As 2014 winds down I faced the question posed to me by a few people; “Will Craft Beer Guy be writing an article about the year?” Initially I thought I would do a Top 10 list and just discuss the Top 10 breweries and brewpubs in the South Bay. I figured it would be easy because there were only 10 craft brewers here, but in the last month so many new locations have opened that we now have 12 if you count Phantom Carriage that has not “officially” opened yet. The South Bay now has the following breweries and brewpubs in its confines; in order of seniority (I think) they are: Red Car Brewery, San Pedro Brewing Company, Strand Brewing Company, El Segundo Brewing Company, Monkish Brewing Company, The Brewery at Abigaile, Smog City Brewing, The Dudes’ Brewing Company, Absolution Brewing Company, King Harbor Brewing Company, Three Weavers Brewing and Phantom Carriage. 2015 should bring us a few more including Hop Saint, Brouwerij West and Port Town Brewing; and those are just the ones that come to mind. There will also be some moves and expansions among those listed above. With that I now present you The 2014 Craft Beer Guy Year in Review.
As I look through my articles from January I see that it was a pretty mellow month or the calm before the storm if you prefer. I would have to say my personal highlight of the month was a Sunday afternoon that we spent visiting several of the Orange County craft brewery tasting rooms and brewpubs. The day included stops at Bootlegger’s Brewery, Taps Fish House & Brewery, Noble Ale Works, Tustin Brewing Company and Brewbakers. Each of these stops were first time visits and I would not have a problem recommending any of them. The thing is, in the past year Orange County has opened so many new tasting rooms and brewpubs that it is getting tough to try and keep up with them all; but I will try. Continue reading
This particular self-guided craft beer tour will be a five (5) part series that covers a visit to 22 production breweries and brewpubs between Los Angeles and Santa Rosa. Let there be no mistake, there are far more than 22 craft breweries in that geographical area but we had a set amount of time. It was another of those “so many beers, so little time” situations. When I set out from LA there were three basic routes to take; I could drive Interstate 5 which is definitely the fastest route but the desert is a barren wasteland when it comes to craft beer. Taking US 101 up the coast takes significantly longer than I-5, but there are barrels and barrels of beer all along the way and if time is of any importance, there are far too many distractions. The third option and the one I opted to take was California Highway 99. When I opted to take 99 I knew the drive would take a little longer, but I also know that I would be able to find some craft beer along the way. This particular route was set going northbound, but you can easily reverse the map provided below and plug in your own starting point.
The locations visited on this leg of the self-guided craft beer tour were Lengthwise Brewing in Bakersfield, Full Circle Brewing Company in Fresno and Dust Bowl Brewing Company in Turlock. You can find the photos of the three locations at http://craftbeerguy.com/lengthwise-full-circle-dust-bowl-brewing/.
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