craft brewer

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

Anaheim Brewery: A craft brewery with history

It was a year ago that I first stumbled upon Anaheim Brewery, a microbrewery located at 336 S Anaheim Boulevard in Anaheim, CA. I had attended the Easyriders Bike Show at the Anaheim Convention Center and noticed that they were virtually around the corner from Disneyland and the convention center; so I made the inevitable stop. On that visit, January 5, 2013, I had the opportunity to meet the owners and discovered that they were into motorcycles so we chatted for a while before they had to leave. The six beers they offered on tap were good and I made a mental note to stop by again on a future date. As it turns out, I do not really have a lot of reasons to travel to Anaheim; so when I found myself at the Easyriders Bike Show again on Saturday I knew I would have to stop by again to see what was new there.

Anaheim Brewery was initially established in 1870 at a different location in downtown Anaheim; pre-Disneyland. Actually, this is the 4th location for Anaheim Brewery, due in part to Prohibition which resulted in a 90 year closure. This most recent location was opened in 2010 and is on the site of the former Packard Building, a 1920s structure within the city’s Historic District.

Anaheim Brewery offers six different beers on tap at any one time. Their four flagship beers are their Anaheim Gold, Anaheim Hefeweizen (truly delicious), Anaheim Red and their steamed style beer, Anaheim 1888. They have two seasonal taps, one of which is usually an IPA. As I mentioned, this was my second visit and both times were in January, so I suppose the seasonals have a reason to be similar. The first time I went there their seasonal taps were Anaheim Chocolate Porter and Old Pacific IPA. On my most recent visit the seasonal taps were Mocha Porter and Coast to Coast IPA. The IPAs both have essentially the same description (Columbus hops and California grown barley) so I am not really sure what the difference might be other than the name. Both were tasty and smooth. I spent some time talking with Alisha, their Tasting Room Manager and she informed me that they would soon have a Scottish Ale available. When I looked at their Untappd history I noticed they have had several different varieties of beers available, so I guess it might pay to stop in a little more frequently. Continue reading

Strand Brewing Company to celebrate 4 years December 7

Batch 100

Celebrate 4 years of Strand Brewing Company

Strand Brewing Company is Torrance’s oldest production brewery and they are preparing to celebrate four years of craft brewing excellence. Saturday, December 7, Strand Brewing Company will open their doors from 12:00-8:00 PM with an extravaganza of beers never before seen in one location.

The craft beers scheduled to appear on tap will be their Harvest Ball Belgian Style Orange Witbier (4th Anniversary Ale), White Sand Imperial IPA, Black Sand Imperial IPA, Beach House Amber Ale, 24th Street Pale Ale, Atticus India Pale Ale and Expression Session Pale Ale. There will be numerous casks tapped throughout the day, with Harvest Ball starting things off. I have also heard that their Batch 100 on coffee will be made available.

White Sand

Torrance’s original production brewery

As no celebration would be complete without at least some celebrity appearances, be sure to bring your autograph books as rumor has it that the four-time reigning Tetris World Champion Jonas Neubauer will be there pouring beers. For the first time that I can recall, Strand Brewing Company will also have a food truck there; Taco Man. We all know how well tacos pair with craft beer.

Strand Brewing Company is located at 23520 Telo Avenue in Torrance. This is in an industrial park north of Lomita Boulevard and west of Crenshaw. In the interest of being good neighbors, attendees are requested to park in the street. Do not worry, there is plenty of street parking and there are no parking meters in Torrance. This will be a great time, I assure you. I hope to see you there; cheers!

Timeless Pints: Lakewood’s first craft brewery

I guess it was early September when I was covering an event out in the Bixby Knolls area of Long Beach when I first heard that there was a new craft brewery opening in the area. Unfortunately, I was not familiar enough with Long Beach to know that this new microbrewery, Timeless Pints Brewing Company, was less than two miles from me. This lost opportunity was made up for Sunday afternoon when I met up with some friends at a gathering they were having at Timeless Pints.

When I walked in the tasting room the first thing that caught my eye was the brewing equipment; it was a smaller operation than what I have become accustomed to seeing around here. The second thing I noticed was that they had nine taps and 10 different brews available (one of the brews was a blend of two of their beers). As I recalled that Timeless Pints had only been open for about three months I was impressed that a brewery of this size with only a couple of months of history could have such a wide variety of brews available. I am not talking about a bunch of IPAs with different names; they legitimately have nine different styles of beer. They have a witbier, blonde ale, oatmeal stout, porter, pale ale, amber ale, and a couple of IPAs. The names owner and head brewer, Chris Sparacio came up with are interesting as well; The Expeditious Guest, an American IPA; A Swarm and a Hatter, a Blonde Ale; and A Precarious Proposal, an Amber Ale are just a few examples. I suspect the biggest challenge besides continuing to come up with tasty brews will be continuing to come up with interesting names to go along with it.

Timeless Pints Brewing Company is located at 3671 Industry Avenue in Lakewood, California. While I do not use this site to review individual beers I will suggest getting a flight to try them all. Their Winter Festivale porter was one of the more interesting brews I have tried in recent memory. If it is available, give it a try; I think you will enjoy it. Cheers! Continue reading

Two Mid-Size Champions Party at Beachwood BBQ & Brewing

As you undoubtedly know, the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) was held again last October and California craft breweries pulled in close to 50 medals. More locally, Beachwood BBQ & Brewing out of Long Beach won five medals which made it Mid-Size Brewpub of the Year. A couple hundred miles north in Paso Robles, Firestone-Walker won four medals which made them Mid-Size Brewing Company and Mid-Size Brewing Company Brewer of the Year. Last night they held a Colossal Party for Two Mid-Size Champions at Beachwood BBQ & Brewing featuring 10 Firestone-Walker taps, including three of the four medal winners; Wookey Jack, Union Jack and Pivo. Of course, Beachwood had their standard multitude of house brews available, including three of their five medal winners; Foam Top, Kilgore Stout and Udder Love.

In addition to the great beer, Beachwood smoked up some of their delicious barbecue on wood from retired Firestone-Walker barrels. It was a great way to spend an evening and their fans were not going to let a little rain get in the way of the fun. Congratulations to Beachwood BBQ & Brewing and Firestone-Walker Brewing; we look forward to next year’s party. Cheers! Continue reading

Absolution Brewing granted Conditional Use Permit

Absolution brewing partners

Steve Farguson, Nigel Heath and Wes McCann

It is official; Absolution Brewing Company, the latest craft brewery to seek out Torrance as their home, appeared before the Torrance Planning Commission on Wednesday evening to request approval of Conditional Use Permit, CUP13-00026 to allow a tasting room in association with their brewery operation located at 2878 Columbia Street. After an initial presentation by Absolution Brewing Company CEO, Nigel Heath and head brewer, Wes McCann those of us in the audience were able to make our statements of support (yes, I took advantage of the opportunity). After a few minutes of discussion a vote was taken and by unanimous decision, the permit was granted.

Absolution Brewing Company will be open Wednesday through Sunday and have longer hours than any of the other Torrance tasting rooms, so who knows, maybe a pattern will be set and we will start seeing increased hours of operation at the others. They plan on brewing Old World styles of ales from England, Germany and Belgium using New World ingredients, especially the west coast hops that have become so popular around here. We can probably expect them to open by the beginning of 2014. I have been visiting the location over the last several weeks and they are really making progress. I heard a rumor that they may start with test batches very soon.

As I said in my statement to the Planning Commission, this is a great time for a craft beer fan to live in Torrance. Cheers!

El Segundo Brewing Company Dueling DIPAs

El Segundo Brewing Company (ESBC), a hopcentric microbrewery nestled between the noise of LAX and the aromas of Standard Oil’s refinery, provides relief from the din and pollution with some of the South Bay’s most popular IPAs and ales. Last year at their one year anniversary, ESBC released their first Double IPA; Two 5 Left. With Simcoe, Citra, Cascade and Chinook hops combined with Two Row, Vienna, Crystal 15 and Crystal 40 malts it is easy to understand why it was so well received. It is delicious.

During LA Beer Week last September, El Segundo released their second DIPA, Hop Tanker. Using Two Row and Vienna malts with Nelson Sauvin and Citra hops this Double IPA was light in color and maybe a little smoother tasting, but the ABV jumped from the 8.2 Two 5 Left to a tasty 9.5 on the Hop Tanker. Once again, it was very well received and discussions around the taproom started being held over which DIPA was the best. It was actually a very valid question because El Segundo can only brew so much beer at a time, and it was time to brew a DIPA again; but which one?

On Saturday, November 16, El Segundo Brewing Company held a Dueling Double IPAs event at their taproom. Flights of Two 5 Left and Hop Tanker were sold and the drinker was given a vote which had a value of 50 points. They also used the volume of beer sold during business that day. All sales of pints, growlers, bottles and tasters of the DIPAs were tabulated with the winning brew to be started December 2 and would be ready after Christmas. Continue reading

Ninkasi tasting at Library Alehouse

As you have probably noticed; I attend quite a few beer festivals of various sizes. I recently had someone tell me that they like to get a list of the beers that will be there then write down the names of the beers that they will sample. The other day at the Alpine Kraft Bierfest I spoke with attendees that try to find their favorite brews and a few that go out to seek new beers. That is pretty much my game plan. I try to find breweries I have never sampled before; then I concentrate on beers brewed by breweries I have limited experience with, primarily focusing on the beer I have never tried. It was at Taste of Brews in Long Beach last August that I first became aware of Ninkasi Brewing Company and more specifically, their Total Domination IPA.

Ninkasi Brewing Company was established in 2006 in Eugene, Oregon where they began brewing in some space they leased at a local restaurant. By 2007 they had moved to their current location where they continued to expand their production to the point that they now have a 55-barrel brewing system, with the capacity of producing 95,000 barrels per year of Ninkasi goodness. With all that beer in a state the size of Oregon it only made sense that they increased their distribution to include Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.

It was a few weeks after the Taste of Brews that I noticed Ninkasi’s Tricerahops Double IPA while I was doing some beer shopping at Total Wine. I remembered with fondness the taster I had at the beer festival, and I do enjoy a DIPA, so it did not take much convincing for me to grab a bottle; the $4.99 price tag on the 22oz bottle sealed the deal. A couple days later I was back at Total Wine, this time trying their Believer Double Red Ale. It was another very nice beer with an outstanding price tag. I rarely shop by price, but Ninkasi Brewing turns out a quality product and at $5.00 for a 22oz bomber, how can you go wrong? Continue reading

The 2nd Annual Alpine Bierfest: A great success

These photos are from the 2nd Annual Alpine Kraft Bierfest which was held Sunday afternoon in the Alpine Inn at Alpine Village in Torrance, CA. For those of you that attended, thank you very much; for those of you that missed it, you really missed it. I will admit that I took special interest in seeing this event succeed because I went to the first Alpine Kraft Bierfest and I did not want to see a repeat of last year’s dismal attendance. I was aware of the vision Otto Radtke, GM Of the Alpine Village Center, to see his craft beer festival bloom and grow into an internationally recognized beer festival. Last year there may have been 200 attendees; this year there were closer to 500. With growth like that, Radtke’s vision may come to fruition before too long.

An event of this size is rarely going to come off trouble free, but whatever issues were encountered yesterday were relatively minor and everyone seemed to be having a great time. There were about 50 breweries represented with [I am told] 101 different beers to choose from. Probably the most difficult task was tracking down specific beers that I wanted to try because many of the breweries did not send representatives or signage. Luckily, the organizers put together a map to assist attendees locate their favorite brews. Then it was just a matter of figuring out where to start and in what order. One day I am going to sit down and figure out a game plan before the event begins; I have heard of people that tried doing that, although I have yet to meet anyone that was able to stick to their plan.

I would like to congratulate Radtke, Todd Worley and the entire staff of the Alpine Inn for a job well done and I would like to thank all the Craft Beer Guy followers that came up an introduced themselves; I truly do enjoy meeting you. I hope to see all of you next year at the 3rd Annual Alpine Kraft Bierfest. Cheers! Continue reading

The Ultimate Beerfest OC – The good, the bad & the ugly

On Saturday October 19, a fundraiser for Villa Chardonnay, a 501(c)(3) non-profit horse rescue operation in Temecula, CA was held at the Costa Mesa Fairgrounds in the form of The Ultimate Beerfest OC. The event was scheduled to have 20+ breweries, food trucks, a beer pong tournament and a Best of Show beer competition voted on by attendees that had VIP tickets. The Ultimate Beerfest OC was one of six scheduled beer festivals put on by the organizers with the others being scheduled for Los Angeles, San Diego, Pasadena, San Francisco and San Jose. The Los Angeles event was originally scheduled as the first but was postponed until 2014 due to logistical issues with the selected venue. When I first learned of the event, the Los Angeles venue was the one I planned on attending. When it was postponed I volunteered to cover the event in Costa Mesa.

The event was scheduled to be held over the course of two sessions; the first beginning at 11:00 AM for VIP entries and noon for general admission and running until 3:00 PM with the second session running from 6:00 – 9:00 PM with VIP getting in an hour early. While the Ultimate Beerfest website specifically stated to “plan on arriving up to one hour early for event check-in” I really did not pay much heed to that suggestion as I have yet to attend a beer festival that had that many people show up; I kind of figured it was wishful thinking. It turned out that this was going to be bigger than I imagined.

As the event was outside, I was able to look in the beer garden as we approached and even though it was about 15 minutes until the VIP admission was to begin it was readily apparent that not all of the breweries had arrived. As I was coming from the opposite direction that the line to get in was forming, I could see that there was a pretty long line forming. I attributed it to the fact that many people were there as general admission and they were arriving an hour early as suggested. After all, VIP admission was $75 and General Admission was $50; it never dawned on me that everyone in line had paid for VIP admission. Continue reading

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