Russian River Brewing

The 2014 Craft Beer Guy Year in Review

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.

January 2014

Noble flight

Noble Ale Works Flight

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

American Craft Beer Week 2014, Day 4: Barrel Night at Naja’s Place

Thursday was day four of the 9th Annual American Craft Beer Week and as the weekend approaches the craft beer festivities picked it up a notch or two with Barrel Night at the venerable Naja’s Place, the oldest craft beer bar in the South Bay. It was appropriate that Naja’s was included in the tour of local craft beer establishments if for no other reason than they were the first place we visited when I first started “celebrating” American Craft Beer Week in 2012. Long before American craft beer was a household word, Naja’s Place was known for their wide selection of beers although, as I recall they were predominantly imports. These days their 88 taps is like a who’s who of craft beers and last night was a fine example of that.

Every month or two it seems that Naja’s has some kind of special event and those in the know know that Naja’s does not do anything half way; go big or go home and fear no beer are the mantras attendees come in chanting to themselves. For American Craft Beer Week Naja’s brought out 43 barrel-aged brews from breweries such as Allagash, Almanac, Ballast Point, The Bruery, Deschutes, Drakes, Epic, Firestone Walker, Goose Island, Ironfire, Russian River, Sierra Nevada, Widmer and many others. The beers ran the gamut of styles with sours, stouts, porters, lagers and pretty much anything that could be barrel-aged making an appearance.

While there was a very large number of people in attendance there was more beer than could be consumed in one evening; so if you look at the photo of the Barrel Night tap list and see something you want to try you might want to head over to Naja’s and grab some before they do tap out. Naja’s Place is located at 154 International Boardwalk in Redondo Beach. Continue reading

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

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

Beachwood Brewing’s 3rd Annual “Pliny Fights Cancer” Raffle Coming Soon

In the craft beer world there are few annual releases that are awaited with such anticipation as Russian River Brewing’s annual release of Pliny the Younger. Initially brewed in 2004, Pliny the Younger is released on the first Friday of every February. This true triple IPA is made in very limited quantities so is limited to draught pours at the Russian River pub for a mere two weeks at which point a few kegs are sent out to select Russian River accounts. One of these special accounts is Beachwood BBQ & Brewing who will have it at both their Long Beach and Seal Beach locations in February.

As you might imagine, it is not uncommon to see long lines outside of these locations when Pliny comes to town. I went to a Pliny release party last year that had 400 people lined up outside; the event started at 11:00 AM and the first guy in line had been there since 7:30 AM! The folks at Beachwood, being the nice guys they are, decided that instead of dealing with long lines of beer aficionados clamoring to get their yearly Pliny fix they would make this a fundraiser by selling raffle tickets for the chance at one of the 130 pints they will have available between the two locations with 100% of the proceeds benefiting the Melanoma Research Foundation. This is the third year they have done this; raising $7,000 in 2012, $9,000 in 2013 with a goal of $10,000 for 2014.

The tickets, a mere $5.00 each, went on sale January 14 and will continue through February 22. Be advised, the raffle tickets are a cash only deal, so when you visit Beachwood for some of their great beers and/or food, be sure to bring some cash for the tickets. They won’t add it to your bill. On February 24th, 2014, 130 raffle tickets will be drawn at random. The drawing will be streamed live on the New Brew Thursday webcast; winners will also be notified via email or phone. Winners will be able to redeem their Pliny the Younger pint between February 25 and March 6, 2014; Because of the limited quantities, winners will be directed to either Long Beach or Seal Beach to get their Pliny. Continue reading

New growler rules: Nothing is going to change

beer growler collection

Growlers of all shapes and sizes

I should probably begin this story by explaining that California has very different laws than what I presume must be most other states when it comes to beer growlers. From all the complaining I hear if you walk into a microbrewery in San Antonio, TX with a growler from Portland, OR you are not going to have a problem getting it filled. Reverse the scenario and you have the same result. Apparently, some places will fill plastic jugs if you ask them; not that I have ever seen it done; but from what I read it is not too far from the truth. Now, if you take a growler from a microbrewery in Torrance, CA and try to fill it at another microbrewery anywhere else in the state you will be denied. This was due to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) which basically said that only a container that was printed with the brewery’s own logo and address could be filled with beer. Essentially, it would be the same as putting Coors in a Budweiser bottle; it could not be done.

In February of this year the California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA) held an ABC workshop and the head of the ABC, Jacob Appelsmith made a comment about the interpretation of the ABC’s rules. It was interpreted that breweries could fill non-native growlers and people started getting excited. The LA Brewers Guild issued a statement that there were local brewers getting approval for the new labeling; there were rumors that such heavy hitters as Russian River Brewing, was ready to start filling non-native glassware and then The Bruery said they had a new policy on non-native glass. People started getting excited, finally they would not need to own 10 or 15 or more different growlers. Heck, I even started working on a plan to take full advantage of this new item I could market. Then I started talking to local brewers and actually read the laws instead of the interpretation of someone else. And there are the problems . . . as I see them. Continue reading

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