancee has developed an affinity for barrel-aged beers and there were a lot at Firestone Walker that she wanted to sample and purchase. Who am I to deprive her of such deliciousness; after all, happy wife, happy life.
We started off by heading to Solvang Brewing Company, a brewpub located in downtown Solvang. It has been a couple years since I went there but at the time they were just opening and were not yet brewing their own beer. I figured it would be a good stop because we could try some new brews while getting some food at the same time. When we do these craft beer tours we rely a lot on the Internet and there is nothing that irritates me more than to discover that a brewery has ignored the importance of the Internet. Especially since California is a craft beer destination; simple matters like ensuring the correct information is listed on Google Places as well as correct information on their websites. The reason I mention this with Solvang Brewing is that Google Places said they did not open until 5:00 PM whereas the Solvang Brewing website clearly stated that they are open seven days a week from 11:00 AM until 2:00 AM. I was more than a little irritated when we arrived around 1:00 PM to discover that on Wednesdays they do not open until 4:00 PM! It will probably be a while before I give them another chance. Continue reading
Saturday was day six of the 9th Annual American Craft Beer Week and it was also the one year anniversary for Torrance production brewery, Smog City Brewing. To say that Smog City went all out on this event would be an understatement. I mean to say that Smog City’s previous events have always been well done with lots of special beers but their one year of experience combined with the experience gained by hosting large events made this one quite smooth. There were close to 700 attendees throughout the day, but with the use of three separate filling stations the lines seemed to move quickly.
The day started with a VIP session that allowed ticket holders to get a two hour head start on the general public thereby ensuring access to the small batch specials that were made available like Quercus Circus and The Tempest, two brews that tapped out fairly early. I made two visits to Smog City, so the photos begin with the VIP session and then a few hours later when I returned. Downtown Dogs provided a special menu for those that needed some food to soak up all the good beer.
Congratulations to Smog City Brewing on a great year; you are a great addition to the South Bay’s craft beer scene. I cannot wait to see what the next year brings. Speaking of which, one of the things the next year will bring is Smog City Brewing bottled beers. Tentatively scheduled for June 7, Groundwork Coffee Porter and The Nothing will be the first beers to be bottled. The only question is will the labels get there on time? We shall see. Cheers! Continue reading
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
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