8 Thrilling Ways to Tell if a Beer Bar is Serious

GNAG7776After peeking at this Thrillist article with the same title, I don’t think peeking in a beer bar’s cold box to inspect the lines is exactly a simple way to tell if a beer bar is serious. Here’s eight easier ways to tell if a beer bar is serious:

  1. A draft board or menu that is not current and/or has typos? Not serious.
  2. Has all shaker pint glasses? Not fucking serious.
  3. All beers from one or two distributors? Nope, not serious.
  4. Has domestic and imports? Not serious.
  5. Has a crap tap? Not at all serious.
  6. Servers that don’t speak beer? Not serious.
  7. See a keg in the dining room or back in the bathroom area? Tap it to see if it’s full or empty. Is it full? The bar isn’t serious. Beer should be kept in a cold box or cellar temp.
  8. Frosty mugs? Dirty glassware? 400 TV’s? Not serious.

That is one thrilling list.

Back To Basics: Put Some Gulden Draak In Your Belfry

(Sponsored) – In a world where we are blessed with great local beer, sometimes it’s necessary to go back into that spirit of trying something out of one’s comfort zone. Something from Belgium, and big enough to survive the spoils of travel. Enter, Gulden Draak.

global beer

Global Beer Network Rep Natasha with a few Van Steenberge bieres at The Clay Oven

My first run-in with Gulden Draak was at a pub night at Irvine’s Indian Food stalwart, The Clay Oven. Everything from tandoor-roasted bone marrow to a lamb stuffed naan married well with the beer, and I must admit, was the first time seeing such great beer at an Indian restaurant. One beer I kept going back to was Gulden Draak, a 10.5% dark tripel with just enough going on to pair with just about everything. It was also this beer where I learned a valuable lesson in beer pairing: “sweet calms heat,” something to remember when ordering those dynamite habanero wings.

gulden draak tripel ocbeerblog

White bottle, dark tripel

Revisiting the beer today, I can see why it stood out. The husky ruby-brown beer pours with an abundance of frothy white foam, instantly sending aromas of dark fruits up the ol’ wafting tunnel. Once the quickly expanding head settles, the aromas keep rolling: caramel, clove, and banana bread burst around hints of sweet alcohol. The flavor is reminiscent of a barley wine carried by spicy Belgian yeast, but the body is light enough to fool you into thinking it’s okay to drive after a glass. It’s totally not. Gulden Draak is all about proper transportation.

gulden draak 9000 ocbeerblogGoing a few steps higher up the belfry is Gulden Draak 9000, which comes in the black bottle. 9000 is one of Belgium’s great quadruples, and is named for the zip code in Ghent, Belgium, where the actual golden dragon sits on top of the tallest belfry. It pours surprisingly lighter than the dark tripel in the white bottle, but 9000 is all about the dark fruits, which unashamedly lifts its skirt on the alcohol, despite only being .2% higher. Fermented peach, caramel, dark fruits, and booze run the flavor…which is decadent and highly quaffable despite the sheer girth of this beer.

One of the best parts of these overlooked beers is their availability, where a trip to any local big box wine or beer store has 11.2oz bottle four packs, 750ml, and in some cases, the magnum, which is super fun to crack at a party.

Visit Gulden Draak’s facebook page to #ConquertheDragon yourself and enter to win swag!

Blogunitas: When Big Gets BIGGAR

GNAG0632

Deetle-deetle! Ron Lindenbusch

“When people ask if we’re coming to L.A., we say no way, we’re coming to Azusa because it’s got everything from A to Z in the USA!” says Ron Lindenbusch, Lagunitas director of marketing to our group of media and city officials. And by everything, I assume he means land at the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains that spew mineral-rich brewing water. “We also want to reach out and touch the community, not like to deetle-deetle them,” he continued, making a ball-tickling hand gesture.

I was in a small group that got to “sneaky peek” the freshly-finished construction site (one day before 4/20) and holy hell, the campus is big enough to fill Seaworld’s tanks with beer on a daily basis. Shamu? More like a drunken SHAMWOW. Here’s some stats on the behemoth brewhouse:

  • Three 250 BBL Brewhouses with a Centrifuge for each
  • Ninety 55-foot Fermenters
  • Twelve Big Ass Brite Tanks
  • Community room, Amphitheater, Taproom, Rooftop Bar, etc, etc, etc
  • Cans are coming too…

Tony Magee was absent from the festivities. When asked, “he’s probably playing with his band tonight somewhere around Chicago,” said his sister and director of communications, Karen Hamilton with a smile.

GNAG0738The super-sneaky peek complete, we left the vast packaging hall and headed to the shipping and distribution warehouse to party. Apparently the industry-only event link got out, so it was a little more crowded than anticipated. What would have been a chill couch-trip over beers ended up being a revolving trip in line for beer. As the evening went on, roller derby happened next to live bluegrass. Still fun, but my goal of networking and interviewing was left (mostly) undone. At least I got pics!

GNAG0652

GNAG0643

GNAG0657

GNAG0646

GNAG0591

GNAG0572

GNAG0571

GNAG0567

GNAG0557

GNAG0556

An Open Letter To Temecula (re: 45 day ban on new tasting rooms)

Temecula, I saw that your elected planners have put into motion a 45 day ban on new brewery tasting rooms and expansions while you go on a fact-finding mission. I saw that you were going to look into other cities, and I would like to invite you to Anaheim: a city that was founded by German vintners in 1857 and is now craft beer central for the county.

New breweries are sought out and welcomed by the city of Anaheim. In the last two Mayoral ‘State of the City‘ addresses, Mayor Tait has called out the “brew city” initiative to find ways to actively bring new breweries into the city and to have a well educated city staff that specializes in alcohol issues. The Planning Commission and city staff actively cut red tape to streamline requests to get these positive small businesses running.

Why do they do this? Breweries bring a sense of community, they bring a pub-like atmosphere that’s been long lost in today’s loud, sports-driven bars. Breweries bring an artistic sense of pride to the city, as any award a brewer brings home on the national or regional level shines as a potential tourist opportunity. Breweries bring new jobs, most are family businesses run by neighbors that live in your city, hiring people in the community. These jobs keep money made in Temecula, IN Temecula.

Beer also puts your city as destination, not only just wine, but also great beer. People that enjoy local craft beer spend money on good food, art, and local culture. These aren’t people tailgating with a 30 pack of light flavorless lager causing trouble. These are educated and curious people of all walks of life that want to taste what Temecula is like. Beer brings young people, families, and diversity. People want to know what the beer tastes like there. How the wine is. How the food is. They are there to spend a day in your city, drinking what the locals drink, in a positive manner, spending money in Temecula.

Breweries also give back to the local community, donating product to local festivals that support nonprofit organizations. For example in Anaheim, the OC Fest of Ales festival gives proceeds to Cops 4 Kids; breweries and restaurants donate beer and food for this great cause.

Temecula’s beer and wine industry have a storied past with the Cilurzo family who made wine, and son Vinnie who made beer at The Blind Pig. There’s no beer geek in the country that doesn’t know who makes Blind Pig or Pliny the Elder. Vinnie Cilurzo’s experience with wine barrels helped kick-start a wild and sour beer movement that is now one of the world’s bustling beer fads, all from his experience in Temecula. You all should be proud of that; pay homage to that. OWN that. Sure their beer is now made in Santa Rosa at Russian River Brewing, but the roots are in your town. The breweries open today in Temecula will add to that.

“A 2013 survey by the Sonoma County Economic Development Board found that Pliny the Younger brought almost $2.4 million in economic activity to the area, with about $1.4 million in direct expenditures related to the event. Those figures are likely to go up this year.”*

Giving breweries what they need to responsibly and comfortably house local beer enthusiasts and beer tourists should be a priority of the city. Breweries and wineries bring people into your town that otherwise wouldn’t be there. Small business is the fabric of community, it gets people out of the house to enjoy something that tastes good, and to share ideas face to face, like old times. 

I would like to invite you on a brewery tour in Anaheim and possibly some facetime with Mayor Tait or our Planning Commision. I’m sure you will come away with sense that locally made craft beer is great for your city, and for your community, and growing it will only mean better things for Temecula. 

Regards,

Greg @OCBeerBlog

(Proud Anaheim resident, beer writer, homebrewer, winemaker, father, and husband of sixteen years.)

Updated 4/22/16: The State Board of Equalization Met with OC Brewers Guild leaders in March and had this to say:

“Business is Brewing in Anaheim – 

Scott Koehm, a representative from the City of Anaheim’s Planning and Building Department, attended the event and explained that the success of these up and coming breweries is largely due to the City’s early partnership and desire to become a destination for fresh, locally-brewed craft beers, much like in San Diego. This cooperation between the City and local small businesses in the region is promoting a unique opportunity for economic growth while simultaneously building on a current trend that is likely to become permanently adopted in our Orange County culture. The experience of meeting with friends or associates and enjoying the newest concocted brew of the week is a social one that many locals have become quite fond of.” See the rest here: http://www.boe.ca.gov/harkey/blog/2016/201604-3.htm

Quote from http://www.pressdemocrat.com/business/3478726-181/pliny-release-brings-economic-windfall?gallery=3478709&artslide=0

Hatch Pairs Tiki With Sliders and Beer

The Chan with a plan, Leonard.

The Chan with a plan, Leonard.

Scrape the barnacles off your boat and get some tiki down your throat, people…Hatch is finally open in Tustin’s labyrinth of hip, Union Market, which is in the labyrinth of parking, The District. With an Iron Press Anaheim layout, big ass mirrors akimbo, you’ll feel right at home sipping local IPA out of their hourglass pilsner glassware, just like the IP.

Reminds me of my wedding night.

Reminds me of my wedding night // The Walker ($12) 

What sets Hatch apart from everything is a slider menu worthy of many visits to try them all, samesies with the Tiki cocktail menu, muscled in by my main man, Dougie who shakes a cocktail shaker like a dashboard tiki doll. The beer list was no slouch on day one with stuff one would find at the Iron Press on a typical Tuesday.

Grab your mumu, your best Hawaiian shirt and white leather loafers, and slide into Hatch!

 

Who Do I Have to Blow?

When this tweet crossed my feed:

blow

I thought, this this the best way to get some media attention. The tweets continued… (full size)

until they said their account was hacked. What’s strange about the business is there is no website, the domain is registered by proxy (meaning you can’t find out the owner), there’s no ABC permit, no CUP I can find on any Hollywood planning site, and no DBA. Is this a real business or a troll account? I guess we shall see.

(april fools) Adding to Anaheim: Disneyland Adds Themed Brewpub in California Adventure

IMG_9032

Guess which tap is Wookey Jack? Photo @deniserat

Disneyland California Adventure has featured local craft beer for some time. When news broke this morning about the new brewhouse in California Adventure, I strapped on my mouse ears and screamed the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme! M I C K E…, WHY? Because you love Craft beer!

The Tap List:

  • Elsa’s Eisbock
  • Snow Wit
  • Jane Porter
  • Tinkerbell’s Pixie Dust New England Style IPA
  • The Abominable Hefeweizen
  • Indiana Jones IPA Adventure
  • Jack’s Big Pumpkin Beer (fall seasonal)
  • Geppetto’s Nose Barrel Aged Barley Wine
  • Merida’s Irish Red
  • Pooh’s Honey Blonde
  • Bippity Boppity Brown
  • John Smith’s ESB
  • Dumbo’s Spins Triple IPA
  • Chip & Dale’s Nut Brown Ale
  • Belle’s Beastly Biere de Garde
  • Pirates Rum Barrel Aged Ginger Beer
  • Haunted Mansion Ghost Pepper Pale Ale
  • Mr. Toads Wild Rye IPA
  • Tiki Room Coconut Milk Stout
  • Little Mermaid’s Whozits’s and Whatzits Salty Gose
  • Walt’s Watermelon Wheat
  • Song of the South Stout
  • Sing Sweet Nighten’ Ale, A Cinderella Blonde (served in souvenir glass slipper with optional white glove and tiarra)
  • To Infinity and Beyond Space Pale Ale
  • Peoplemover Pilsner
  • April Fools OMG LOL.

Lost: Abbey

GNAG0255“Excuse me, you look familiar,” I say to a deadpan bald man with glasses, holding a pitcher of beer with a puffy vest jacket. He pours me three fingers of a cloudy gold beer. “I don’t think we’ve met,” he says as I squint and take whiff. Croissant and a lick of caramel on the nose, I think to myself…where have I had this beer?

GNAG0294

@TheTomme

“I’m Tomme Arthur, pleased to meet you.” I totally knew that. I just get bashful when meeting pioneers of the beer business. “This is Avant Garde, our farmhouse lager.”

GNAG0267On the back patio of Verdugo Bar (a Ryan Sweeney joint), picnic tables are strewn about topped with Delirium Tremens pink elephant umbrellas and beer signs from around the globe. Each table is filled with corked and caged Lost Abbey beers and lit beer label veladoras. Surprising is the total lack of petrichor despite a windy downpour that ended an hour ago.

The evening is hosted by The Lost Abbey for industry publicans and bottle shop big wigs. A few beer writers were sprinkled in for good measure; I’m glad to get the call.

GNAG0258The Lost Abbey, San Diego’s only quality volume sour/funky beer producer (in my opinion), is here to re-introduce themselves and do a tasting of rare beers. L.A. and O.C. have a wealth of quality mixed fermentation breweries, and sometimes a gentle reminder of what the pioneers can do is a breath of fresh air.

GNAG0314

Jon Sanchez receives holy communion

Jon Sanchez, owner of Native Son Alehouse in downtown Santa Ana, noted, “Lost Abbey kegs are reasonable compared to the competition.” From my standpoint, It seems like pints of Lost Abbey beers cost more. He went on to add that one L.A. brewery raised the price of their kegs to keep cost in line with what some establishments charge for pints. The perception that wild ales cost more isn’t always the case.

GNAG0269Over three hours, we rifled through nine beers, pouring faster than consumption. Veritas 17 with Blackberries was my absolute favorite, noting it smelled like fresh linens stained with fresh berry jam, and was super soul-refreshing. I do hope we see some of these showing up on tap handles soon, as it seems the most storied barrel programs in the U.S. needs to get back on the front page.

Beers sampled:

  • Avant Garde – farmhouse lager
  • Devotion – dry hopped Belgian blonde
  • Hop 15
  • Red Poppy – sour with cherries
  • Veritas 17 – sour with blackberries
  • Cuvee de Tomme – 15
  • Cuvee de Tomme – 09
  • C-9 – barley wine with peaches aged in conjac barrels
  • Ad Idem – sour with peaches.

The Art of Going Big | Grits Fullerton + The Bruery Beer Dinner

GNAG0020

Grits is for lovers.

“Tonight is going to be like a race,” says the gruff and unshaven executive chef Cody Storts in his home away from home, Grits Fullerton. Six courses set out before us: pork, seafood, game, seafood, beef, then dessert. Having been to four of chef’s beer dinners, I mentally prepare myself to form my lips into the shape of Noah’s arc, and eat all the tasty animals.

Being Grits’ third beer dinner, this is the first with hyper-local O.C. beer: The Bruery, and as far as I know, the first beer dinner led by a Master Cicerone, Patrick Rue. Having had most of the beers, the mere thought of the pairings has me salivating. If I had a tail, it would surely be wagging wildly, enough to knock various glassware off the tables, Pavlov-style.

GNAG0036

COURSE 1, The Pork Confessional – A variation of the Bruery’s Sour Blonde Ale was blended and fermented with juice pressed from Fess Parker’s Riesling grapes. Juniper cured pork belly, cilantro and celery root puree.

Not being the biggest pork belly fan, I will say Grits preparation I actually enjoy. There’s something about how they get a perfect crust, bursting with umami, to play with the fat inside. It all comes down to balance, and chef totally nails it. Confession, one of my fave wine-blended beers, matches the dish with carbonation and acidity. The tone set, we move on.

GNAG0042Course 2: Sourrento Mussels – A beer that debuted at the second Firkfest, Sourrento is a sour ale inspired by the lemon flavored spirit, Limoncello. The broth on this dish has a nice rauchy-bacon quality, “I want a glass of it,” says my table-mate Anne Marie of OCWeekly fame. The black mussel is plump and ready, topped with 70’s chili-thread bush. Backed by the beer, this course made a nice intermezzo. 

Course 3: Bambi with Duck-Roids.

GNAG0055

Venison injected with duck-roids and the best bread pudding ever.

(Paired with Batch #1731, a homebrew competition winner is a 100% brettanomyces-fermented hoppy session ale at 5%.) “If rare venison doesn’t sound good, go over to Philly’s Best next door,” quips chef. It was indeed rare, but the duck fat seemed to tame the game, so to speak. The real winner of the night is the rye bread pudding topped on apricot key lime bourbon glaze. Nice rye-spicey take on a classic.

GNAG0060COURSE 4: Oh SHIT.
So Happens It’s Tuesday – A slightly-less intense incarnation of Black Tuesday paired with Escolar almandine, a fish that can have laxative qualities if eaten in excess. I eat half, just to make sure we don’t have any accidents.

COURSE 5 – The Meat Statue – I’m not sure where one gets a steamship round cut of beef these days, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t look like a statue. “Nobody does this shit,” I say out loud while snapping a photo. Coming back to my seat and finding a full ‘fuck off’ pour of 19.5% beer had me instagramming like a school girl. Sadly, I was full, but managed to eat a few fork-loads of the beef and root veggies. Wineification III, a blend of grenache grapes from Rodney’s Vineyard and Black Tuesday. Matured in a combination of bourbon and French Oak barrels, this beer is liquid dessert.

GNAG0064

Steamship Round, aka “the Meat Statue

GNAG0085Dessert Means You Survived: Blackberry cheesecake, Thai basil, bourbon sweetened currants and sweetened cream sauce paired with Cinnamonk was actually the best pairing of the night. But, wow. Full.

A shot of Bourbon is dealt in coffee mugs, we toast, inhale and hold our bellies. Cheers to another great party atmosphere, great hosts and solid, smiley service. Grits is located in downtown Fullerton and is open for brunch, pub dinner service on the weekends, and don’t miss their half-off draft beer on Thursdays!

Three Frenchs | One Short of 100, 2015 Brewery Visits

GNAG4047One of the hardest parts of beer travels is keeping track. I did a pretty decent job in 2015, however. Google Maps and Untappd made beer hunting around the country a snap.

Being a bit indecisive, I have a hard time creating my own “Best of” or “Top 10” lists, so I thought it best to highlight a few of the stops that made my travels memorable.

ChicagoView

2015 included 99 different breweries in twelve states. I can’t believe I missed 100, by just one. 49 of those breweries were in SoCal alone. Since you’re reading this blog, you most likely have your own solid opinions about our local brewing scene, so who am I to correct you. So with that, my highlights do not include any local SoCal breweries.

Portland Maine! Yes, I know this City has been creeping up the beer destination lists for the last few years, but dammit if it’s not true. And not just beer, the whole fucking City. Great beer, food and people.  A perfect example, while getting a coffee at a local roaster. I asked the barista, as one would do, for some pointers on the local beer scene. After a quick back and forth on his favorites I went to go sit down with my wife. I few seconds later a young woman got up and walked over to our table. She overheard my conversation and proceeded to write a complete list of recommendations, including breweries that were so new that they did not show up on any map or listing. She also provided guidance on times and locations. For the remainder of our stay, we reference that list. Now that’s the way to support your local beer scene. Portland also just happens to be home to Allagash Brewing and the not too far away Maine Beer Company (see below).

AllagashCoolAllagash

Maine Beer Company Look, if you’re going all the way to Portland Maine, make the extra drive to the Maine Beer Company. I’ve had a few Maine Beer Company beers in the past and I had high expectations. They did not disappoint. All the beers I tried were super clean, refreshing and on the dry side. The overall quality of all the beers were outstanding. Lunch IPA and Peeper Pale Ale were two of my favorites that were on tap. Their tasting room is a clean, minimalistic space  and overlooks a very organized brewery. This is a must stop if you find yourself in the area.

MaineBeerCo

Maine Beer Company

5 Rabbit Cerveceria – (see my previous post) In short, loved their take on beer styles.

Amador Brewing Company – This brewery opened in 2015, and is tucked away in the small town of Plymouth, Ca. Yes these guys are new and only time will tell, but I was impressed.  Great vibe in the tasting room, with both inside/outside seating. Solid beer selection and great staff. Amador is worth checking out. On a side note, they are located in Amador County, which is winery region in Northern California (just in case you needed a another reason to stop by).

VictoryVictory Brewing Company – I’ll be honest, I don’t drink much Victory beer. We were staying outside of Philadelphia, and figured we need to give Victory a shot.  After an hour+ drive into the country we arrived at their Downingtown location. Not much to look at from the outside, and the place was packed. When we walked into the brewery/restaurant, it was not what we expected. Great menu and over 20 beers on tap. Headwaters Pale Ale, was my favorite and would be a go-to beer for me if I lived close by. At 5.2% ABV and hopped with citra – simcoe, it’s hard to go wrong with that combination. I was really impressed with the beers that don’t make it to SoCal.  A perfect reason to not to always judge a brewery strictly on what is easy to get at home.

 

Arizona Wilderness Brewing – Interesting and unique beers, although the selection wasn’t quite the best when I visited. A very cool spot and the staff was very welcoming and over the top friendly. They were in the midst of an expansion, so I’m looking forward to getting back there during baseball spring training.

Out of the 99 breweries, it’s nice to say that there were only a few truly bad experiences. The majority of the breweries had nice selections, quality beer and friendly staff.

 

Follow Robert French on Twitter @ThreeFrenchs