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Pliny Fights Cancer raffle held at Beachwood BBQ & Brewing

As I announced last month, Beachwood BBQ & Brewing was holding their 3rd Annual Pliny Fights Cancer fundraiser by selling chances for an opportunity to win a pint of Pliny the Younger, the seasonal triple IPA released by Russian River Brewing every February. Raffle tickets for the chance at one of the 130 pints were drawn Monday afternoon. Beachwood raised $7,000 in 2012 and $9,000 in 2013 with a goal of $10,000 for 2014. Thanks to all of Beachwood’s loyal customers they shattered this goal by raising a little over $14,000 with 100% of the proceeds benefiting the Melanoma Research Foundation.

On Monday morning staff from both the Long Beach and Seal Beach Beachwood BBQ locations along with friends of Tony Carbone, the inspiration behind this fundraiser, select regular patrons and various media types like Craft Beer Guy, Beer Paper LA and New Brew Thursday who streamed the event live, gathered at the Long Beach location for the drawing. For those that were unable to watch the New Brew Thursday podcast, do not fear; the winning raffle ticket numbers have been posted on the Beachwood BBQ website. Winners will also be contacted via telephone and/or email so you might want to check your email today and be sure to answer your phone, even if you do not recognize the calling number. Winners must collect their pint of Pliny between Tuesday February 25 and Thursday March 6. You must bring your raffle ticket with you and redeem it at the location designated. Unfortunately, where you bought the ticket may not be where you will have to go to redeem it.

Congratulations to Gabe, Julian, Brandon, Lena and all the staff from both Beachwood locations for putting on a very successful charity drive and to Russian River for providing a beer that seems to bring out the best in beer people. Cheers! Continue reading

LA Beer Bloggers Summit at Smog City Brewing

Sunday afternoon, February 23, the LA Beer Bloggers held their 10th LA Beer Bloggers Summit, this time at one of my favorite local microbreweries, Smog City Brewing Company. The LA Beer Bloggers are a group of craft beer aficionados that promote craft beer either professionally or as a hobby. The summits are held every month or so at various breweries, brewpubs and gastropubs in the greater Los Angeles area. These events give the writers and photographers an opportunity to network with others that have the same passion for craft beer and to experience new locations they may not have visited before.

Today’s event included a panel on photography and how it is utilized as a marketing tool to promote businesses that are too new to afford a marketing team. The panel, moderated by John Michael Verive, featured Joshua Liberman from The Tao of Photography; Bernie Wire of Friends of Local Beer, Laurie Porter of Smog City and Tyler Graham from the Stone Brewing Company marketing team. Their discussion included topics such as how they got into photography, the use of social media, favorite tools and methodologies. Of course there was lots of networking and plenty of great beers. Cheers! Continue reading

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

South Bay Breweries Valentines Weekend

Since we have been on the road lately, I decided that this weekend we would stick around and give a little love to the South Bay’s craft beer brewers for the Valentine’s Day weekend. Friday, Valentine’s Day, we headed over to The Brewery at Abigaile, a brewpub in Hermosa Beach. Since it was Valentine’s Day and we had not made any reservations we took advantage of their Happy Hour seating and grabbed a couple seats at the bar where we were able to enjoy a flight of their brews; including their 002 2nd Anniversary DIPA and Dark Matter a Belgian dark ale that can only get better with age. One of the best things about the release of the 002 DIPA is that it means the anniversary party for Abigaile must be coming soon.

On Saturday I headed over to Smog City Brewing where they were hosting a fundraiser for the LA Derby Dolls Enforcers. The Derby Dolls are a Southern California, all-female banked track roller derby league. The Enforcers are the referees for the league. The fundraiser consisted of a raffle for Derby Dolls and Smog City swag as well as beer floats in four different varieties and a pie versus cake sale. Between the people that came out specifically for the fundraiser, the various beer tour buses and those that just wanted to come have a beer, Smog City was packed to the brim. After sampling a couple beers and Tanya’s Death by Chocolate (The Nothing with chocolate ice cream beer float) we headed over to Monkish Brewing.

We got there about the same time as the LA Craft Beer Tours van, so we found Monkish to be almost as crowded as Smog City. When I think back to when we first started going to Monkish and compare it to today it is pretty obvious that the craft beer scene in Torrance is really exploding. People frequently ask me if there are too many breweries here; when I visit multiple local breweries like I did Saturday I can’t help but think how crowded these locations would be if there were only one or two available. Continue reading

King Harbor Brewing Company hosts Business & Beer

Thursday evening, February 13, Redondo Beach’s first production brewery, King Harbor Brewing Company (KHBC), opened their doors to host the February 2014 gathering of the South Bay’s business networking group, Business & Beer. While King Harbor Brewing Company is not yet officially opened, the Business & Beer event served as the first of several soft opens before King Harbor has their grand opening which will likely be held towards the middle or end of March.

Due to issues with Southern California Edison, there was not enough power coming into KHBC’s brew house they have been unable to begin brewing to their full potential, but power has been completed and King Harbor’s brewer Philip McDaniel plans to begin the full brewing process this coming Wednesday. In the meantime, he has been brewing pilot brews and was able to provide four offerings at Business & Beer. The brews available included their flagship beers, The Quest and Abel Brown along with two variations; The Pineapple Quest, The Quest soaked with fresh pineapple and Vanilla Abel, which is the Abel Brown after sitting on whole vanilla beans for a few days.

Since King Harbor has been providing us with spent grain from their brewing, Tanya baked up a storm using their grains and flour she made from the grain. She brought in three kinds of cookies, two different breads and some crackers. She also brought in six mustards she made using their California Saison and Abel Brown. I think it is safe to say that the beers and foods made from said beers were a big hit. Continue reading

Breweries of California’s Central Coast

Sunday we arose to another drizzly morning and a desire to get home by day’s end. Since it was a Sunday the availability of brewpubs in the immediate area was limited and we did not feel like waiting around for them to open so we headed south. There were a lot of breweries to choose from in the area and we decided to check out BarrelHouse Brewing Company, a microbrewery in Paso Robles. I have to say, of the 19 breweries and brewpubs we visited over the course of five days, BarrelHouse was the nicest aesthetically; and they had some wonderful brews.

BarrelHouse Brewing is getting ready to celebrate their first year of business, but the quality of their brews certainly seems to indicate that they have had lots of practice. We ordered a flight of all eight beers, ranging from their BarrelHouse Templeton Session Style Ale Kölsch to their BarrelHouse Harvest Ale Spiced Brown Porter. I have to say, all of their beers were well done with their unfiltered IPA being my personal favorite. Tanya liked them all so much that she purchased bottles of everything they had available. When I looked at the information about their upcoming one year celebration I am tempted to head back up there. We had a very nice time there.

After loading the beers in the trunk and the dogs in the car we headed off to Dunbar Brewing, a microbrewery in Santa Margarita. One of my cousins has a nephew that works there and I was looking forward to trying out their brews. As it turns out, Dunbar Brewing recently went through some renovation and they had none of their brews available. Luckily, they had a pretty nice guest tap list in the interim so I got a Matt’s Burning Rosids, an Imperial Saison created by Stone Brewing Company in honor of Matt Courtright, an employee that recently died due to an accident at the brewery. It was quite tasty, I am sure Matt would have enjoyed it. Everyone at Dunbar seemed quite friendly, but this trip was about sampling beers brewed at the brewery itself, so we will have to return later. 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

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

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

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