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Total Wine & More

Finding Craft Beer: The Mega Stores

As much as I like to support local business; sometimes it just makes sense to shop at the major chains. This can hold true whether you are buying tires for your car or craft beer for your fridge. My last article about the local bottle shops was an article that I have been planning on writing for several months, but I wanted to give one of the locations a chance to finish some construction first. Initially I was going to compare two independent bottle shops to Total Wine, after I discovered that Costco had a wide selection of craft beer I decided that I would write two articles; the last one about the local independents, and another about the chains that carried craft beer. This article will visit Total Wine & More in Redondo Beach, Costco in Hawthorne and Whole Foods in El Segundo. You should probably know this going in, not all Costco or Whole Foods are created equal; not all locations are as good as those visited for this article.

Of any place I go to buy craft beer, Total Wine in Redondo Beach gets more of my business than probably everywhere else combined. The reasons for this are many, but the main reason is that it is basically across the street. It takes almost as much time to drive and park as it does to walk there. The convenience factor is strong with this one. The second thing is that they carry about 3,000 different varieties of beer and you can purchase individual bottles/cans so experimenting is a piece of cake. Not only do they carry American craft beers but their International beer selection is better than any place I have ever been. Their pricing is usually very good; I have found locally brewed beers being sold for significantly less that it would cost at the tap room it came from.

As a tip, if you visit Total Wine, feel free to walk into the cooler; there are lots of surprises to be found including Pliny and Blind Pig. Most of the time there will be bottle limits, so bring your friends and neighbors. Continue reading

American Craft Beer Week 2014, Day 5: Beers of Summer & Fine Dining

Friday was day five of the 9th Annual American Craft Beer Week and the day consisted of some ups and downs and twists and turns. I started off at the Total Wine in Redondo Beach because my friend Shane Kral, the local face of Firestone Walker, was hosting a Beers of Summer beer tasting. The beers being featured were the 805, Pivo Pils, Opal and Easy Jack. These are all great beers for the hot days we have been experiencing lately, with the Easy Jack being a personal favorite. I heard that Easy Jack has gotten so popular that Firestone Walker has to scale back on it due to a lack of hops. This is terrible news and could mean trouble for us hopheads if the shortage is getting that bad. Anyway, all four are fine beers and I drink them frequently; and Shane is a great guy and I see him frequently but neither of those was the main reason we went there. I had been informed that bottles of Firestone’s Stickee Monkee were going to be made available for purchase before anywhere else. At the last minute the distributor changed their mind; there were several disappointed faces in Total Wine at hearing this news.

As we walked around the store looking for some bottles of beer to buy one of the store employees approached and informed us that there was another beer tasting going on in the back room. We headed over and discovered that Omission Beer and Goose Island were both offering pours. Omission Beer is a new [to me anyway] brewery from Oregon that specializes in gluten free beer. It was pretty good. While we were sampling a third beer rep showed up representing Fruli, Fuller’s and Paulaner breweries. Continue reading

American Craft Beer Week 2014, Day 4: Barrel Night at Naja’s Place

Thursday was day four of the 9th Annual American Craft Beer Week and as the weekend approaches the craft beer festivities picked it up a notch or two with Barrel Night at the venerable Naja’s Place, the oldest craft beer bar in the South Bay. It was appropriate that Naja’s was included in the tour of local craft beer establishments if for no other reason than they were the first place we visited when I first started “celebrating” American Craft Beer Week in 2012. Long before American craft beer was a household word, Naja’s Place was known for their wide selection of beers although, as I recall they were predominantly imports. These days their 88 taps is like a who’s who of craft beers and last night was a fine example of that.

Every month or two it seems that Naja’s has some kind of special event and those in the know know that Naja’s does not do anything half way; go big or go home and fear no beer are the mantras attendees come in chanting to themselves. For American Craft Beer Week Naja’s brought out 43 barrel-aged brews from breweries such as Allagash, Almanac, Ballast Point, The Bruery, Deschutes, Drakes, Epic, Firestone Walker, Goose Island, Ironfire, Russian River, Sierra Nevada, Widmer and many others. The beers ran the gamut of styles with sours, stouts, porters, lagers and pretty much anything that could be barrel-aged making an appearance.

While there was a very large number of people in attendance there was more beer than could be consumed in one evening; so if you look at the photo of the Barrel Night tap list and see something you want to try you might want to head over to Naja’s and grab some before they do tap out. Naja’s Place is located at 154 International Boardwalk in Redondo Beach. 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

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