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Business & Beer returns to Monkish Brewing Company

Thursday evening, April 10, the business networking group Business & Beer returned to Torrance production brewery, Monkish Brewing Company. Monkish Brewing is the South Bay’s source for fresh Belgian-styled ales of which there were 13 available to us last night. There was a nice group of people that at least stopped by for a while to say hello and join the large group of Monkish Brewing fans that were in attendance. Vella Pizza was there with their mobile brick oven; for the first time that I recall, they actually sold out of pizzas.

If you live or do business in the South Bay and enjoy craft beers and networking you might want to consider checking out the Business & Beer networking group. It is an informal networking group that meets at a different craft beer tasting room or brewpub in the South Bay area on the second Thursday of every month. Rapidly approaching their two year anniversary the group has built solid business relationships for some and is constantly putting possible business connections together. There are no dues and no mandatory meetings; just come down and join the group. Everyone is friendly and a fan of good beer so you know you will have at least a couple things in common with everyone there. You can find the schedule of upcoming meetings on the BusinessNBeer.com website or by following them on Facebook. The next gathering will be May 8 at Smog Brewing Company in Torrance. Cheers! Continue reading

Temecula: It isn’t just about the wine any more

While it may not be as well-known as the Napa-Sonoma wine region of California, the Temecula Valley area of the Inland Empire has at least 35 wineries and has gained considerable respectability with the wines they provide. Like Napa-Sonoma has exploded with craft breweries, the same can be said for Temecula and the Inland Empire; even if not to the same extent. This past weekend I headed out to Temecula and spent a little time checking out the craft breweries that have popped up since my last visit in 2012.

Wiens Brewing Company, as it turns out, opened a couple weeks before I did my 2012 brewery tour. My son lives in the area and he told me about a special anniversary ale that he had heard great things about. Unfortunately, by the time we got there it was all gone. I guess that is to be expected with a limited release. If the Wiens name sounds familiar, it could be because they also own Wiens Family Cellars, a Temecula Valley winery. Wiens had about 11 different beers on tap so we opted for a flight to do a major sampling. At $1.00 each for their flagship beers, it was a great deal. We sampled their Front Street Lager (nice maltiness), Far Post brown ale, Stout, Red Ale, Millennium Falconers IPA, Type 3 IPA (probably my favorite), Insomnia IPA and Descend Black IPA. For dessert we tried their Niflheim Russian Imperial Stout. All the beers were solid brews with the IPAs being my favorite. They offer a few other big beers so I am going to have to plan an overnight trip to Temecula so I can walk back to my hotel after experimenting more. Wiens does bottle many of their beers, so we did pick up one or two to try at home. Wiens Brewing Company is located at 27941 Diaz Road in Temecula.

When we were driving to Wiens some of the street names sounded familiar so I knew we had to be close to Black Market Brewing Company, which we had visited in late 2012. While we were looking for places we had never visited before we had such a good time the first time we were there I was okay with making a return visit. Besides, after a year and a half there had to be some brews we had not tried yet. Black Market Brewing is in a word, huge; they also appear to have a nice barrel aging program. The first time we visited them we had a room at the La Quinta across the street so we were able to take advantage by getting each of the 10 beers they had on tap. By take advantage I mean, they were giving six ounce pours for $1.00 so I could order one of each. This time I was driving, so we limited ourselves to a flight of four; Espionage on Nitro, Rotating IPA, Quadrophenia and Embargo. In my opinion, their big beers really show off Black Market’s brewing skills. Luckily, they bottle and can so we bought a couple bottles to bring home for later. Black Market Brewing Company is located at 41740 Enterprise Circle North in Temecula. Continue reading

A visit to the Alpine Beer Company Brewpub

When we left Arizona and headed back home I programmed a slight detour into my car’s GPS system as we took the long way home and headed to Alpine Beer Company, in Alpine, California. As you will likely notice, the photos in this gallery were taken over the course of two separate visits to the Alpine Beer Company brewpub. The first time I went there was last year when I was returning from a trade show, the experience was fun enough that I made a second 100+ mile detour to return there last week.

My first experience that I recall trying an Alpine Beer Company beer was at a bottle share in 2012 when someone brought a growler of Nelson IPA. I was so impressed that whenever I am anywhere close to Alpine, CA I do what I can to go to the source. As fate would have it, both times that I have gone there it has been a Sunday which means the brewery itself is closed. “Settling” for the brewpub is hardly a bad thing as their food, home-style barbecue, is pretty good if you like barbecue but the beer is what is my draw. While I am always pretty vocal about “Top 10” lists and how they are pretty useless when it comes to beer; I will admit that I do look at them once in a while. In my opinion, a Top 10 IPA list that ignores Alpine Beer Company just confirms that my general opinion of Top 10 lists is dead on.

Since it was getting a little late in the day we did not have the time to sample all 10 beers that they had available that day, but we did order a brisket plate and a small flight consisting of the McIlhenney’s Irish Red, Captain Stout, Pure Hoppiness IPA and an Odin’s Raven Imperial Stout. While the Pure Hoppiness was naturally my favorite, all four were very solid brews and the Odin’s Raven was particularly delicious. The downside of the brewpub is that they do not do growler fills, so we grabbed several bottles to bring home. Continue reading

Walowski retains title at Smog City Battle of the Cask – Part 2

Saturday afternoon, Torrance production brewery Smog City Brewing held their second Battle of the Cask at their tasting room. Initially the competition was to be between the six Smog City employees, with each of them making their own little tweaks to the Amarilla Gorilla IPA that all used as the base for their cask recipes. As sometimes happens during fermentation, a couple of the casks “exploded” so they had to be disqualified. Luckily, they were able to put them on tap so we could at least try them. They were both amazing.

Anyway, we had five casks to sample and I have to say, this was a really tough decision and that was reflected in the final tally which was a mere five votes between the first and second place choices. Assistant brewer Chris Walowski, who won the Battle of the Casks in December, wowed the crowd again Saturday with his recipe consisting of Merlot Concentrate, Mosaic and Simcoe hops; narrowly edging out Smog City Brewing co-owner, Laurie Porter’s Mango and Muscat Oolong Tea, Peach Puree and Simcoe hops recipe. This made Walowski the undefeated holder of the coveted Budweiser Belt. All the entries were very good and I look forward to the third Battle of the Cask.

By the way, Smog City Brewing Company will be holding their first anniversary party on Saturday, May 17 from 12:00 PM – 8:00 PM. They will be releasing another new beer and they will have their first bottle release. You know there will be more surprises as the date draws closer, but you should probably mark it on your calendars. Cheers! Continue reading

Craft beer in the Phoenix, AZ area

When I left off, we had visited Coachella Valley Brewing and La Quinta Brewing in the Inland Empire and began our drive to Arizona. Unfortunately, there were not a lot of options available to us between the Palm Springs area and our final destination, Tempe. Since it was a Wednesday afternoon there were some breweries that were open in the Phoenix area but most would be closed before we arrived; besides, we needed food as well so a brewpub would be the preferred choice or a gastropub if no brewpubs were available.

Tanya got online with her iPhone and discovered that SunUp Brewing, a brewpub in Phoenix, would be open so I set our GPS for Camelback Road. SunUp Brewing has a fairly wide food selection, primarily made up of the kinds of foods you would expect to find in the Southwest like nachos and chili, but also offering several salads, sandwiches and burgers. I left the food choice up to Tanya which resulted in our having a spinach salad, some chili and peach cobbler. The salad and chili were good, but the peaches were a little crunchy. But I was there for the beer. Our server, Emily, provided us with a flight of all nine of the brews they had on tap that night. We started with their Horizon Hefeweizen and Light Rail Cream Ale which were both solid but a little light for me, although the cloves and banana flavor of the hefeweizen were nice. The Stinger Pale Ale, Amber, Trooper IPA, Amber (w/ Cascade), Falcon Red, Vanilla Porter and Coffee Oatmeal Stout were more my style and quite enjoyable. All of their beers could qualify as session beers, so feel free to order a flight or a couple pints; you should be able to walk a straight line later. SunUp Brewing is located at 322 E. Camelback Road in Phoenix. Continue reading

New breweries in the Inland Empire

Last week I made my annual pilgrimage to Tempe, AZ. For the past couple of years we made it a habit to leave the night before my scheduled arrival date and always found myself at Babe’s BBQ & Brewhouse in Rancho Mirage because they were the only place open by the time we got in the area. While they have a nice selection of in-house brewed beers, decent food and amazing peach pie, this year I wanted to try something new; and I just knew that there had to be a couple new production breweries in the Palm Springs area. As I am inclined to do, I asked my Facebook followers if they had any suggestions; once again they did not let me down.

The first location I was directed to was Coachella Valley Brewing Company in Thousand Palms, a production brewery that has been in business about six months. To be honest, I had planned to leave town a little earlier than I did so I could spend more time at my destinations, but fate was not on my side. Add to that an extreme dust storm that literally brought traffic to a dead stop on I-10 and I was definitely running behind. When we arrived at Coachella Valley Brewing the sand in the air was so bad that I had concerns taking my camera out of the car; it was pretty nasty.

Once we got in I was pretty impressed; the place is massive. When I heard they were only six months old I was even more impressed. They advertise that free tours come with every pint purchased but the beertender appeared to be the only one on duty so I settled for taking a few photos of their brew house and sampling a flight. They had about 12 different options available on the day we were there. Our flight consisted of their Desert Swarm, a witbier featuring locally produced honey; a Sessions IPA that I guess is a session beer because of the 4% ABV and the poor flavor. We continued with a Harvester IPA which was quite enjoyable and ended with another enjoyable beer, their Whopper Imperial Chocolate Milk Stout that reminded me that my son has a Whopper Stout fermenting as I write this. As I only tried four of at least 20 options I don’t know that I can really judge them, but I am positive I will be back when I have more time so I can try some of their other options. Coachella Valley Brewing Company is located at 30640 Gunther Street in Thousand Palms. They are open six days a week (closed Mondays) so if you find yourself stranded in a dust storm, head over as they are likely open. Continue reading

King Harbor Brewing Company: From the beginning

I remember the day well; it was the 4th of July 2013 and Tanya and I were taking the dogs on their morning walk. We were walking through the strip mall that we walked through virtually every morning. Something caught Tanya’s eye on the window of one of vacant units, I glanced over and immediately recognized the ABC’s Public Notice of Application to Sell Alcoholic Beverages. I knew the neighborhood demographics well enough to know it wasn’t going to be a bar so I stopped to take a closer look. Could my eyes be deceiving me? Will there be a microbrewery a block from my house? Apparently Coastline Brewing was going to become my neighbor.

As soon as we got home from the walk I started doing some research and was soon in contact with the new microbrewery owners Tom Dunbabin and Will Daines. We set up a meeting for the upcoming week where we discovered we had met a couple weeks earlier at The Brewery at Abigaile. After some beer and discussion I offered to come speak at the CUP hearing they had scheduled in a couple weeks. The Redondo Beach Planning Commission approved the Conditional Use Permit and almost immediately Dunbabin and Daines started tearing apart their unit in preparation of building a production brewery and tasting room.

Within a couple months a decision was made to change the name to King Harbor Brewing Company (KHBC) because there is a winery up north in Santa Rosa, Coastline Cellars, and they did not want their beer brand confused with Coastline Cellar’s wine brand. While building King Harbor Brewing, Dunbabin and Daines also sought out a head brewer and came up with Phil McDaniel, a former brewer at Stone Brewing Company and Lead Brewer at The Bruery. It was all a matter of time; which was extended a little due to the government shutdown which caused all kinds of delays in the brewing world. Anyway, as you can tell by the photos, eventually all the permits were approved, i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed and KHBC was brewing. King Harbor Brewing now has a couple of soft opens under their belt, kegs distributed all over the South Bay and they are ready to have their Grand Opening! Continue reading

Strand Brewing brings March Madness to Naja’s Place

It is that time of year again for collegiate basketball fans; March Madness is upon us. Now I have to admit, I do not really have the time to follow basketball of any type so “March Madness” really has little bearing on my life but when I heard that Strand Brewing Company and Naja’s Place were teaming up for a March Madness tap-takeover it did not take much convincing to get me over to the International Boardwalk to attend their event.

Now, I guess “tap-takeover” might be a little exaggerated since Naja’s Place has 88 beers on tap, but Strand Brewing Company brought eight beers on tap; Musashi Black IPA, White Sand DIPA, 24th Street Pale Ale, Atticus IPA, Batch 100 Stout, Harvest Ball Orange Wheat, Beach House Amber Ale and Black Sand DIPA as well as their White Sand DIPA with Chinook hops on cask. There was a large contingency of Strand Brewing Company fans on hand that made short work of the cask, but there were plenty of other Strand Brewing Company beers for them to enjoy.

Strand Brewing Company is located at 23520 Telo Avenue in Torrance and Naja’s Place is located at 154 International Boardwalk in Redondo Beach. Cheers! Continue reading

Photos from the 2nd Annual Froth Awards at Saint Rocke

Saturday afternoon, the Saint Rocke concert club in Hermosa Beach held their 2nd Annual Froth Awards: Craft Beer Experience and Gastropub Invitational featuring five of the South Bay’s finest craft breweries paired with dishes provided by four South Bay gastropubs. In addition to the beer and food pairings, there was live music provided by the Aaron White Band, the Get Down Boys and Johnny Jump Up. There were also raffles with prizes such as growlers, hats and other swag donated by the participating breweries and gastropubs and free pizza provided by Fresh Brothers Pizza. They even had a “Best Beard” contest which was won by yours truly.

It was a fun day of music, beer and food that consisted of five courses. The first course featured Strand Brewing Company’s White Sand Double IPA with marinated short rib tacos from The Rockefeller gastropub. This was followed by El Segundo Brewing Company’s White Dog IPA paired with tri-tip sliders from California Rancher. The third course featured The Dudes’ Brewing Company and their Kolschtal Eddy which was paired with a Tuscan white braised pork shoulder provided by Bouzy Gastropub. Our fourth pairing was The Brewery at Abigaile’s 002 2nd Anniversary Double IPA with waffles and chicken provided by R10 Social House. The final course introduced everyone to the two newest participants, King Harbor Brewing Company with The Quest (Rakau) Pale Ale and Saint Rocke’s own Kitchen 142.

It really was a lot of fun with great beer, good food and fun people. If there is a third annual Froth Awards you can be sure I will be there; you should too. Cheers! Continue reading

Business & Beer gathering at Absolution Brewing Company

Thursday evening the Business & Beer networking group welcomed Absolution Brewing Company to the rotation of the South Bay breweries and brewpubs it visits. It was a great opportunity for many members to get their first chance to try beers from Torrance’s newest production brewery. In addition to the beer and networking, Business & Beer co-founder brought in some baked goods that she made using flour she made from Absolution Brewing’s Angel’s Demise IPA. Head Brewer Wes McCann also took some time to discuss the brewing process, recipes and future plans for Absolution Brewing Company. It was another enjoyable Business & Beer event.

If you live or work in the South Bay area and networking is important to you, and you enjoy craft beer, you might want to check out BusinessNBeer.com. This is the South Bay’s most fun and relaxed business networking group. They meet on the second Thursday of every month at a different production brewery or brewpub in the South Bay area. With all the additions to the craft beer scene recently, there is a good chance you have not had a chance to visit some of them. This is your chance and you might even do some business. Events are scheduled at 6:00 PM so you do not have to rush to work and you can bring your significant other so there is no need to rush home either. There are no rules and no dues; just come have a good time, meet some good people and enjoy a beer or two. You can find the schedule of upcoming events on their website or by following them on Facebook. Cheers! Continue reading

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