I have always felt pretty fortunate to live in the South Bay with its great weather and lack of natural disasters, but the recent explosion of craft brewers in the area has made living here that much better. Earlier in the month, Torrance Mayor Scotto even cited craft beer as a new growth industry for Torrance. I will do all I can to help Torrance craft brewers succeed and look forward to the day that a tour of Torrance microbreweries will rival anything San Diego County can offer. Torrance currently has three microbreweries with tasting rooms, Strand Brewing Company, Monkish Brewing Company and Smog City Brewing. On Saturday my girlfriend Tanya and I had gone out to photograph flowers at the South Coast Botanical Gardens, which just happened to be around the corner from Strand Brewing Company, so we made a stop on the way home.
Strand Brewing Company is one of the original two microbreweries here that has a tasting room. While the tasting room has only been open for little over a year, Strand Brewing has been in business since 2009, supplying local establishments that serve craft beer. Probably best known for their 24th Street Pale Ale and Atticus IPA’s, Strand Brewing’s owner/brewmaster Joel Elliot has been releasing a few different styles including some outstanding Double IPA’s, with White Sand being a personal favorite. Their Second Sleep Imperial Stout is another standout. Strand has recently started bottling beers so it is becoming easier to take my favorites home and have them last longer than what growler can provide.
Tanya was getting a little hungry, so we decided to head over to Monkish Brewing Company because they seem to always have a food truck there on Fridays and Saturdays. Saturday they had Andy’s Cart, a gourmet hot dog and sausage cart. We tried their Chicago dog and a Reuben sausage sandwich; they were pretty good.
Monkish Brewing Company opened their tasting room about the same time as Strand Brewing and specializes in Belgian style ales. It has been a pleasure watching Monkish grow as owner/brewmaster Henry Nguyen expands his list of available beers. The first time I visited Monkish they had four taps available; their Oblate, Anomaly, Red Table and Feminist. When we stopped by Saturday there were a total of 10 taps pouring including his new lager, a Dubbel and a Tripel. Barrel aged is next on tap. Continue reading
Today I received my first and last shipment from BeerBoxer; you can see what I got in the photo above. To say that I was a little disappointed would be an understatement. Yes, I got 12 beers, but they consisted of three bottles of four different beers; so much for the variety. As far as the “fresh, hard-to-find craft beers” claim, let’s look a little closer.
I received four different beers; Indica IPA from Lost Coast Brewery, Deschutes’ Black Butte Porter, Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ from Lagunitas Brewery and a Boulevard Brewery Double-Wide IPA. Hard to find? Maybe if I live in Arkansas, all four are readily available at my local Total Wine store. As far as freshness is concerned the “Best Used By” dates on the bottles that had that had them was October 2013. On the variety aspect I got an ale, an IPA, a DIPA and a porter.
Suddenly my “how can I lose” attitude became, how much did I lose? I went across the street to Total Wine because they allow you to buy individual bottles at a slightly higher price than buying a 6-pack; I figured this would be the fairest way to compare. The Indica IPA is $1.49/each, the Black Butte Porter is $1.99/each. Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ is $1.99/each and the Double-Wide IPA’s were $2.99/each. If I went to Total Wine I would spend less than $29.00. All I can say is I am really glad I opted for the least expensive option.
To be fair, I did voice my disappointment to BeerBoxer on their Facebook page and Susie Hindle Kher, their marketing and PR person, wrote asking what the problems were. I told her that the primary issues were that I was expecting hard to find beers and three of the four breweries were practically neighbors; and that there was no way I was expecting three bottles of the same beer. Continue reading
These photos are from the Business & Beer networking event which was held at Smog City Brewing Company on Thursday evening. While Smog City just had their grand opening last Saturday and are still figuring out what days and hours they are going to be open, they were gracious enough to experiment with the idea of being open on Thursdays, at least for now. We had a pretty nice turnout last night with this being the first time trying Smog City beers for most; judging by the number of flights being purchased, most were eager to try out the various options available. In addition to the great beer, Urban Pie, a mobile pizzeria was there with their word burning oven and four variations of pizza available; I think their Bee Stinger (named so for the honey they drizzle over it) was my favorite. I may have to start adding honey to all my pies; it was good stuff at a fair price.
For those of you that live or work in the South Bay and find business networking to be important to your business growth, you are invited to join the Business & Beer networking group. We have been around since July 2012 and meet every Thursday at a different microbrewery, brewpub or gastropub in the South Bay area. There are no dues, no mandatory meetings and no restrictions on joining us. Just show up when you can. The upcoming schedule can be found on the Business & Beer website, BusinessNBeer.com. There you can sign up for the mailing list or Like on Facebook to be sure you are kept in the loop for our upcoming gatherings. Next week will be at The Rockefeller gastropub in Hermosa Beach. It is a fun place with lots of great craft beer to choose from. Continue reading
The 8th Annual American Craft Beer Week (ACBW) came to an end on Sunday, but not before I got an opportunity to track down some more award winning breweries. As it happened, I had a wine festival to cover on Sunday; it was a fundraiser for a non-profit, which is why I let it cut into my beer time. Since the event was out in Santa Monica, I took advantage of my geographical location and took a break from the wine event to seek a local craft beer spot that I was unaware of. I was pretty surprised when we found Westwood Brewing Company because Westwood is a high rent area which means it had to have been there for a while; why had I never heard of it?
Turns out that Westwood Brewing Company (WBC) has been around for about 20 years, stopped brewing about 9 years ago and won some awards at local beer shows. Sadly they will be closing in August to become a crab restaurant. Not sure if they are using the kettles to boil the crabs or not. Anyway, there was no WBC beer to be had, so I had a Chainbreaker White IPA by Deschute’s (2012 GABF Silver Medal) which was perfect on the hot summer day. Not much to say about the place since they are closing other than I am sure they will be missed by the UCLA students.
Later that day we headed to Sophie’s Place in Redondo Beach. Sophie’s Place is a nice little gastropub, located in the Riviera Village section of Redondo. They have 8 rotating taps and about 50 other craft beers available in bottles and cans. It is hard to believe that I only started going there 10 months ago because it sure seems like I am there a lot. It is owned by three brothers, one of which, Bobby, is a big fan of craft beer and does some home brewing. Bobby takes pride in the beers he has available and frequently hosts events to promote our local microbreweries. For day 7 of ACBW, Bobby divided his taps between two Central California craft brewers, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company and Firestone Walker Brewing Company; both of which are GABF award winners. Since I was not ready to do a flight of eight, I opted for a 2nd Anniversary Grand Cru, a Hurricane Deck and Big Cone Black Ale from Figueroa Mountain; and a Sucaba from Firestone.
It was another fun American Craft Beer Week; I am going to have to figure out something different for next year. Continue reading
You can see all the photos from day 6 of the 2013 American Craft Beer Week on GotBaddog.com.
As legend has it, in the beginning there were three microbreweries in the South Bay; Manhattan Beach Brewing Company, Redondo Beach Brewing Company and San Pedro Brewing Company. Manhattan Beach Brewing gave up on brewing and became a gastropub (Brewco Manhattan Beach), preferring to sell a wide variety of craft beers brewed by others. Redondo Beach Brewing Company continues to brew at their Riviera Village brewpub, but they do not experiment much and the beer recipes seemed to stay the same, batch after batch; it is a good entry level brewery to visit, but nothing exciting. Rumor has it that they will be discontinuing brewing there soon, preferring to go the route of Manhattan Beach Brewing. Of the three, San Pedro Brewing Company continues to brew and is opening a subsidiary of sorts, Port Town Brewing which has already won numerous awards.
San Pedro Brewing Company (SPBC) is a brewpub that has been at their current location for 13 years. They have won more than 43 medals in local county fairs, commercial beer competitions and international beer festivals. In addition to award winning beers, they have some pretty good food. SPBC gives tours on Friday afternoons, so if in the area, you might want to check it out. I was given a mini-tour and have to admit, I was quite surprised at the quantity and quality of beers they brew with such a small operation. When I was taken downstairs I fully expected to see a massive operation; as you can tell by the photos that was far from being the case.
While there I tried a flight of all seven in-house brewed beers that were available: Bruin Blonde Ale (2012 Silver Medal, California Commercial Beer Competition), Longshoreman Lager (2009 Gold Medal American Style Lager, Los Angeles County Fair), Port Town Hefeweizen, Mai Bock Spring Lager, Iowa Battleship IPA, Beacon Street Barleywine (2012 American Style Barleywine, Los Angeles International Beer Competition) and Sunken City Imperial Stout.
When I left San Pedro I headed over to Smog City Brewing as they just got their growlers in and I wanted to be among the first on my block to own one. While there I had a Quercus Circus Sour and an Amarilla Gorilla IPA; we picked up a growler of the 2012 Great American Beer Festival gold medal winner, Smog City Groundwork Coffee Porter. Smog City’s grand opening was held on Saturday, so that will be the subject of my ACBW day 6 report. All my photos from day five of American Craft beer Week will be found on GotBaddog.com.
Alpine Inn is probably best known for their annual Oktoberfest that they have held every year since 1968 making it the largest and oldest Oktoberfest celebration in Southern California. A lesser known event is the Alpine Village Bier Fest which was held for the first time in September 2012. There were 100 beers from 50 different breweries, many of them very hard to find. It was a great event, but it had a very low turnout; luckily Alpine Inn has a couple nice cellars so the beer that was not consumed was stored for safe keeping.
While Alpine Inn did have a couple award winning breweries represented on draft last night, Firestone Walker and Uinta Brewing, I do not particularly care for Firestone’s Solace and I was not really in a mood for a Kölsch (I might have made an exception if they were from California), so I opted for a White Dog IPA from El Segundo Brewing Company and a Manifesto from Eagle Rock Brewery. You can see all the photos from our Business & Beer gathering at Alpine Inn on GotBaddog.com.
It was still early by the time our meeting ended and I wanted to find an award winning beer to drink, so we headed to Hot’s Kitchen in Hermosa Beach. I have been to Hot’s Kitchen a couple times, so I knew they had a pretty nice beer tap list. While their beer list is extensive and the beertender said she was a fan of craft beer, she did not know it was American Craft Beer Week and she really had no clue which brewers might be award winners much less if any of the beers were. The point is they have a very nice beer selection, but don’t expect much in the way of advice; however, they are good about giving tasters to try some if you are unsure what you want. Luckily, we had Internet with us, so after a little research I settled on an Epic Brewing Hopulent IPA (2012 Australian International Beer Festival Silver medal). While there I also tried a Hangar 24 Palmero and a Mor Mor from Brouwerij West.
You can find all my photos from day four of the 2013 American Craft Beer Week on GotBaddog.com.
Rated as one of the best brewers in the US and the world by two of the largest beer enthusiast websites, RateBeer and BeerAdvocate, I would be remiss if I did not include Stone Brewing in my quest for GABF award winning breweries from California. While I went to Pasadena yesterday, if you have an opportunity to visit their brewery in Escondido you should do it. Good food and great beer in a very scenic setting. It is appropriate for the entire family.
For my award winning flight I opted for a Stone Ruination IPA, a Stone Levitation Ale (2007 GABF Gold Medal), a Stone Sublimely Self Righteous Ale (2010 GABF Bronze Medal) and a Smoked Porter (2010 Asia Beer Award Gold Medal).
After sampling at Stone for a while, we went around the corner to Haven Gastropub and Brewing. I have been there before, but as I recall they were just starting to brew on location. I had forgotten about that, but knew I could find some award winning beers on their guest tap list. As it turns out, Gastropub Brewing has a new Head Brewer, Brian Thorson, an award winning brewer formerly with Drake’s Brewing and yesterday they released his new brew, so I included it on my flight. My flight consisted of Haven Simcoded American Pale Ale, Firestone Walker Velvet Merkin (2010 & 2011 GABF Gold medal), Eel River Acai Wheat, and The Bruery White Oak. While the beers from Haven, Eel River and The Bruery were not medal winners, the breweries and brewers have won numerous awards.
All my photos from day three of the 2013 American Craft Beer Week can be found on GotBaddog.com.
If you read my story about day one of ACBW, you will recall that I had attempted to visit Beachwood BBQ & Brewing but discovered that there were closed on Mondays. Since I had a pretty busy morning, it was decided that I would go back there on Tuesday because not only have they won multiple awards, it was a safe bet that their guest tap list would have at least one medal winner among the selections. I would not be disappointed.
As you can figure out, I am not a stranger to Beachwood BBQ & Brewing; the only thing that keeps me from going there more often is the drive. I mentioned in my last article that I got the impression that the beertender at Pizza Port San Clemente was not really into craft beer, that it was just a job for him. I have never experienced that any time I have visited Beachwood; in fact, it has always been quite the opposite. Yesterday Thomas was working and you could tell that he enjoyed his work and was a fan of not only Beachwood Brewing’s beers, but craft beer in general.
Beachwood BBQ & Brewing won a gold medal at the 2012 GABF with their Udder Love stout. Unfortunately that was not available, but they had three award winning beers available on their tap list, so I created a flight consisting of their Foam Top Cream Ale (2012 World Beer Cup Gold Medal), an El Verano Belgian Style Saison (2012 GABF Bronze Medal), Knucklehead Red American Red Ale (2012 San Diego International Beer Camp Bronze Medal) and The Falcon West Coast IPA (no awards, but delicious). To top it off, I finished with an AleSmith IPA (2011 GABF Silver Medal). It was a great set of champion beers to celebrate day two of the 8th Annual American Craft Beer Week. You can see all of the photos on www.GotBaddog.com
This year I decided to try to do something a little different; I am going to attempt to visit as many Great American Beer Festival (GABF) gold medal winners as possible in the area. In the event that I end up at a gastropub, I will attempt to purchase a gold medal winner. Should be easy, right?
Because I am somewhat limited by the hours in a day, I will be forced to limit my radius to about 60 miles. Most of the eligible breweries are inland of me, and it was close to 90 at home so I did not want to venture inland and opted for heading to Pizza Port in San Clemente, CA since it is a beach community. Pizza Port is a chain of pizza places that also brew beer. Unlike some chains, each location has their own head brewer and they are given leeway on at least some of the beers they brew. If you glance at the list of GABF winners you will notice that Pizza Port San Clemente, Solano Beach and Carlsbad have all been winners. I have never been to Pizza Port and I don’t recall ever trying anything from any of their locations prior to today; however, I have heard lots of praise about them so I was looking forward to the experience.My hopes of a cool ride by the beach turned into a blast furnace ride with temperatures close to 100. Even in San Clemente it was 90 a couple blocks from the beach. I was really looking forward to the beers.
When we arrived, my girlfriend went up to the counter to order food. We got some “beer buddies” and a small pizza. While the attitude of the employees in that portion of the brewpub was helpful and upbeat, neither of us was particularly enthusiastic about the food. The beer buddies would have been better if there was some kind of garlic dipping sauce, but it wasn’t offered and I was there for the beer anyway.
I went over to the brewery portion and could not help but notice the sign that seemed to hint that if you did not know what you wanted, to step aside and let someone else order. That attitude seemed to be held by the beertender that did not seem to be into craft beer; he was there because it was a job. I told him, “Happy American Craft Beer Week.” His response was something along the lines of, “oh, is that happening now?”
I explained that it was, and that I was seeking gold medal winning beer and Pizza Port had won a few. He agreed that they had. I asked if they served flights. He said they did flights of four, so I asked for four gold medal winners. He told me there were only two available; so I asked for those and any other award winners they had. He then directed me to a very busy board and told me the award winners had emblems by their names. It took me a few minutes to figure out where the emblems were. Eventually I figured out what the third beer was and since I was not going to wait for any assistance from him, I just picked a fourth beer to complete the flight. My flight consisted of their Lightweight Lager (it was), Nerf Herder (San Diego World Beer Cup Bronze Winner), “Pseudo” IPA (2010 GABF Gold Winner) and Pier Rat Porter (San Diego World Beer Cup Gold Winner). The beers were okay, the experience was lacking.
On the way home I figured that we could stop by Beachwood BBQ & Brewing in Long Beach as they are gold medal winners and always have a great selection of beers available. To my dismay, they are not open on Mondays; luckily, Congregation Ale House, Long Beach is right next door. While they do not brew beer, they do have a very nice selection of beers on tap. I opted to go for a Firestone Walker Brewing Co. Wookey Jack (2102 GABF Gold Winner). Firestone makes a good product, so I was happy. The beer drinking ended at home with a Black Sand Imperial IPA from Strand Brewing Company in Torrance. All my photos from day one of the 8th Annual American Craft Beer Week can be found on GotBaddog.com.