Brewpubs

Bourbon Barrel Aged Beer Night at San Pedro Brewing Company

Wednesday evening, San Pedro brewpub San Pedro Brewing Company (SPBC) held their first Bourbon Barrel Aged Beer Night featuring their Blitzen Belgian Winter Ale and Sunken City Imperial Stout. Both brews are delicious on their own merits, but it is pretty amazing the difference what a few weeks in a bourbon barrel will do. I have to admit, I came because I knew the Sunken City was going to be excellent but I was completely blown away with what a little barrel aging did to the Blitzen. It was like drinking the best candy bar ever made. Hosted by San Pedro Brewing Company’s manager Greg Arn and brewer Jason Welke, visitors had an opportunity to try these first time attempts by SPBC at barrel aging and from the comments I overheard, no one left disappointed.

The primary roadblock many brewpubs run into when it comes to experimenting with new recipes and styles is space, and SPBC is no different in that regards, but Welke still finds the time and space to turn out some great brews and lots of awards for them. The rumor about town is that San Pedro Brewing may be obtaining a 10,000 square foot facility right around the corner from their existing brewpub. We should know what is happening with that within the next few months; personally, I cannot wait to see what Welke can do when he is given enough space to spread his brewing wings.

San Pedro Brewing Company is located at 331 W. 6th Street in San Pedro and is open seven days a week. They consistently have six of their own beers on tap with a few taps reserved for guest beers. They also have a nice food menu with their bruschetta being a house favorite. I hope to see you there sometime. Cheers! Continue reading

San Francisco Beer Week 2014 February 7-16

When I agreed to go up to Santa Rosa for Drew at Decoding the Craft, I really did not know or realize just how many events were going on at the same time as the Pliny the Younger release at Russian River Brewing. There was the Double IPA Festival and the San Francisco Beer Week 2014 (SF Beer Week 2014) started on Friday, the day of the Pliny release. I would have liked to go into The City to check out some events, but it was always raining and it would not be fair to the dogs to deal with city life in the rain. It was decided that we would do our own SF Beer Week 2014 tour; we just stayed on the other side of the bridge.

Since we wanted to start off with a destination that included food, we started off at Marin Brewing Company, a brewpub in Larkspur. I will admit, I was a little apprehensive at first because my limited experience with them wasn’t very positive; but when Tanya read the menu from their website we decided to head over there. I do not know if it is because it was raining or the weekend or it is just always like that, but parking was pretty difficult. I saw a sign for free valet, but with the dogs I did not think it would go over well. They are located in what I would describe as a boutique shopping center; as it was raining, I did not exactly look around, so just my first wet impressions.

The place itself is huge and looks pretty upscale. We got a flight to share and I was immediately glad we made this stop; their flights offered a wide selection from their Broken Cherry sour ale and E.S. Chi spiced beer to their San Quentin’s Breakout Stout and Brass Knuckle Double IPA. They all ranked from good to amazing; the food was not bad either. We should have ordered more chili. Continue reading

The Road to Pliny

A couple weeks ago I was visiting Smog City Brewing when I got into a conversation with a guy, Drew Murphy, that I learned was in the process of putting together a project, Decoding the Craft, which is essentially going to be a series of video documentaries on the craft beer scene. His plans include visiting various craft breweries and brewpubs around the United States and Europe; as well as filming various craft beer events. The next one that he wanted to cover was the Pliny the Younger release at Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa. He was looking for a backup photographer and it turned out he was somewhat familiar with me and my photography work. One thing led to another and it was decided that I would come up to Santa Rosa for the Pliny release. Over the course of time, issues started to arise and several of the people initially involved backed out. I decided that I wanted to help Drew make this happen so I committed to going up to Santa Rosa, no matter what. On Wednesday I left L.A. and headed up California Highway 99 and found several nice breweries and brewpubs along the way. This morning we started day two of our journey in the rain as we headed towards the coast.

Our first stop was Main Street Brewery, a brewpub in Pleasanton. Main Street Brewery has been open for 18 years, which means that their beer styles are more old school than the typical “West Coast” hoppiness we find so much in Southern California. We enjoyed a salad while there, it was pretty good. While there we asked for some recommendations of other locations we should visit and were directed to The Hop Yard in San Ramon. As it turns out it is a gastropub, and while they had a very nice tap list, this weekend is all about going to the source. We decided to move on and found ourselves at Jack’s Brewing Company, also in San Ramon.

Jack’s has two locations; the sports bar and pub in San Ramon with the actual brewery and tasting room being in Fremont. We had just eaten so we shared a flight of some very well-rounded brews; I may have to consider stopping by their tasting room on the way home. Since it was getting into mid-afternoon and we still had a few hours of travel ahead of us we worked our way towards San Leandro and the famous Drake’s Barrel House. Drake’s Barrel House is the tasting room for Drake’s Brewing and definitely worth the stop. They have lots of their specialty beers that you are not going to find at any bottle shop or gastropub in the South Bay area anyway. It was there that I got my 1,000 badge on Untappd with their Jolly Rodger 2012 (Bourbon Barrel Aged). It was a very good stop. While I was there I happened to run into South Bay local craft beer drinkers James and Lisa; we had seen each other around local breweries, but had never really talked. Craft beer brought us together in a way that would pay off later. Continue reading

Craft breweries of California Hwy 99

Since I was going up to Santa Rosa for a project about the Pliny the Younger release, I decided to leave a little early and see what craft beers I could discover along the way. I could have taken the easy route and gone along the 101 but there are so many quality brewers within the first 200 miles I would never make it on time. Instead, I decided to travel up CA Hwy 99 through Central California. I do not really travel Hwy 99 much so I did not know what to expect. I decided that my first destination would be Lengthwise Brewing, a brewpub in Bakersfield since it is a couple hours out from the beach and some food would be a good thing. We tried a flight and really enjoyed their Harvest Moon Wheat Ale (although not sure why they added the lemon slice) and Kern County Crude Porter. They also brewed root beer which was quite tasty. They gave me a taste of their new Zeus Imperial Ale which was a very smooth Double IPA; I had to get a bottle. We also had a chicken salad that was great. I don’t know the name, but had artichoke hearts with it and was big enough for the two of us. It was a great start for our journey.

A couple hours north we found ourselves at Full Circle Brewing Company, a microbrewery in Fresno right off the 99. Full Circle has been around about 15 years and is probably Fresno’s best kept secret. I could go on and on about what a great time we had there, the 12 different brews on tap going back to 2006, the meads and the hospitality but suffice it to say, you owe it to yourself to stop by and check this place out. The owner and head brewer Bill will tell you all about beer and its history and beertender Kenny will ensure you have a great time. It really was a highlight of the day.

Another 100 miles north and we ended up in Turlock and Dust Bowl Brewing Company, another brewpub. This was a really cool location with a lot of history about the Dust Bowl and the migration of farmers to Central California. I’d like to go back just to check it out for the history aspect. We got there a little before they closed so the kitchen was not available to us, but the beer was. I let their manager Nick put together a flight for me as they had too many choices and not enough time. Their Hops of Wrath IPA was definitely the best IPA of the day and made for a good ending to a fun day. Continue reading

Red Car Brewery – the oldest brewpub in Torrance

To those that know me, the following is not exactly earth-shattering news; I am a pretty opinionated guy. That being said, while I may be opinionated, I do try to be open-minded as well; especially when it comes to beer. The fact is that palates evolve and when combined with knowledge a beer I might not have enjoyed a year ago might come across as more enjoyable today. That is what happened on Friday.

Over the weekend my dad celebrated another birthday, so I invited him to lunch at the location of his choice. I knew where he would want to go before I asked; Red Car Brewery, a brewpub in Torrance. I had been to Red Car two times over the years and really did not find either experience particularly memorable. Once was for a fundraiser, which may have just involved my stopping by and donating some cash and then again a couple years ago for another birthday with my dad. I do recall wondering why I was not enjoying any of the beers; I attributed it to an aroma in the air that was messing with my taste buds. While I personally never got into any of their brews I was aware that Red Car Brewery had a very loyal fan base, so there must be something I was missing.

A few weeks ago I was talking to Torrance City Councilman Pat Furey and he told me a little about the history of Red Car and how owner/brewer Bob Brandt had struck a deal with the City of Torrance to build the brewpub at their current location on Torrance Boulevard and Sartori. I do not recall all the details but apparently the city extended a loan to Brandt and he paid it back five years early. It reminded me of when the US implemented tariffs on imported motorcycles to help Harley-Davidson back in the 1980’s and H-D told them they could remove the tariffs about five years earlier than scheduled. This deal between Torrance and Red Car was back in 2000 making Red Car Brewery the oldest brewery in Torrance by a long shot. I knew I was going to have to give them another chance. Continue reading

Beachwood BBQ & Brewing: Best Mid-Sized Brewpub 2013

Last Wednesday, as I became increasingly jealous of the people on my Facebook feed as they announced their arrival in Denver for the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), I decided to head over to Beachwood BBQ & Brewing in Long Beach, CA. I had just seated myself at the bar when Beachwood General Manager Brandon Halvorson came up and said, “You just cannot stay away.” I admit, when we want lunch and a great beer, it does not take much convincing to get me to drive the 15 miles to Long Beach. Yesterday, the beer world found out why when Beachwood BBQ & Brewing won five medals at GABF, making it the 2013 Mid-Size Brewpub of the Year! I was so happy to hear this I almost felt like I was a winner. I guess all of Beachwood’s patrons are winners because we are able to enjoy their food and beer six days a week.

Beachwood won gold medals for Foam Top for the Golden or Blonde Ale category and Kilgore Stout in the American-Style Stout category. They also got silver for Udder Love (Sweet Stout or Cream Stout) and bronze medals for System of a Stout (Coffee Beer) and Barrel-Aged Full Malted Jacket (Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer). I guess the big surprise for me is that none of their IPAs got a medal, but it is my understanding that they had over 250 IPA entries and it took two or three days to go through them all. Be that as it may, Beachwood BBQ & Brewing has made some tremendous beers and are definitely getting the recognition they deserve; and to think they are only two years old. Congratulations to Julian Shrago, Ian McCall, Brandon Halverson and all the staff at Beachwood BBQ & Brewing.

I guess it also shows that if it seems that I visit some places more than others, there is a good reason for it; the Craft Beer Guy would not steer you wrong. These photos were taken Wednesday October 9 and Saturday October 12 after the medals were announced. You can find a list of all the past and present Great American Beer Festival winners at http://www.greatamericanbeerfestival.com/the-competition/winners/. Cheers! Continue reading

LA Beer Week visit to Library Alehouse & San Pedro Brewing Company

I have some friends that just flew into LA from Paris, France to begin a road trip around the southwest; as they are fans of Craft Beer Guy and LA Beer Week (LABW5) is still going on they expressed a desire to go somewhere that served craft beer. Since they were staying in Santa Monica and I am not all that familiar with the gastropubs in the area, I put out a request for suggestions on my Facebook page; one of the suggestions was Library Alehouse, located at 2911 Main Street in Santa Monica.

The Library Alehouse looks pretty small from out front, but they have a pretty spacious patio in the back; if you have a party of more than two, that is probably the direction you want to head. They have a pretty respectable tap list and they do offer flights of four for $10; well, it is theoretically $10, but you have to be careful about the beers you choose as they can easily hit the $15 range. Our French guests both had the bison burger and really enjoyed it; we had the All-American and it was okay. It’s a burger, what can I say. I don’t spend a lot of time in Santa Monica, but I would not hesitate returning or recommending it to someone that wanted a good craft beer.

Since it was Friday and I had visited two of LA’s gold medal breweries the day before, I decided that I would head over to San Pedro and visit another award winning brewery, San Pedro Brewing Company (SPBC). SPBC is a brewpub nestled on 6th Street in San Pedro that has been in business since 1999. Back then there were a lot of “Brewcos” in the area with Manhattan Beach Brewing Company, Redondo Beach Brewing Company and San Pedro Brewing Company as just three of our local examples. It seems that most of them that opened back then either threw in the towel as far as brewing was concerned and became gastropubs, or they settled into a comfort zone and kept producing the same beers using the same recipes for years and years. SPBC is different in that they kept changing it up, being innovative and experimental, and the list of awards they have won under head brewer Jason Welke since they brought him on in 2006 shows that this is working for them. Continue reading

Day 8 of LA Beer Week: Champions and Judges

LA Beer Week (LABW5) plods along as Thursday was the eighth day of LA Beer Week; an 11 day event. I decided that since it is LA Beer Week I would be remiss if I did not attempt to try and visit all the gold medal winners that the Los Angeles area has produced. Okay, being completely honest, I was looking for a reason to visit Beachwood BBQ and Brewing in Long Beach and I remembered that they were gold medal winners at the Great American Beer Festival so I decided that I needed to dedicate a portion of this week to the brewers that help make LA the pLAce for craft beer.

The fact of the matter is that I need very little in the way of excuses to drive down to Long Beach; however there was one with the recent release of Mind Melder IPA, a collaboration with Drake’s Brewing that I had yet to try. All I can say is that I am really looking forward to some of the South Bay’s brewers doing some collaboration brews with each other and I think Beachwood’s head brewer Julian Shrago is close enough to be included with that group. Since I had ordered an IPA flight, none of which are award winners (yet), we put together a combination of two of their gold medal winners; Udder Love, 2012 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and Foam Top, 2012 World Beer Cup. It won’t be long before one of their IPAs brings home gold.

After a quick stop to another GABF gold medal winning brewery, Smog City Brewing, I headed out to Four Points by Sheraton for a panel on “Do you want to be a beer judge?” The panel was moderated by Tomm Carroll of Celebrator Beer News and consisted of a panel of high-ranked, certified Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) judges. The panelists included Bruce Brode (Master rank, Maltose Falcons home brew club); Carl Townsend (National rank, Pacific Gravity home brewers club); and Jim Wilson (Grand Master II rank, Strand Brewers Club). The purpose of the event was to explain the BJCP program and what you would need to know to become a certified judge. Ever since I went to the Pacific Brewers Cup two weeks ago I have been thinking that I would like to expand my beer horizons more, by at least learning what it is judges look for in each style. Continue reading

LA Beer Week tasting dinner at The Brewery at Abigaile

Over the past year or so I have been invited to attend several beer events that involved pairing various foods with different beers. Sometimes it seems like there was not a lot of thought put into the combinations and then there are pairings like the LA Beer Week (LABW5) Beer Tasting Dinner put on by The Brewery at Abigaile brewpub on Wednesday evening. It really shows what can happen when you have a chef like Tin Vuong who not only prepares unique menus with global flavors; but also enjoys craft beers.

I will admit that there have been times that I have opted for an entree that conflicted with my choice of beer; primarily due to a sauce or seasoning that was so hot that I might as well be drinking Bud Light because my taste buds had lost all sensitivity; last night’s dinner eliminated all risks as Chef Tin’s menu melded perfectly with the beers provided by The Brewery at Abigaile’s Brian Brewer. Our menu included Wit Cured Wild Salmon paired with Tangerine Honey Wit, a Belgian-style witbier; Mary’s Chicken Milanese paired with Sir Charles Mild, an English-style brown mild; an amazing Duck Confit paired with Sticky Fingers IPA; Braised Oxtail with Flat Iron paired with their Nihilist DIPA; with Perfection in a Glass beer float for dessert. It was made with Sarsaparilla and their Black Mass Porter. Brian also brought out some of his Black Mass Porter that has been aging in rye whiskey barrels for the past four months and it is delicious.

If you enjoy beer and food tastings, I recommend following The Brewery at Abigaile’s Facebook page so you can be kept in the loop. They do these on a pretty regular basis and I know there are more planned for the near future. When you have an executive chef like Tin Vuong combining his skills with a brewer like Brian Brewer only good things can happen and you do want to be a part of it. Trust me on that one.

The Brewery at Abigaile is located at 1301 Manhattan Avenue in Hermosa Beach; that is the northwest corner of Manhattan Avenue and Pier Avenue. They even have free parking in the underground structure at their location. Cheers! Continue reading

LA Beer Week – “Meet the Brewer” Open House at Abigaile

A few days ago I was at the LA Beer Bloggers Summit and one of the panelist made a comment about how some beer blogs come across as “cheerleaders” and they never have anything negative to say about anyone. I thought about it and in retrospect, thought I did a pretty good job about spreading the love and not really showing favoritism beyond favoring IPAs. As far as negative reviews are concerned, I do not have time for them; it is that simple. That being said, it is really tough to not be a cheerleader when it comes to The Brewery at Abigaile, located at Abigaile in Hermosa Beach.

It is hard for me to believe that I have only known about The Brewery at Abigaile for a mere 16 months. I remember with specificity the first time I learned of them and my first visit there. The Brewery at Abigaile is the only brewery in Hermosa Beach and they set the bar when it comes to brewpubs. In addition to the five beers that will be brewed in-house, they have a very interesting food menu and a great guest tap list as well as offering a variety of wines and a full cocktail bar. In my opinion, it is one of the South Bay’s best kept craft beer secrets. If you have the opportunity to visit Hermosa Beach, I highly encourage you to visit The Brewery at Abigaile.

For LA Beer Week (LABW5) Abigaile held a “Meet the Brewer” open house on Monday evening. Abigaile usually has a couple open houses every year as owner, Jed Sanford put it, to show his appreciation to all those that spend time there. The free food and beer samplings were enjoyed by all; including a couple of gentleman that came all the way from India to join the festivities. Yeah, The Brewery at Abigaile is that good. Continue reading

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