Hopscotch Hosts Valiant Anniversary Beer Dinner

Valiant Brewing Co. Brews Custom Beers For Anniversary Beer Dinner at Hopscotch Tavern in Fullerton.

chef and brewers

Deep within Orange County’s vast culinary jungle, Hopscotch Tavern’s Executive Chef Cody Storts is war painted clutching a spear, a fish net and a double barrel shotgun. Spotting a flock of ducks overhead, he takes a shot in the sky Nintendo Duck Hunt style. “This will be perfect a perfect starter for our seven course Valiant Brewing beer dinner” he laughs like Rambo, wiping his brow across Swedish Chef tattoo’d bicep.

The Unexpected:

hopscotch_course1When the first dish of any multi-course dinner includes duck liver contraband paired with a 12% Belgian style Barleywine, it’s basically culinary punk rock. “Search and Destroy!!” I think crunching into a bite of the forbidden PB&J. Peppito butter? Strawberry jam? Foie Gras? It slam dances across my teeth and does the pogo down to the pit of my belly. Paired with Valiant’s “1″ Anniversary Ale, my face melts down to Hopscotch’s outdoor patio boards, then reconstitutes as the sun sets over the nearby Fullerton train station. I’m not exaggerating. This actually happened.

Okay, that’s it! Review is over! Wait, what? Six more courses to go?

cheers2I can’t say I’ve ever had a Lager Barleywine, but it’s a thing here tonight with course two. The homebrewer in me squints, eyebrow raised at this potent bohemian concept coming from Valiant Brewing in Orange. “Who the hell would start a beer dinner with two Barleywines back to back?” I mutter to myself. As I’ve come to understand, the beers paired for tonight’s dinner are small batch brewed just for this event (aside from the bottle which each guest will take home). Normally, beer dinners are an ‘arranged marriage’ type of deal. Tonight’s dinner is more like ‘The Bachelor’ with both sides vying for my rose. Who will get sent home? Who will get jacuzzi sex?

chefstortsExecutive Chef Storts took over the reigns at Hopscotch less than a year ago, ushering out “slow food” and bringing in bold, adventurous gastropub cuisine.  Out with big racks of slathered ribs, in with a sous-vide, layered approach to freshness and presentation. Backing up his kitchen is a 120+ militia of whiskeys, cocktails, wine and 24 handles local craft beer (plus bottles to-go as well). Hopscotch is a gem as it staffs a Certified Beer Cicerone as well as a Sommelier. If you have any questions on beer, wine or cocktails, this band of culinary commandos has street cred as well as a the paperwork to back it up.

The Good

hopscotch_course3Moving to course three’s crispy pork belly dish plated with “pecan candy” and ultra crispy fried tripe, I feel like we crossed the border from San Diego to TJ. The tripe is like a salty honeycomb chicharrón with a super dense loufa-like crunch. Dipped in a herb demi glace and topped with a piece of pork? It’s a loaded bite that fires on all sides of the tongue, popping its pork candy nuttiness across my taste buds. The Bruce (Valiant’s Scotch Ale) doesn’t mess around either; coming in like ‘The Wolf” in Pulp Fiction; cleaning up the richness on my palate like a murder scene. “It’s some serious gourmet shit!” – Jules Winnfield.

hopscotch_course4Expecting the next course to be a tadpole tureen topped with actual deep fried Kermit the Frog, we are served the next best thing: Elk medallions with bourbon soaked bing cherries. The dish cuts deep with a rich velvety game. Who knew Elk had so much game? Valiant’s Lacto Cherry Stout is the last beer I thought they would bring to the table. Tart and roasty with funk on the nose, tasting somewhat like a sour Schwarzbier. It does a nice job drawing out a smokey component while complimenting the cherries in the dish. Who needs Kermit when a dish like this shows us the rainbow connection (for lovers and dreamers like me)?. Although the lacto-tart-roasty beer is an interesting contrast to the plate, it didn’t really stand up to the richness and depth of flavors in the elk. I’d like to think Pathos, Valiant’s Imperial Chocolate Porter, would have been the obvious pairing. Regardless, still fun to sample a one-off beer with so much character.

The Bad

Fair warning: This paragraph is a bit ‘yelpish’, but needs to be said. When the beer for course six came out and I didn’t get course five’s food, I quickly realize that I’ve been skipped. My table mates plates empty and my server laughing hysterically in conversation with a guest nearby, I suck it up. Despite smoke signals, drowning hand gestures and ESP sent his way, it’s clear I’m out on this round. Should I get up and walk to the kitchen? Should I sulk and write this paragraph?

Tired of hearing my friends say, “Greg, I went to Hopscotch because I read your last beer dinner review, but we’ve had better service at Dick’s Last Resort.” or “Greg, Hop’s bartender told me I lacked intelligence because I wanted a cocktail from last season’s cocktail menu” or “Greg, we walked in, waited for twenty minutes and walked out because nobody talked to us after we were seated” or even “Self, the waiter didn’t serve yourself a course in a hundred dollar beer dinner.” If you do eat there and have a bad experience, pull up this paragraph up on your phone and show it to the manager and say, “THIS.” The back of the house is only as good as the front, and stuff like this makes me sad.

The Best: Winner Winner Lengua Dinner!

IMG_3937Quickly forgiven and forgotten, (thanks chef for plating me a course five) irony plays a role with my plate-licking skills on course six. The kitchen must have called an audible on the menu-listed Braciola and went with a Lengua/Rabbit demi glace dish with brown butter gnocchi and broccoli rabe. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so entranced in a plate of food before. I consumed it with force, scraping every last microbe of the savory dish down. This dish can convert anyone with a cow-tongue phobia…seriously. Not caring for the cherry wheat beer (really sweet), much needed water (and a shot of Four Roses Bourbon) revives my senses.

OH MAI, Dessert!

hopscotch_dessertI dislike 99% of all dessert. My beer tooth is just that much bigger than my sweet tooth…with one exception: Anything that pastry chef Mai Phan creates. She has a way of balancing sweetness with tart and gooey with crunchy without going over the top. Her Strawberry Pavlova is all that. Tropical fruits topped with a green tea custard and a lemon crumble foam disk…simply marvelous. If you’re not in a drinking mood, Hopscotch is a great spot to go for just desserts.

Overall

Pretty much eating ‘all the animals’ and drinking ‘all the beers’ is a lot to take in for one mouth over the course of an evening. This epic beer dinner adventure at Hopscotch isn’t for the meek. $20 Uber cards provided for each guest, it’s easy to tell this is a professionally run event for professional eaters and drinkers. Worth a hundred bucks? Absolutely. The beer? Really cool concept to brew custom beers for the evening, but jacuzzi sex easily goes to the food. If you can still find the “1″ Anniversary Ale from Valliant, I highly recommend picking it up. After a month, it’s aged into a delicious barleywine with big raspberry notes; it’s decadent!

I’ll see you at the next one!

First

  • Valiant’s First Anniversary, Belgian Barleywine — 8 ounce pour
  • Forbidden PB&J, strawberry guava jam, pepita butter, brioche, and complementary foie gras.

Second

  • Lager Barleywine, 8 ounce pour
  • Mussels, crispy pancetta, roasted pepper citrus coulis

Third

  • “The Bruce” Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, 5 ounce pour
  • Crispy pork belly, fried tripe, herb demi glace, blood orange frisee

Fourth

  • Lacto Cherry Stout, 8 ounce pour
  • Elk medallion, black garlic demi glace, bing cherry gastrique, bourbon soaked bing cherries

Fifth

  • Session IPA 5 ounce pour
  • Duck rillette, Dijon chips, blood orange apples, really really small cilantro

Sixth

  • Wheat Cherry Ale, 5 ounce pour
  • Medium Rare Braciola, san marzano tomato sauce, crispy asiago chip, micro basil

Seventh 

  • Guava Cream Ale, 6 ounce pour
  • Strawberry Pavlova, green tea custard, lemon crumble

 

Blind Taste: Easside vs Wesside Saison Shakedown

P1060991When a preview bottle of Stone Brewing Co’s Saison is sitting on my porch while carrying a preview bottle of Allagash Brewing Co’s Saison from the car…I knew what I had to do: dig through my old CD pack and bump some old West Coast Gansta RAP…that’s right, SUCKAS! Ice Cube’s ‘Today Was A Good Day’ bumpin’ and the 40′s craft beers in the fridge, it’s time to do an Easside vs Wesside Saison Shakedown. BLIND STYLE.

Almost identical in name, release dates (now), ABV (~6%), IBU (~43), this Rialto born and bred beer blogger is armed and ready, beers chilled and sweaty; which Saison came to drop bombs? This opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo*.

My old lady pours them into the same glassware, one with a SN logo and one with a FW logo. Both glasses freshly rinsed and beer poured at 43 degrees. My initial suspicion just on looks alone is a dead giveaway on who is who. “Would Allagash release a caramel colored Saison?” I chuckle pointing at beer #1. My wife walks away as I jot down notes on my kid’s doodle pad.

Visual/Aroma

Beer 1: Orange/caramel tint and clear as a bell. Aromas tinge on grassyness, slightly cheesy, peppery, salty, floral, herbal.

lemonheadsBeer 2: Light hay colored and cloudy, this beer smells like a fresh box of Lemonheads, citrus (lemon, orange) and a little hint of soap and cotton candy. Smells like spring.

(Calling it on the color/clearness alone, I think beer 1 is Stone.)

Taste/Mouthfeel/Finish

Beer 1: First drink is surprisingly tart, subsequent drinks not so much. Herbal notes poke through with rosemary, jasmine and wet hay. It’s a little bit on the chewy side for a Saison, then WHOA…the tip of my tongue numbs with a stripping bitterness that screams “Saisons are fizzy and yellow, that is why this beer is orange!”. The finish bites the tip of my tongue with bitterness, washing away the potential for flavors to develop. Ouch. There’s also a scoville pepper heat my wife detects, I am heat tolerant to the point of not detecting it, but it’s worth noting.

Beer 2: Flavors of fluffy light grain followed by pleasant yeast esters rule this beer. Fermentation induced fruit, pepper, citrus are blanketed with a kiss of barnyard. It’s a little bit thinner and dryer than beer 1. The finish cleans up nicely, lending itself to a nice refreshing sessionable beer. The hop is different for the style as well; Cascade, Bravo and Tettnang are actually surprisingly good in this beer and round out the bitterness/flavor nicely.

Now, before I go on, I want to state something about Saison’s in general. It’s such a broad term of a beer style that is interpreted thousands of different ways. If we were drinking real Saisons, we’d be working out in a field getting our gallon 3% beer ration to keep from getting dysentery from unpotable farm water. I’m stating the obvious based on my perceived bitterness: Beer 1 is clearly Stone’s Saison. My wife nods.

P1060996

Beer 1 = Stone, Beer 2 = Allagash. Nailed it.

I can see why arrogant bastards would prefer the Stone interpretation with its unabashed bitter bite and Stone Organic Farms picked goodies tossed in. I just think it’s a little too much for what I prefer of the style. I tend to reach for a dry, grainy, slightly funky beer. In the end, I want my Saison to compliment my food, not be decorated in it. I’d be interested in trying it next to Saison Du Buff and my other fave of 2014, Matt’s Burning Rosids Imperial Saison.

Allagash on the other hand has a handful of Belgian style ales. The addition of Saison to their line up seems like a natural fit. It’s tamed, balanced and sessionable.

Sorry West Side, Biggy Smalls wins this rap battle.

*sucka mc’d some lyrics from emenem’s Lose Yourself

Firkfest 2014 Press Roundup + What’s in the Pipe

What the press is saying about Firkfest 2014

credit Erika Bolden - LA Weekly

credit Erika Bolden – LA Weekly

What’s in the pipe, Nagel? 

After I catch up on my insane backlog of stuff to write about, I’ll write about Firkfest. In the next week, look for: A Victor Novak piece on BeerPaperLA, a Hopscotch/Valiant Beer dinner and a super fun night at a Beer vs. Wine event at the Surf & Sand, Laguna Beach w/ Dr. Bill Sysak.

PROST.

Stephen Hawking’s Favorite New Brewery – Bottle Logic Brewing

Can't believe Stephen Hawking photobombed a perfectly good beer pic

Can’t believe Stephen Hawking photobombed a perfectly good beer pic – Tattered Prince Saison Photo Jessica Rice beerandbaking.com

Black holes, baby universes and Bottle Logic brewer Kyle Manns. Photo Jessica Rice beerandbaking.com

Black holes, baby universes and bearded Bottle Logic brewer Kyle Manns. Photo Jessica Rice beerandbaking.com

If Stephen Hawking was a craft beer drinker, I bet he would find solace in Anaheim’s newest brewery. Bottle Logic, which opens doors on Feb 15, is beaming with old school sci-fi kitsch. I can almost hear the buzz of Hawking’s custom robotic wheelchair, perhaps awkwardly bumping into the tasting room’s inventive atomic nucleus-modified barrel tables. He would have to spin around to view the electric panel bookcase filled with sci-fi novels and science books that once inspired Walt Disney to build nearby Tomorrowland.

she_shot_first_can_glassHawking’s computer voice modulator would be quick to order up a round of She Shot First, a pale wheat ale at 5.4%. The citrus hop aromas could easily find their way to his olfactory glands from his food tray. The bitter punch would cause his eyes to roll back after activating the feeding tube drinking apparatus. The subtle hum of the pumps administer the cloudy golden beer at a moderate pace, sounding somewhat like a dentist’s mouth suction.

 

Round two of the Hoptomitron Series, Double Actuator DIPA would best be sampled over a tour of the brewery, which on day one, is impressive. Hawking would surely geek out the reverse osmosis water treatment and custom water profiles for each beer. Wood and stainless barrels would offer a gentle quandary. “what are the benefits of stainless over wood barrels?” his voice synth would rattle. Brewer Kyle Manns, would grin and answer with another question while tugging his beard. “How big is the universe?” Kyle would ask. “We are like yeast cells in this fermenter tank, Kyle. Each fermenter is like a galaxy.” Stephen might reply. Craving some hops in his feeding tube, Double Actuator DIPA (9% ABV) would be the next beer to be placed under his drinking apparatus. The big juicy Mosaic/Citra hops would slap his upside-down smile with mango and papaya. “I’ve had pureed mango and papaya before, and this…is…much…better…I prefer these flavors in beer form.” he might say.

 

View More: http://beerandbaking.pass.us/bottlelogic

If he were to sip Mother Heifer Milk Stout on Nitro, the chocolate and coffee notes might bring him back to his college days in Oxford drinking a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout in the pub with his chess club mates. “I thought this was a Hefeweizen based on the name!” he might quip. The ultra creamy nitro beer calms the hop bite of the first two beers. “Any brewery that can nail this style on day one? I have high hopes for.”

The last beer offered in the opening array is Tattered Prince Saison (pictured on top). The beer pours a milky peach color and hits the nose like a tropical Yankee Candle. Ginger, grains of paradise and coriander play beautifully in Bottle Logic’s complex French Saison. “The mouthfeel is a bit sticky, perhaps this beer needs to settle for a bit” Hawking might say. There’s a lot going on with this beer and can’t wait to see it mature.

Bottle Logic Soft Opening-Edited-0041

As his evening might to come to a close, Stephen Hawking is absorbent. Eyes crossing to the point he can’t operate the voice computer, the only thing I could hear coming from his direction is “Frank the tank, Frank the Tank!” as people nearby shoot selfies with him in the background (hashtag #stalkingthehawking).

Bottle Logic Soft Opening-Edited-0027The mysteries of time and space still left unexplained, we can all rest assured Bottle Logic Brewing takes their beer and tasting room seriously. Orange County may not be the center of the beer universe, but we should all take notice when a star is born.

 

Thanks Jessica Rice at BeerandBaking.com for being my personal photographer for the night! View the rest of her pics HERE. They’re gorgeous.

1072 N. Armando St. (near the 91/Kraemer/La Palma)
Anaheim, CA 98206
(714) 660-2537
info@bottlelogic.com
Grand opening Saturday February 15th.
Open 12pm – Close 10pm
I donated to http://www.alsa.org/ so I wouldn’t go to hell for this post. The use of Stephen Hawking was meant more out of respect for his awesomeness. My intention was not to poke fun at the handicapped or those affected by ALS.

Noble is Nubile at Age Three

rodney-dangerfield-respect

Noble Brewer and master beer namer Brad Kominek getting proper respect

Noble Ale Works has two eras. Pre-Evonian and Evonian. In the “pre” phase, hearing people mispronounce the brewery was common. “Hey man, have you been to that No-bell beer place by the stadiums?”. “Indeed, I’ve been to noball ale works, friend.” At the Drink.Eat.Play OC Beer festival, they were listed as “Noble Brews” for crying out loud! What does a new brewery have to do to get some respect?

Since their 2nd anniversary, you could say that they’re now a ‘No Bull’ brewery; making some of the best and most unique beer in SoCal. From winning the mayors trophy for being awesome at the OC Fest of Ales and being featured on the TV show Beer Geeks, here’s a look at some of the highlights Noble Ale Works had over the last year:

naughty_sauce_credit-Aubrey-Dunham-Price

Naught Sauce credit – Aubrey Price

Naughty Sauce – a blonde coffee milk stout served on nitro made its appearance April-ish 2013. A beer best described as “The F Word in a glass”, instantly won my heart and became the West Coaster Socal’s 1st article. Since then, I’ve been to three Naughty Sauce release parties, had Don Pachi Sauce at the Playground, Naughty Sauce waffle cones, and even enjoyed smooching the roasty foam off my wife’s lips. Yum! You have no idea how tempted I am to install a nitro tap in my house for this beer.

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Nobles Milk Stout brings all the boys to the yard. (Noble’s Matt and Jenny)

Tongue Tickles Double IPAA few days before the Los Angeles IPA Fest, Noble dropped another bomb on the beer world. When beer-tender Jenny slid a glass of Tongue Tickles over the bar, I knew it was something special. Making awkward eye-contact with her while sniffing the beer, I’m pretty sure the song ‘Dream Weaver‘ played in my head. I quickly snapped back to reality after my first sip. “This is like whoa”, I quivered, taken aback by the intense juicy hopload still tickling my tongue. I blushed as she trotted off to clean glasses.

I heard people say, “Pliny killer”, “Knuckle killer” and even “Enjoy By who?”, insuring nobody would ever mutter the word “Nobility” again. I did my own blind taste test for a blog post, then two days later got a text from friend and LAIPA Fest judge Randy Clemens, stating the impact of the Tickles. “Your boy Evan is on cloud nine!”, coming in first place over some serious notable breweries is no small feat, especially for a beer that came out of nowhere.

Credit ImperialRussian on Untappd

Credit ImperialRussian on Untappd

It Burns - With Noble’s pepper beers such as Pistola (peppery pils) and Too Darn Hot (peppery IPA) a regular occurrence in the tasting room, it was only a matter of time until someone made a beer that was undrinkably hot. It Burns was born from a “friendly” pepper beer war with the Bruery just up the 57. This beer could could easily be crowned “the hottest thing in Anaheim, ever”. One sip had me gagging on hiccups while drooling over the bathroom sink. Even blending the beer was excruciating. My pee smelled like peppers for at least two days.

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 8.16.59 PM.png

solid 4′s on Untappd call for trade bait.

Single Hop Shower Series Imagine a hopcone on a stage. Warrant ‘Cherry Pie‘ blasting, you toss your dollar bill out and the green, spiky flower lifts its skirt and exposes its lupulin glands and motorboats them on your nose. “Oh yeah girl!” You yell while taking a photo of her powdery yellow innards glistening inside. You rub your hands together, and just like that, the sticky resin is everywhere. That’s kind of what this beer is.

I’ve done a couple single hop series beers from other breweries without drawing any conclusions other than, “this beer is old”. Single hop beers need to be consumed in a timely manner and Noble’s respect in the biz allow them to get 30bbl’s of the juice out quickly to the local crowd. I can hardly wait for future Amarillo, Simcoe and whatever else their hop contract allows.

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 8.47.12 PM

Great to hang out with blog fans! Thanks again Noble!

Bonus: Nagel’s Number 2 - What else can I say about letting me collaborate on a beer for this blog’s 2nd anniversary? 7th Dip with hand toasted coconut and some bitter orange peel on nitro? YES. This was my absolute favorite Noble Ale Works beer ever. I get goose bumps thinking about it.

Noble’s Third Anniversary Party is Saturday Feb 8th 2014. For $40, you can sample some odd 34 beers they have on tap, cask and such. Food trucks, bands, raffles and fun! I will see you there! Raise a glass to Jerry, Evan, Brad, Matt, Jenny and the rest of their awesome, nice, knowledgable and good looking staff. Great job guys! (Flyer says 25 but was upped to 34). Portion of the proceeds go to benefit Inspire Artistic Minds! Click the link above for details.

photo-2

2014 Anaheim State of the City Address: Mayor Focused on Craft Beer Growth

At Noble Ale Works’ 1st anniversary party a couple years ago, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait asked me, “How do we grow craft beer in Anaheim?” I was taken aback. Normally, people have to lobby local politics to get involved in clearing a path for small artisan alcohol producers in this day of fat-walleted, misinformed NIMBY’s.

Craft beer has been a spark of positive change in many cities across the nation and Mayor Tait is no slouch for pushing this tasty agenda. Not only does good beer bring people together, the economic impact of a new brewery, especially in a tourist town, is huge.

The Brewers Association reports the economic impact of craft brewers in America hit 34 Billion in 2012, with California leading the pack at 4.7 Billion. San Diego obviously leads the growth at 70+ breweries; Anaheim will lead OC with almost 9% of San Diego County’s number of breweries by the end of 2014, however San Diego far outweighs production with many large regional craft brewers.

Mayor Tait and city advisors have been active getting Orange County to utilize the State’s health inspection codes instead of OCHCA’s stringent regulations that treat breweries like restaurants; making it quicker to get doors open.

Among the many beer festivals in Orange County, Anaheim will be home to three revolving fests including the OC Fest of Ales put on by Downtown Anaheim Assocication, The OC Brew Ho Ho Holiday fest and now Firkfest – A cask ale festival put on by OCBeerBlog. The city aims to attract the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) or have a GABF scale event at Anaheim Convention Center sometime in the future. The ACC is the largest convention hall on the west coast.

Full text of Mayor Tom Tait’s “State of the Beer” portion of his city address. (1/28/2014)

BREW CITY

A fun example of how Anaheim is showcasing its business-friendly attitude involves one of my favorite topics: craft beer.

Anaheim’s German heritage means that we’ve actually been brewing beer here since city was founded. And in the last several years, the craft and microbrewery industry has seen tremendous growth. Anaheim will soon have more craft and micro-breweries than any other city in Orange County.

The city has been working on making it easier for these artisan beer makers to practice their craft in our town.

As a beer enthusiast, I’m really excited about the attraction of micro and craft brewers to our city. We have all of the elements that these entrepreneurs need—space, great water, a super-friendly regulatory climate, and Southern California’s tremendous population of thirsty residents and visitors.

This budding industry has great potential for our town. Think what the wine industry has done for places like the Napa Valley or Paso Robles over the years. And we’ve seen what the brew industry has done for the city of Portland. It has brought that city new jobs, lots of tourists and events, not to mention bringing the community together.

That’s why we’re branding Anaheim as the Southland’s BrewCity. In Southern California, when you think about craft beer and all that goes along with that scene, you’re going to think about Anaheim.

Moving beyond craft beer, I think Anaheim’s future can be summed up with what’s happening in the center of our city: it’s cool, diverse and authentic. It’s the type of place that young entrepreneurs are drawn to.

 

Good Beer Hunting While Shopping for the Holidays

This holiday season, instead of hitting the local caffeine dispensary for a frustrating day of speed-shopping, take it easy. Relax, enjoy the day. Sing to the annoying music. People watch. While you’re out at the local shopping mall, take a break in your day and grab a beer and bite at some of these great spots.

hollingsheads bar2

1) Main Place Mall – Santa Ana. Chances are you’re here because either A) You like the Abercrombie & Crotch smell or B) a you enjoy a crooked owner that (allegedly) undervalues malls to pay less taxes (I personally think he’s dead on with Main Place). When you’re rumbly in the tumbly, head up Main street a block or so for a DIPA and appetizer that can cut through the festive mall stench and provide a bit of your own.

  • Eatery: Hollingshead’s Deli.
  • Dish: Pickled eggs!
  • Beer: Russian River Pliny the Elder. Usually on tap due to their long-time relationship with Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo, the IBU’s are just high enough to dull your olfactory senses to survive the rest of your day. Bonus, buy some really great beer for gifts!
credit: facebook like page

credit: facebook like page

2) South Coast Plaza Oh you fancy huh? As this mall brings in more money than the state of Maine, don’t be surprised if you see kids in strollers talking to other kids in strollers via Bluetooth headsets. With no proper food court and the removal of Del Taco, I’d recommend crossing the bridge for necessary food and drink. Although this destination does have beer, this is one place where the brewed and bubbly takes a back seat. After mixologist James Wood won a Golden Foodie award, he immediately took over the bar master duties at Scotts.

  • Eatery: Scott’s Restaurant & Bar
  • Dish: Peruvian Ceviche
  • Drink: Blossom – any drink containing Templeton Rye is a friend of mine! Hell, even the bitters are whiskey barrel aged. I noted hints of cinnamon and honey with a great refreshing crisp mouthfeel. Alternately, a cocktail called Hops has Anchor Distillery Hophead Vodka if you’re so inclined for a nicely balanced libation.
  • Crystal Court/Metropointe?: Karl Strauss all the way for some Four Scowling Owls paired with Holiday Gravlax. Boom.
tacoasylum

Taco Asylum’s pretty tacos. credit: facebook (probably Anne Watson)

3) The Lab Anti Mall/The Camp When people watching makes you wonder why a certain breed of men like to dress like lesbian lumberjacks, it may be a time for a beverage and a bite. I recommend two here based on what side of the Bristol street you’re on:

  • The Camp Eatery: Taco Asylum: Ghost Chili Pork Taco as eating it makes you look super uncomfortable and pissed. Grab a can or two of 21st Amendment Bitter American: because hey, this isn’t distributed down here and also, you’re fucking bitter as hell. Scowl and enjoy.
  • The Lab Eatery: Seabirds Kitchen: Beer Battered Avocado Tacos because they’re insanely good, crisp and creamy all in the same bite. Beer? Go with a can of Uinta Brewing’s WYLD. It’s perfectly crisp and fizzy enough to wash your palate clean. Plus, it’s vegan and organic if you swing that way.
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photo – nagel, beer – nagel

4) Fascist Island - With outdoor temps in the mild 70′s near the beach, outdoor malls are a nice way to spend the day with oddly dressed rich people walking ugly dogs. Fortunately, Whole Paycheck opened with an actual pub with good food and craft beer taps. If that’s not enough, you’re welcome to bring anything in the store into the pub and consume it on premise!

  • Eatery: Back Bay Tavern
  • Dish: Stone IPA Battered Fish & Chips
  • Beer: Whatever the hell you want. With a dozen taps and one of the better selections of craft beer in a cooler, this is worth coming to this mall on its own.
tender greens steak salad

Credit Yelp User Jonathan Z.

5) Irvine Spectrum – You’re probably thinking “Yard House” right? Sadly, that’s where you’re wrong. With all the holiday debauchery, I like to treat my temple to a vegetable or two for some nice fiber and bonus vitamins.

  • Eatery: Tender Greens
  • Dish: Backyard Steak Salad with horseradish vinaigrette
  • Beer: Cismontane Dead Santa, because hey, drink to Santa’s health.

s-ipa-bttle226) The Block (or whatever it’s called now) – After Alcatraz went belly up after a much improved year, this might surprise you. Step one, get a Krispy Kreme sample. Step two, shop.

  • Eatery: Rubios Fish Tacos
  • Dish: Original Fish Tacos with copious amounts of their new Diablo sauce.
  • Beer: Stone IPA, because a nice San Diego food/beer pairing is a total win! Not a fan of hoppy beers? Grab a Hangar 24 Orange Wheat with the Habanero Mahi Mahi tacos.

P10607377) Brea Mall - The only reason you shop here is because you hate Main Place or live in the area. Regardless, Brea has a couple of great choices nearby.

  • Eatery: Lazy Dog Cafe
  • Dish: Hawaiian Ahi Poke
  • Beer: House Hefeweizen -  After Firestone Walker gave up contract brewing, Lazy Dog grabbed LA’s Golden Road to make their house beers. I’m not sure if the recipe is the same as GR’s Hef, but it’s still tasty and goes great with Poke.
  • Eatery #2: Taps Fishhouse & Brewery
  • Dish: Oyster bar!
  • Beer: TAPS Irish Red. Such a beautifully simple and delicious beer…the combo brings me back to my trip to County Clare Ireland, drinking fresh Smithwicks and scarfing seafood.

I honestly haven’t shopped anywhere else in the last ten years! What are your recommendations? 

$45 The Bruery Beer Dinner at Haven Gastropub +Brewery in Pasedena

Haven15When two of my favorite things collide, I usually assume a Benjamin or two is at stake. Not this time! Haven Gastropub +Brewery in Pasadena is hosting a beer dinner with the Bruery with some pretty nice courses for a meager $45. Here’s the goods:

Tuesday, December 10th at 7 p.m.

Pre-Course - The Bruery Humulus Lager

First Course - Pan Seared Dayboat Scallops, Parsnip Puree, Pear Gel, Prosciutto, Brussels Sprouts, XO sauce with The Bruery Rueuze

Second Course Beer Grain Gnocchi, Duck Confit, Black Tuscan Kale, Roasted Squash, Crispy Duck Skin with The Bruery 6 Geese-a-Laying

Third Course Dry-aged New York Steak, Duck Fat Roasted Potatoes, Porcini Mushrooms, Smoked Bleu Cheese Saba The Bruery Melange 3

Dessert Course Brioche Bread Pudding, Poached Pear

Dinner is $45 per guest (plus tax and gratuity) Seating is limited

RSVP by calling: (626) 768-9555
Haven Gastropub +Brewery
42 S. De Lacey Ave, Pasadena, California 91105

 

No Frills Blog Post for a No Frills Beer Festival | The Bruery Barrel Aged Beer Party

Hi, I'm Greg from OCBeerBlog, can I take your photo?

Hi, I’m Greg from OCBeerBlog, can I take your photo?

Mid November 2013, The Bruery Reserve Society members were treated to a dip into fifty or so barrel aged beers on a very Simpsonesque cloudy day on Center Street Promenade in Anaheim. Kind of a no-frills tentless beer festival with simple folding tables and a map/beer list. What else does one need? The event was put on by a local non-profit that supports growing the arts, Inspire Artistic Minds (same people that brought us Nepenthia Beer Garden earlier 2013). I puckered up to sours all day with the main goal to remain upright and chat with beautiful people that love great beer.

These guys should start a band and use this for the album cover.

These guys should start a band and use this for the album cover.

Highlights for me: the four Sour in the Rye variants; kumquat, peach, SITR 2011 and beach plum being my favorite with a cosmo hue and bright fruity effervesces. The Wanderer 2011 and 2013 were also stellar, the main difference being the punch of flavor in 2013, whereas 2011′s punch was expanded into a longer attenuated flavor. Overall the event had almost 800 checkins on Untappd as most people filled in beers they’ve missed over the years. An insane amount of cask and boozy beers insured glassware was dropped and shattered at regular intervals.

Hopscotch brought sous vide tri-tip. On a street. At a beerfest.

Hopscotch brought sous vide tri-tip. On a street. At a beerfest.

Food was catered by Hopscotch consisting of sous vide tri tip that was briefly seared and allowed to cook in its own inescapable juices at perfect temp. The cauliflower side dish and vegie option rocked the house with layers of umami and sweet. With the big beers, people needed an extra bite or two of something and were even offering money for extra food. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a pizza delivery to a beer festival! As with Nepenthia, bathrooms were a concern. I love you Bobby Navarro, but people need to eat and pee inside a beer festival. Add double what you think next time :) I was cool because I chowed my traditional Veggie Works burrito from Del Taco as I ceremoniously do before every beer festival.

What 5oz pours of Grey Monday will do to people

What 5oz pours of Grey Monday will do to people

Overall, I loved the no-frills atmosphere. I think in the future the standard huge beer festival idea will be widdled down into specialty festivals like this (cough cough Firkfest) catering to a tighter focus of the craft beer world. What do you think? Let me know in the comments or on social media! Not a Reserve Society member? I think a few spots are left for 2014, don’t miss out on great parties like this!

Anyone with a DEVO patch is okay in my book.

Anyone with a DEVO patch is okay in my book.

Cambria and Jenny get their grub on and sell stuff

Cambria and Jenny get their grub on and sell stuff

 

Showing people how my camera works. Yes, it's film.

Showing people how my camera works. Yes, it’s film.

 

Various pours of Coton

Various pours of Coton

 

Matt Olesh, Rob from BeerPaperLA and Katey

Matt Olesh, Rob from BeerPaperLA and Katey

 

Note to self, waste level picks are always a bad idea.

Note to self, waste level picks are always a bad idea.

 

Katelyn and Evelyn demanded a retake

Katelyn and Evelyn demanded a retake

 

Jeff Hood shows off his snappy jacket.

Jeff Hood shows off his snappy jacket.

 

Anaheim's newest brewery set to open late 2013, Bottle Logic Brewing

Anaheim’s newest brewery set to open late 2013, Bottle Logic Brewing

 

Leveling the Playing Field // A Look Back at the San Diego Beer Week Guild Fests

I’m not sure why, but the first things I do after checking in a hotel:

  1. Open the Window
  2. Check the drawer for a bible
  3. Hose off
  4. Wait for my wife to get ready in the hotel bar

First off, my window view from the 11th floor of the Sheraton:

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Then, the Sheraton bar beer menu:

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deliciousJust when I thought the view couldn’t get any better, I did the Patrick Stewart triple-take on the bar menu. Expecting the standard macros (which are there), I’m happy to get the pre-game started with my first taste of a Stone Brewing Liberty Station brewed beer. Stone’s Delicious IPA is exactly what it sounds like: a busty hop delivery system. The sunset across the bay puts me at ease, only to be shaken by my wife’s hand landing on my shoulder. “Shall we get a cab?” she says as I toss back the lower third of this fresh, hoppy beer. “Heels? At a beer fest?” I think to myself, knowing full well if I say anything it will mean at least twenty more minutes before we leave. IMG_2529

Here for both San Diego Brewer’s Guild festivals and general San Diego debauchery, my only real expectation is to sample beer from fifty or so SD breweries next to the water in a really cool looking building. Instead of traversing the entire county, a proper Cliff’s Notes version should do the trick. The Friday night session is the “VIP brewer takeover” session (a term that confuses the hell out of me…are the brewers VIP’s? Do I physically get to take over a brewer?) and a bigger general admission beerfest on Saturday afternoon. Both festivals are held on the Broadway Pier which is generally purposed for cruise ship boarding.

Friday Night Brewer Take Over Session // Dia De Los Muertos Hígado

PBCupPorterInside only, breweries are ez-upped and situated alphabetically. Although odd, it does make my day fairly navigable. Skipping the initial clusterfuck near A-F, I land at Green Flash and nab a Lil’ Freak, a pleasant wild yeast beer with crisp, fluffy carbonation and notes of tropical fruit. The whole reason my wife is here is to drink Karl Strauss’ Peanut Butter Cup Porter, a beer she texted me about weeks prior to this event. We both agree this should be a regular offering from ol’ Karl.

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As this event includes food in the price, we opt to scarf next and are somewhat underwhelmed. Of the ~20 or so eateries, 75% brought sliders, 20% trays of various pasta and 5% interesting food. For out-of-towners like us, this is a missed opportunity for craft beer friendly eateries to give a reason to come back and check them out. The one stand-out for me is Stone Catering’s crispy fried risotto followed by their tropical cream cake. The problem is, we eat there regularly and discovered nothing new. Nonetheless, we eat like we are stuck on a deserted island out of necessity, knowing full well an empty stomach and the worlds best beer = chumming off the end of the pier, projectile style.

IMG_2540Beer-wise, imagine for a quick second that I’ve never been to San Diego and have never heard of any of these breweries. My overall impression walking out at the end of the night is San Diego is a “Barrel Aged Beer” city. By 8 o’clock, my tongue feels like my belt. The problem is, if you started at A and worked your way down, you started with Alesmith’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Speedway Stout and the beer only degraded from that point on. Many came close, including Ballast Point’s Rum Barrel Victory at Sea and Stone’s 2010 Double Bastard aged in bourbon barrels. Others were good, but failed to match the balance an intensity of the big guys. Perhaps blending vs. cuvee is the issue? Maybe good base beers don’t fare well in bourbon? I hate to sound like a complainer, it’s just that I expect big things if I intend to defend San Diego as a beer mecca. Thus far, I’m confused why carbonation issues are a thing at a SD beer festival. I would be embarrassed to serve undercarbed beer as a homebrewer to friends, much less a VIP session kicking of SDBW.

Of the non-barrel aged goodies, Iron Fist’s Roots of Wrath and On the Tracks Real Ginger Beer blows me away. With loads of palate fatigue and a four ounce pour, I’d be lying if I tried to break them down for you. Put them in your beer spank bank and order them at once if on tap. But were there hops? Not much. A few breweries have double and triple IPA’s. St. Archer wins me over with balance and freshness. I’m shocked there is no fresh/wet hop beers being 11/1. San Diego, you’ve failed me.

Saturday Afternoon Brewer’s Guild Fest // the brewer’s gave it back for the non-VIP’s (or something)

Compare/contrast from Friday night: Same great location plus more breweries inside and out, plastic tasting glasses instead of glass, sunshine, food vendors, easier to move about, less carbonation issues, bands, not as much barrel aged goodies, more hops.

Saturday’s session is where it’s at. A bright and cheery festival with a great mix of food, friends and mix of San Diego’s best beer at a gorgeous location. Next year, I plan on skipping the Friday session and hitting a few more events around town. Until then, I’ll keep wandering around the huge county in search of the best beer.

(Friday/Saturday glassware below and random pics)

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Freshly shorn Greg Koch, me in the middle and my Beercamp brother (#94) Sean Laidlaw (brewer at Mission)

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My sleeve of craftbeer temporary tattoos

 

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Saturday session setup with the USS Midway.

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no dumping – drains to ocean

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Thanks San Diego! I’ll see you soon.