Grits Fullerton Changes the Beer Dinner Game

A grit can be described as a small stone, just big enough to count with the naked eye. It can also be used to describe backbone, big enough to pull off a packed $135 per sitting beer dinner in downtown Fullerton…at a brunch spot…a few days before Christmas. Stone? Yeah, there was Stone, eight of them to be exact.

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For the price tag, Grits Fullerton had a lot to live up to. I went in thinking it needed flow, cloth napkins, and extended pinkies. I thought, we would all get to dive into Stone’s cellar and come out like masked robbers. Having been to two chef Cody Storts beer dinners and two “Dr.” Bill Sysak pairing events, I know the madness both are capable of.

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When the first beer is 2008 Stone Brewing Old Guardian Barleywine at 11%, the tone has been set. This isn’t going to be a hoity-toity affair. This is going to be a feast.

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Stone’s brand ambassador, “Dr.” Bill Sysak, ruled the beer side. Chef Cody mans the Christmas bush.

Various animals, grains and vegetables are shuffled and hit the table like a no-limit poker game. Plates like cards, beer glasses like poker chips. Do I go all-in or fold?

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Course 2 – cajun octopus with a dazzling candied citrus. tequila barrel aged cali-belgique IPA played off the citrus like a margie.

Amuse #1 and #2 down the hatch, “now the fun begins,” yells chef to applause. Smoked trout rillettes paired with Matt’s Burning Rosids, an imperial smoked saison, is served. I’ve seen this beer pulled out for a few events over the years and is drinking beautifully. RIP Matt, always glad to remember a comrade, your burning rosids beer and rillettes didn’t leave much for the dish cleaning crew…it was my fave of the night!

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Stars Align for 2015 Darkstar November

Sometime around 11:30 P.M, two days before Thanksgiving:

“You smell like a brewery,” whines my thirty-something stocking cap wearing uber driver. “Your car smells like Old Spice Bearglove.” I reply, rushing to twitter to check @ubersmellslike on my bumpy ride home from the Darkstar November beer dinner.

Glassporn

Darkstar Glassporn

How is this year’s Darkstar, you ask? Comparing it to last year, I got a chance to blind taste 2014 among some strong competition on the Four Brewers show. 2014’s Darkstar seemed thin, hot and disjointed (it did outrank the Goose!). Bottle Logic must have heard the show and worked out the kinks, because 2015 Darkstar November is rich, spicy, full bodied, and super delicious. The rye barrel places a large part in the flavor profile, offering up big cinnamon notes that compliment the big chocolaty stout. If you can grab a bottle or two, I highly recommend it.

The beer dinner? Chef Patrick Whittaker looked calm and collected, whipping up six magical courses. My favorite pairing of the night was rabbit, ironically prepped with carrot puree next to Tripel Point, the OC Fest of Ales winning homebrew that was re-brewed with Bottle Logic. Other dishes included scallops, pork belly, New York strip, and panna cotta paired with Darkstar November. The absolute winner of the evening was Darkstar November with Coldbot coffee. I hope this gets packaged!

Golden Road Relationship Status: It’s Complicated (If you care)

novakI hope you read my break up letter to Golden Road a while ago, and although the facts still remain (AB Inbev does bad things to small craft breweries), things are complicated.

  1. Victor Novak, a friend and very talented brewer, is taking over brewing ops for GR. Besides being a great guy that has made award-winning beer in OC for 15 years at TAPS, having him steer the ship at GR has changed my position. This is where it’s complicated. As long as he and the brewing team are making changes to the beer to make it better, I’m cool with it. If their sales team does shitty things, I’ll be quick to lash out. I’m not “cozy” with them and don’t get free beer or whatever. I will simply recognize them as a brewery that makes beer in OC when they do so.
  2. The breakup post was meant more of a “why AB?” type of thing and to show some facts about how AB is horrible. Sure it was knee-jerky, but it was fun to write and get off my chest.
  3. I’m old. Like, your dad old. I’ve seen craft beer from the early days and understand that beer is business, including craft beer.
  4. In the past, I have openly criticized Golden Road for having mediocre beer with the OG brewer. When Jesse came along from Drakes, the beer improved, but I also criticized that some of the hoppy beers taste the same (until the Works IPA), and other beers were just okay. If you think they suck, that’s your opinion and I’m fine with that. Drink what you like, you guys.
  5. Sure, the Brewers Association says they’re not craft beer anymore…along with Ballast Point, Lagunitas, Saint Archer, Goose Island, Elysian, 10 Barrel, and the next fifty sellouts. I’m committed to covering local beer that’s made in Orange County. If the beer GR makes in Anaheim sucks, I’ll be the first to shout it from the top of the Big A along the 57 freeway.
  6. I firmly believe the definition of craft beer needs to change. If a brewery sells a majority stake to a non-craft brewery, yet the brewers, founders and quality stay the same, I no longer have issue with buying the beer. I just won’t call it craft, I guess.
  7. Golden Road is pumping 25 million dollars into the city of Anaheim and will employ over 100 people. This is pretty cool as an Anaheim resident.
  8. They’re a charitable organization, donating to Firkfest and things like Heal the Bay.

So, what does this mean? As long as the Golden Road brewing team remains devoted to improving quality, I don’t see any hijinx on the sales/distribution side and people aren’t assholes, I’ll cover them as a brewery that makes beer in OC. I will continue to be opinionated and remain objective. If you don’t want to drink it or read about it, it’s a free country. I have promoted craft beer for almost five years on this site and my mission statement is just that. Did I flip flop? I suppose so. Sorry about that.

Second Night Added for Epic BA Stout Beer Dinner

I once said that I would never give any love to an event that features an Anheuser Busch product. This is different as it also features TAPS Remy’s Pappy with an insane lineup of fall food prepared by five of OC’s best chefs. As the first night sold out in record speed, don’t snooze on calling in your reservation for the second night! (only $55++pp as well!)

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FIVE CHEFS, SIX COURSES, TWO RARE BEERS IN ONE NIGHT AT LILLIE’S Q

Second dinner added after immediate sell-out

 WHAT:

Join chef-founder of Lillie’s Q, Charlie McKenna, with chefs Tom Hope, Manny Gonzalez, Cory Rapp, and Kody Havener on their collaboration of a six course dinner featuring beers from TAPS and two rare offerings,Remy’s Pappy by TAPS and Gross Island Bourbon County Stout from Chicago.

WHEN:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015, 6:30 PM (Thursday 10/22 is sold out)

WHERE:

  • Lillie’s Q
  • 240 S. Brea Blvd. Brea Downtown
  • Reservations—limited space; call only:  714.482.2001

DETAILS:  

$55 per person plus tax & gratuity

MENU:

Five Chefs Fall Beer Dinner

  • Amuse Bouche
  • Cream con Chili
  • Pimiento Cheese Tasting
  • Pimiento Hush Puppies, Pimiento Cheese Biscuit & Pimiento Cheese Pork Rind
  • Chef Charlie McKenna – Founder, Lillie’s Q
  • 2nd Course
  • “Oaked” Hog Tied Ale
  • Loch Etive Scottish Steelhead Crudo
  • Collards, Field Peas, Smoked Ham Hock & Benne Seed
  • Chef Charlie McKenna – Founder, Lillie’s Q
  •  3rd Course
  • Vanilla Pumpkin Ale on Nitro
  • Southern Lyonnaise Salad
  • Smoked Tasso Ham, Roasted Pumpkin Purée, Crispy Egg,
  • Fall Spiced Mustard Caviar, Creole Sherry Vinaigrette
  • Chef Cory Rapp – The Catch Restaurant
  •  4th Course
  • Phat Albert Imperial IPA – Double Dry Hopped
  • Southern Fried Quail
  • Tupelo Honey Glaze, Smoked Blue Cambozola Dandelion Slaw, Garden Pickled Vegetables
  • Chef Manny Gonzalez – TAPS Fish House & Brewery, Brea
  •  5th Course
  • Gross Island Bourbon County Stout
  • Peach Wood Smoked Pork Osso Buco
  • Roasted Butternut Squash Grits, Crisp Root Vegetables, Stout Reduction
  • Chef Kody Havener – Lillie’s Q, Brea
  •  6th Course
  • Remy’s Pappy
  • Sticky Toffee Pudding
  • Fig Caramel, Abuelita Chocolate Mousse, Cocoa Nibs
  • Chef Tom Hope – Culinary Director, Manzella Restaurant Group

Sorry Golden Road, We Have to Break Up

Dear Golden Road,

It’s not you, it’s me. You have treated me great over the past four years, and when I said we’d be together forever…well, I’m afraid that can’t happen anymore. This morning, I got a letter from your new man, AB Inbev, and I guess the rumors are true.

If I knew you wanted to be in an abusive relationship, I guess I could have tried harder. I could have offered free beer to beer bars to snatch a tap handle or two*. I could have tried to turn the local supermarket beer aisle into a corporate mess. I could have spent millions lobbying congress and urged wholesalers to ‘stay loyal’. I even could have tried to purchase distribution in states to limit craft beer on shelves.

That new guy of yours is quite a jerk.  I get it, though. That money is too good to pass up.

Now I’m sorry to say that we’re over. When I see your billboards around town, I’ll look away and try not to think about the good times when you donated beer and time to Firkfest and the Fest of Ales. I’ll no longer drive down Orangewood by Angel Stadium on my way to work, as it will simply be too hard thinking about what could have been. Giving you time is giving them time, and I can’t support that.

A wise man once told me if you happen to ride a clydesdale down a golden road, make sure to hire a good poop scooper. I’m not sure what he meant until now. Hire the best pooper scooper Inbev’s money can buy. And you scoop that poop long and hard, friend.

Just a puritan in a Nathaniel Hawthorn book,

OCBeerBlog

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*allegedly

Just a Fella That Builds Breweries: Jim Mellem of The Bruery

Piece originally appeared in the Sept. 2015 BeerPaperLA.

Ten weeks ago, Jim Mellem walked through The Bruery’s doors. A/C blowing his almost Lyle Lovett-like hair to the side, he punched the clock on a new job with a million things to do. Ten weeks later, the old brewhouse is out, a shiny-new GEA system is installed, and the Bruery Terreux sits a pellicle away from going full force. Leaving a 12-year position at one of America’s most-respected breweries to work in Orange County couldn’t have been easy. I got a chance to check in with him late August and chat about his transition.

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Sharing Black Tuesday 2015 out of the brite tank, Jim Mellem

Everyone always remembers their first Bruery beer, what was yours? Tradewinds Tripel. Beautiful beer.

How different are things at The Bruery compared to Sierra Nevada?

The resources here are a little bit different, in a lot of ways it’s a lot more fun. We get to roll up our sleeves. Patrick is really big on the people aspect of brewing, which is nice.  It’s a lot more manual at the Bruery. One similarity is the pilot system at Sierra Nevada is similar to our production brewhouse. At Sierra, it’s more for fun, over here, it’s what pays the bills.

How much are you going to miss dry hopping?

I was in charge of the cellar in Chico and that was like 60% of my job! I’d be organizing torpedos, dry hops, and managing the guys. I can safely move on from brewing IPA’s in my life. I love drinking them though. Now I’m getting more into ‘what kind of spices can we add to the whirlpool’. With our recent collab with Jester King, I had to organize the guys to get zest off of 400 pounds of limes; every week is something totally different.

With the unique operational requirements behind some of The Bruery’s beers, are there any techniques you’ve changed or plan on changing?

With Autumn Maple, we’ve moved to yam purée instead of hand processing them. We also bought a pump to add them directly into the kettle (ed: they previously used a forklift).  Anyway, it’s a lot easier than hand-roasting yams.  We still split vanilla beans individually and have to get the ingredients sack together for whirlpool, so it’s still a major operation in some respects.

You mentioned you came from the cellar side of things at Sierra Nevada, is there any knowledge to impart coming from years of bottle/can conditioning Pale Ale and other beers?

Sierra is probably one of the few breweries in the world that has the ability to take beer that’s 32 degrees and warm it back up to 60 at packaging/filtration. At Terreux, we’re pushing everything to be bottle conditioned as we find that it adds that je ne sais quoi. Right now, we take the bottles and stick them in a warm warehouse for a month plus, but if you can give that a bit of a jump start by getting the beer warm, then bottling, we’d be ahead of the game.  The question is how can we do that from an energy standpoint, using existing equipment and not trying to sink the Bismarck in cost.

Maybe convert the Jazzersize building a few doors down into a Bikram Yoga/Bottle Conditioning room?

I definitely have some cool ideas…it’s really interesting at Sierra though, as we will bottle condition with house yeast, with Cal Ale yeast, and we’d also do it with Brett. So there’s a lot more variation on bottle conditioning speed, what types of esters you’re producing, and what you’re trying to get in the bottle. It might be something that will help mop up the rougher flavors after barrel aging, diacetyl, making sure you’re getting a really great product out to the consumer, so we’re definitely trying to employ some of these options. Terreux is still very much a work in progress, in regards to how we’re going to finish those beers.

Sierra Nevada is built with efficiency and environment in mind. Will you be looking into any projects to do the same at the Bruery?

I think it’s a greater awareness, but the new brewhouse offers some benefit. The mash tun has rakes now, so we can get more water out which means we’re sparging less and using less water per barrel. We want to have a knowledge of how to count and quantify things first, then we can figure out how to improve. We’ve reset the bar with the new brewhouse. We’ll have to get smarter with transporting wort between buildings. We’ve also done some things different how we clean the bottle filler to save water. We’re doing a lot of risky beers here, and with that, there’s always going to be a lot more water use because you’re always going to have to clean, then clean again, and again.

Is manpower shared between Terreux and Bruery?

It’s really interesting. There’s two different teams within the different wort stream. Myself and Andrew Bell are the only two guys that bounce back and forth between locations. We do have pilot fermenters over there, so we’ll funk stuff up and see how it goes. It’s cool that it gives people more ownership of the projects.

The split brewhouse with The Bruery and Terreux was meant to primarily address quality concerns, is there anything else The Bruery is doing to enhance beer quality?

We have a nice quality department here. For a brewery of this size to have three people that are 100% devoted to quality is pretty damned good. Not too many breweries of this size can say that. Our next frontier will be dialing in package quality.

Were you ever part of the Ovila Belgian-style beers Sierra Nevada brewed, and if so, did it drive some of your interest down here?

It’s weird, when I interviewed, I asked, “you’re a Belgian-style brewery right?”, and they were like…nah, no not really…we sort of identify with that; but we more identify with the individuality of that. That’s ultimately what drove me to be here. I worked on the first five Ovilas; that was cool because we got to figure out what yeast strains to use and how to bottle condition. It was still very experimental at such a large phase. I think what really drove me here was that I have always been a fan of The Bruery’s beers, and being impressed that something this small can produce beers this high in quality, keep it interesting and keep it exciting. They take huge risks, which I kind of like.

Do you appreciate any other local breweries?

I go to Noble Ale Works a lot. I describe them more as my neighborhood pub. You look at the stuff they’re doing with hops with the single hop variety beers. It’s great! I can go there and get an idea of what 100% Mosaic tastes like. I’m like, thanks man, I appreciate that.

SN does two beers in open fermenters: Kellerweiss and Bigfoot. Would you ever try to convince Patrick to install something like that?

The cool thing about this place is nothing is off the table. If you look at the beers they’ve made over the years, truly nothing is off the table. We’re looking at a 2017 expansion project. I know with Wicked Weed, they’ve installed a nice 30 or 60 barrel open fermenter. The bigger question is ‘what are you getting off of it?’ You’re getting a nice non-pressurized fermentation. For the Kellerweiss yeast, I can definitely say it does make a difference. For Bigfoot, do you really pick up that up in the ester profile?  Maybe not so much. As long as I don’t have to clean it, I’d be happy installing one. I actually twisted my knee getting in and out of one, so my days getting in and out of open fermenters might be a job for the younger guys.

How is Orange County treating you thus far?

I still get lost going to the grocery store! Haha! I’m still GPS dependent getting around here.

Chico’s beer scene is run by Sierra Nevada. Asheville not so much. What was it like for SN to move into a thriving beer community?

It’s really weird, one gripe about Chico was trying to hire people, there’s no big beer culture there. Living in Asheville was that we have people making different beers down the road and so we’d be able to try new beers and be able to chat with the brewers, asking how they made it, then we’d get ideas of our own, and it would foster and grow.  And for me, seeing what Wicked Weed was doing, I was like, why don’t I go work for a brewery that does this? The cool thing is about those guys is, people see what they’re doing and think, “I should be raising the bar too.” There’s this step-ladder affect.

 

South County IPA + OC Brew Ha Ha!

Artifex Brewing Co, Pizza Port and Left Coast Brewing Co. set to release South County IPA for the Brew Ha Ha! It’ll be on at the fest lakeside and will hit store shelves soon. Tickets and event info for Brew Ha Ha are here! 

Black Tuesday 2015, 19.9% and NO WAX?

Having just zwickled 2015 Black Tuesday, carbed and cold, I’m excited to write this. I feel like I’m addressing the crop report to Wall Street in the movie Trading Places, where thousands will throw tiny pieces of paper in the air after hearing this news.

GNAG2731Two new things for Black Tuesday this year: This year’s version is the biggest yet, at 20% 19.9% ABV. It may have been the carbonation on the brite tank, but this BT is akin to a honey-bourbon, but instead of honey, caramel, toffee, vanilla and chocolate poke through, like BT. It’s delicious. It seems a bit thinner, but in my opinion this is a good thing. I didn’t really have time to break it down or do a side by side comparison. For my money, I’ll buy all I can this year. Also notable this is the last BT brewed on the old brewhouse.

bt_nowaxAnother big bit of news? Maybe no wax. That’s correct. New bottles may have this classy foil top. I’d rather have a reason to dig in my Black Tuesday without a knife, and to possibly break the beer community out of the gothic era with wax dips.

What’s your opinion on wax? Let us know.

 

 

 

150 California Breweries Line Up for the CA Craft Beer Summit + discount code

sacThe state of craft beer is something to behold. So is the state of California. When I heard 150 California craft breweries will be pouring at the California Craft Beer Summit, my personal state went from a foggy daze to “how can this be real?”

Not only is the festival a huge draw, the two-day event includes a CBC-type expo and educational sessions, put together by the California Craft Brewers Association.

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Pioneer Chris Cramer details the beginning of craft beer in SD.

Tap Talks: Featuring industry industry legends like Ken Grossman, David Walker, Natalie and Vinnie Cilurzo, Steve Wagner and a bunch more.

    • Masters Demos: Interactive demonstrations featuring California’s top 
brewers and chefs pairing California’s finest beers and fresh ingredients in new and innovative styles.
    • Experience the Craft Sessions: Craft beer professionals will provide phenomenal opportunities to learn more about craft beer and the business of brewing it.
    • Beer Releases: Tasting stations will feature an array of beers in a variety of styles to experience the difference and enjoy new taste sensations.
    • Job and Education Center: Have you ever dreamed of working at a brewery? Meet our experts in industry education and talk to the hiring professionals that make those dreams come true. Learn what it will take to meet your goals.
    • Hoppy Hour: IPA’s and Appetizers make for a great networking hour to discuss new and hilarious hop puns!

ocbeerMy personal itinerary on Friday:

  • 9: Food & Beer Pairings with Dr. Bill (simply to heckle).
  • 10:30: Draft systems technical workshop.
  • 1pm: Fritz Maytag speaks about 50 years of Anchor Brewing(!)
  • 2:30-3: Vinnie Cilurzo moderates a talk with Ken Grossman.
  • 5:30: Brewers reception.

temptationSaturday: Getting my learn on from Gary Glass, Mitch Steele, The Pope of Foam, Tony Magee, Chris Cramer, Patrick Rue, Vinnie, Matt Brynildson and Greg Koch. Then…

Saturday night on the capitol lawn: 150 breweries will stretch as far as the eye can see. Orange County will be represented by The Bruery, Beach City, Beachwood BBQ, and Bottle Logic. The best part of the fest will be sampling beer from all over the state from breweries that only support their local areas.

Tickets available via http://www.californiacraftbeer.com/2015-craft-beer-summit/tickets/purchase-tickets/

fact: California produced over 3.5 million barrels of beer in 2014, more than any other state.

 

fact: Craft Beer is a 6.5 Billion dollar industry in the state of California, 18% more in 2014 than the previous year.

 

fact: California has 554 breweries, more than any other state.

 

Fact: the discount code is CAcraftbeer10

Anchors, Oars, and a Green Flash | A&O’s First Beer Dinner

11713720_10207507331666231_4974723395755362688_oOf the many beer dinners I’ve attended and written about, there’s one thing I learned: Nobody likes to read about them. It’s sad really, with the amount of work put into the beer world colliding with a kitchen, and a staff that is on its toes for hours. I promise keep it brief, and show you pretty pictures, if you’re good.

Notable? The location. A&O Kitchen+Bar is nestled in the Balboa Bay Resort with a relaxing view of Newport Harbor and million dollar yachts parked a food-fight away. Location? Unbelievable. Also notable? The brewery phoned this one in.

Fullscreen capture 7222015 113644 AM.bmpIt’s smart to preview a beer dinner in advance; look up any specific beers, ingredients or preparations one hasn’t tried. A beer dinner can be a learning experience as much as it is fun. When four out of five beers on the menu are IPA, red flags, flare guns and tornado alarms go off in my head. Even as a hop-head, I will start out by saying 4/5 IPA’s at a beer dinner is horseshit baffling. I do think it is possible to execute such a dinner, preparing dishes that play off subtle hop notes and alcohol intensity. Lets just say I walked into this beer dinner looking for things to improve.

11731671_10207507330826210_5652225023129678161_oAs A&O’s first beer dinner (ever) and my first time there, I’m in media-mode, absorbing the ambiance and jotting down notes. A&O has a brilliant set of servers, smiling, prompt and thoughtful. My +1 for the evening is Chris Walowski, Smog City Brewing’s ex-brewer who recently took up a biomedical job in the area. It’s great to get second opinions on the pairings and always great to chat about beer things with a beer person.

11053051_10207507331506227_987788644536921173_oOyster Shooters, fried chicken skin, fried blue cheese balls (and a bread ball injection thing?) are passed as the sun sets and guests arrive. Chicken skin easily wins round one, but the beer served threw us for a loop. Normally, a beer rep should say “Hi, I’m from this brewery and you’re drinking this.” The guy with a Green Flash shirt sat with a glass twice the size of ours and said nothing during the reception. Although the menu said “Jibe Session IPA”, we had serious doubts surrounding it’s sessionability. With Belgian yeast esters on the nose and some alcohol warming on the finish, safe to say we were served Le Freak, Green Flash’s Belgian IPA (listed as “Le Freake” on the menu for the 3rd course). The beer is mildly oxidized and is not bursting with the usual hop flair Green Flash beers seem to have.

11053636_10207507329586179_3990557888106167181_oCourse two, however, saves the day. “It’s a deep fried Avo-Crab Hushpuppy,” mentions my seat-mate, Priscilla Willis of shescookin.com. Three components of the dish, Sriracha caviar, sweet dundeonous crab and the perfectly fried greenish ball of crab flash chef’s brilliance. Soul Style IPA brings just enough tropical panache to highlight the sweetness of the crab and offer a needed palate cleanse. IPA and Sriracha is always a win in my book.

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Course 2 – The most flavor ever squeezed into a 12 inch space.

Further courses, A&O’s chef Rachel put on a clinic; the beers, not so much.  With the second, it made the dish unbearable. Imperial IPA paired with the most flavor ever squeezed onto a plate? The uber-sweet booziness of the beer paired with intense braised rabbit and funky cheese fondue was too much to take. Looking at Green Flash’s portfolio, some of the beers they don’t sell any more (Rayon Vert or Saison Diego) could have paired perfectly. Not only is a beer dinner a chance for a chef to try fun stuff, it’s also a chance for the brewery to do the same. Why were there no Green Flash Cellar 3 beers? Natura Morta Plum for instance, might have had enough acidity to cut the richness of the next three dishes (which were all crazy delicious, but not enhanced by the beers paired).

I do hope A&O continues to get into beer, because wow, chef Rachel brings one hell of a lot of fun to a beer dinner. My only hope is they get a brewery that takes Orange County seriously.