Craft Breweries

Antelope Valley Breweries and Home Brew Competition Awards

A few weeks ago the Antelope Valley Fair held their second annual Antelope Valley Fair Home Brew Competition, which was sponsored by Bravery Brewing in Lancaster. This past Friday the 2014 Antelope Valley Fair Home Brew Competition Awards Ceremony was held, again at Bravery Brewing. A couple of the principles invited me to come out and photograph the awards ceremony which I was more than willing to do; since Lancaster is almost 100 miles away from me and I really did not feel like dealing with a Friday evening of rush hour traffic, I decided to make a day of it and see what kind of craft beer I could find in the Lancaster area. It turns out, that there currently is not a lot to choose from in that area. In fact, I could only find two breweries in the vast Antelope Valley; Kinetic Brewing and Bravery Brewing, both located in Lancaster.

I was somewhat familiar with Kinetic Brewing Company as I have seen them at a couple beer festivals, but I had only had a couple of their brews; their Potential Blonde Kölsch and Citrafuge Harvest Ale. Kinetic Brewing is a brewpub and normally we would have gone there to try the food as well, but a prior engagement resulted in our not really being hungry so we started off with a flight consisting of the seven brews they had available. The flight was made up of their Kölsch, American Brown Ale, American IPA, Porter, a couple variations of Berliner Weisse and their Belgian Strong Ale. All in all, the beers were solid with the Propulsion IPA being my definite favorite; no contest really. I enjoyed their Fusion Porter and Rusted Gear Brown Ale also, but found the two Berliner Weisse a little light for my tastes.

While we had not come in hungry we were there for a while and I eventually started checking out their food menu. They have a pretty good menu with everything from salads and pretzels to steak or pan-fried Ahi tuna. What caught my eye was their bread pudding; when you spot the photo of it, let me just say that if you think it looks good, I am not sure the photo does it justice. It was very good. If you find yourself in the Lancaster area and want a good craft beer and some food; you should check out Kinetic Brewing Company. They are located at 735 W. Lancaster Boulevard in Lancaster. Continue reading

Stone Brewing Company: Pasadena and Escondido

The photos in this gallery were taken over the course of two days. On Tuesday we headed over to the Stone Company Store in Pasadena to check out the Enjoy By 08.16.14 and w00tstout 2.0 on tap before deciding how many bottles to buy. Unfortunately, the Enjoy By seems to fluctuate a lot lately but this batch is great. The w00tstout 2.0 was also worth bringing home. They had a couple Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Stations; The Sacred Druid Hot and Lil’ Miami Tart available that were quite fun. Between those and the stash we brought home it was well worth the drive. It has been a while since I have been to the Stone Company Store due in large part to the fact that my daughter moved out of Pasadena. It is always a good place to look for the new releases; especially if you want them on tap.

If you have never been, it is at the Metro Station on Raymond. They have a full tap room for pours and filling growlers; they sell kegs, bottles, t-shirts, mustard and anything else Stone Brewing makes. Their tap list has everything you might find at the brewery itself and it is about 70 miles closer than Escondido. It is a clean setup and if you want a wide variety of Stone brews on tap, this is where you want to be. Their 4 oz pours are less than $2.00. Stone Company Store is located at 220 S. Raymond Avenue in Pasadena, CA. They are open seven days a week from 11:00 AM until 9:00 PM.

The next day I was planning on going back to my son’s to check out his Glacier Summer Ale. That morning he said they wanted to take me to lunch for my birthday so it was decided that we would meet at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido. While there was a time that Stone Brewing Company was the only real game in town for me, things have changed and it had been probably three years since the last time I was there. I looked forward to experiencing it again. Continue reading

Craft beers of New Orleans

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

Craft breweries along the 101: From Paso Robles to Agoura Hills

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

Craft beer from Buellton to Paso Robles

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

Pliny the Younger release & exploring Santa Rosa & Sebastopol

I heard there was this drought going on up here; I even saw signs along the highway asking me to “Pray for rain!” I am not sure how long it is going to last but it has been raining non-stop since we got here and the residents up here seem to be enjoying it. It has made for an interesting challenge taking external photos with water coming down at every angle. Anyway, Friday morning was the Pliny the Younger release at Russian River Brewing and because of friends I was able to get in with the first group of Pliny fans and I got my 10 ounces of the 2014 Pliny the Younger. I also got to meet some good people and participate in the atmosphere that only an event like day one of a Pliny release can generate. There was a long line of people that wound around two blocks a couple hours before we could come in. It was cold and wet but people seemed very eager to get their taste. I hope they did.

After I had my beer I went back to get Tanya and we went off exploring the area for breweries we had never heard of. Our first stop was Woodfour Brewing Company, a brewpub in Sebastopol. While it was a little difficult to find, it was worth the wet walk. We had a nice flight that ranged from everything from a Berliner Weisse and Sour Farmhouse Ale to a stout and an Imperial Black Ale. They have only been open six months but had a good selection.

A few hundred feet across the way was a microbrewery tasting room, Warped Brewing Company. Warped Brewing was one of the few tasting rooms we have come across; as most breweries are opening brewpubs, apparently for the tourists . . . or zoning. I guess it depends who you ask. It doesn’t take long to figure out these guys like their video games. As far as the beer, the tasting room has only been open four weeks but owner/brewer Noah has been brewing for a while and owns a local restaurant. They currently offer three quality beers; you should check out their Orbital Outrage if you get the chance. Continue reading

A visit to Orange County microbreweries and brewpubs

At the beginning of the month I paid a return visit to Anaheim Brewery during which time I happened to get into a conversation with a couple that came into the tasting room. While our conversation naturally began with discussing the beers we were sampling, it did not take long for it to switch to our favorite local craft breweries. It was during this discussion that it dawned on me that I had barely skimmed the surface when it came to how many craft breweries in Orange County I had visited. This past weekend I decided to do something about it by visiting a few production breweries and brewpubs in the OC.

Tanya and I started off at Bootlegger’s Brewery, a production microbrewery located in Fullerton, CA. I must admit, I was a little surprised when we pulled up to the tasting room because it appeared to be extremely small from the front. When we went inside I saw close to 20 beers available on tap; it was then that I figured out that the brewery and the tasting room were at two different locations. Since I knew we would be making several stops over the course of the day, we opted to share a flight of four for a very reasonable $6.00. The flight consisted of a Sucker Punch IPA, Miss Double D Pale Ale, Double Dry Hopped Palomino Pale Ale and a Spiced Black Phoenix on cask. Bootlegger’s Brewery is open seven days a week and have bottles and growlers to go. While they are a production brewery they do not offer food, but you are welcome to bring food in. I noticed a pizza place next door. They have a very large patio area and there was a private party going on in one section so I think it is safe to say that if you want to have a party there, it can be arranged. The Bootlegger’s tasting room is located at 130 S Highland Avenue in Fullerton.

After enjoying Bootlegger’s we headed out to Brea and Taps Fish House & Brewery. As can be guessed by the name, Taps is a brewpub; in fact, it is a huge brewpub. The first thing I noticed, besides the large number of guests, was the number of awards that Taps Brewery has on the walls. Apparently Taps opened in 1999 and it looks like they have been consistently winning medals for their beers ever since. Since football was on, the place was packed and finding seating for two at the bar was not going to happen. We found a couple seats at one of the bars community tables and sat down to enjoy a Reuben sandwich and we split another flight. The flight was made up of an MJoe mead, Seaward Pale Ale, Azacca IPA and a Neo-Colonial Stout. I am becoming a big fan of Azacca hops, that is for sure. Taps Fish House & Brewery is located at 101 E Imperial Highway in Brea and they are also open seven days a week. Continue reading

2013 American Craft Beer Week – Day 3

Stone Brewing Taps

Stone Brewing, Company Store – Pasadena

Wednesday was day three of the 8th Annual American Craft Beer Week (ACBW), and I continued my quest to visit as many Great American Beer Festival (GABF) gold medal winners from Southern California as possible. For day three we drove out to Pasadena to visit the Stone Brewing Company Store that opened the middle of last year. I have visited the location a couple times and I will admit that if I had an office job that required I commute, there would be nothing better that I can think of than to have something like the Stone Brewing store waiting for me at the end of my work day. Besides beers on tap, they offer growlers and bottles and extremely good prices. It is worth the trip.

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).

Haven Flight

Haven Gastropub Flight

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.

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