Darkstar Dinner Done Right

gnag3876It’s tough to write about beer dinners as the numbers show: people don’t like to read about them. As you’ve probably already nodded off to sleep, I’ll get to the nitty-gritty. The 2016 Darkstar November beer dinner was probably one of the best beer dinners I’ve been to. Why? It was relaxed. It was paced. It had hospitality. It didn’t have a billion calories. There wasn’t a nasty slab of pork belly. The dishes were portioned well. The beer pairings actually worked. It wasn’t overly gluttonous. It seems like Bottle Logic is getting incredibly comfortable pulling these dinners off. Crazy, huh?

The plates, for your scrolling pleasure…

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Course one: Foie Gras, pickled mustard seeds, rhubarb, strawberry paired with Berlinier Equation with strawberry and rhubarb. Although pretty, mustard and foie was pretty funky, but a great place to start.

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Course two: Autumn Salad – seasonal veggies, ricotta solata, brown butter vinaigrette paired with Dark Harvest. The beer had a nice vintage root beer vibe that filled in the flavor gaps of the seasonal salad. Quite beautiful and a nice step in the dinner progression. Lovely fall colors as well.

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The best thing ever plated in an Anaheim alley, course three.

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Course three is when the tables got loud cutting into little Gnudi balls. Butternut squash puree was licked out of bowls. Sour Prince, the two-year-old experiment finally paid off. It tasted vinous, woody, tart, finished, polished. I’m really looking forward to A) more sour beer from Bottle Logic and B) more food from chef Patrick. This pairing was incredible.

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Course four - light and fluffy red snapper plopped on squash with a groovy onion, potato and asparagus to floss with. Love this almost intermezzo main before the main. Although Tattered Prince paired well, we all yearned for something hoppy.

Course four – light and fluffy red snapper plopped on squash with a groovy onion, potato, and asparagus to floss with. Love this almost intermezzo main before the main. Although Tattered Prince paired well, we all yearned for something hoppy. IPA intermezzo?

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Five: The best thing I’ve ever had at a beer dinner. Braised lamb belly that had a mutton jerky vibe on a grits-based tamal and mole drizzle…holy hell. Inventive, layered, textured, colorful, and, oh yeah, paired well with Darkstar November 2016 that is easily the best year yet. Blown. Away.

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Cheers to the team!

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Dessert: Textures of Chocolate. Who knew persimmon would go well with chocolate and BBA stout?

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Jam the Radar, Mostra Darkstar, and Darkstar November 2016. Incredible! Jam the Radar should be called Pornstar November. Sees candies, booze, decadent.

New Brewery Alert: Stereo Brewing in Placentia

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As a writer, I draw a lot of parallels with beer and music. They’re both man-made art, analog, and evocative. Just as I can remember songs I listened to with friends twenty years ago; their beats, lyrics, and bass lines…I can remember beers I’ve had on camping trips decades ago. Tying these two brain-banks together is Stereo Brewing in Placentia.

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Opened by Rick Smets and Amanda Pearce, the couple met at a Dylan concert, freaked out over beers, now are knee deep in a Premier stainless steel jug band brewhouse that makes hop beats over malt basslines.

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The tasting room is an aquarium of music with spinning vinyl and music posters throughout. The beer, on soft opening, was clean and full of personality. Coming from Firestone and Left Coast, Rick has his eye on quality first, opting to dump the first batch of IPA. Instead, hop heads will swoon over the Robot hoppy red. Dancing like a robot listening to Kraftwerk, I thought Stereo’s Blonde on Blonde Kolsch was the best beer on the playlist. So much so, I took a crowler of it home, just to be sure.

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Hazy Jane Ginger Wheat

Stereo Brewing opens Saturday 10/15/16, check them out! www.stereobrewing.com

OOZEFEST is This Weekend!

I’ve been to a lot of boozefests. I’ve been to Ozzfest. I’ve been to a couple blues fests. I’ve even shot an Uzi at a dude’s chest, but I have never been to an OOZEFEST.

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Treatery – Sweet and savory s’mores, toasted marshmallows with a variety of cheeses and herb/spiced grahams.

What is OOZEFEST? It’s a celebration of all things CHEESE. The kind of cheese that pulls into long strands, long enough to play the banjo on if you were in a cheese-inspired jug band. *CODE: ocbeerblog – Tickets can be purchased at: oozefestival.com

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Sgt Pepperoni’s – ‘Balls Deep’ mozzarella-stuffed meatball wrapped in dough and deep fried

OOZEFEST is like breaking into a creamery, where you can milk all the goats, sheep, and cows, steal all the squeaky curds, then laugh your cheese breath at a box of hungry kittens.

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Messhall Canteen Truck – ‘War Pig Grilled Cheese’ BBQ pulled pork, bacon, fried mac and cheese patty stuffed with queso oaxaca, topped with napalm sauce, ranch, and bleu cheese on texas toast

Special OOZEFEST beer will be on hand from local breweries such as The Good Beer Company, Modern Times, Unsung Brewing, Four Sons, and more. You can buy an “all you can consume” VIP ticket, or buy as you go. Saturday has a slew of incredible eats, as does Sunday…seriously the hardest part about OOZEFEST is choosing which day to go, although Saturday has a smaller font, so I would choose that day. And use code OCBEERBLOG to knock $5 off.

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The Cut – ‘Gaucho Slider’ Smoked Mozzarella, Cilantro Chimichurri and Roasted Banana.

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Kebab – open-faced style gyro with cilantro ‘ooze’ (green cilantro with jalapeno house sauce)

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Shuck Oyster Bar – Shrimp and beef Yakitori-style Meatballs stuffed with sharp cheddar and dressed in spicy cheese sauce

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Good Beer Company! Although I’m sure they’ll bring “La Cheese”

OOZEFEST – DOWNTOWN SANTA ANA

SATURDAY OCT. 15TH & SUNDAY OCT. 16TH
MARKETPLACE NOON-10PM
VIP 5PM-9PM

Ten Reasons to Attend the CA Craft Beer Summit ’16 in Sacto

Last year, I hopped in my silly Scion and drove eight hours north to sweaty Sacramento. After three big gulps, ten rest stops, and two cups of spicy Frito-Lay bean dip, I checked into my $139 Residence Inn by Marriott, not expecting much.  My room was spacious and few steps away from the event in the heart of downtown. Surrounded by nightlife and eateries, reason #1 to go is easily the inexpensive beer travel. 

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#1: Inexpensive beer travel is the best beer travel. Residence Inn Marriott for $139/night!

If you come in early for the educational sessions, the next thing you can expect is a Friday morning filled with fresh faces of the industry.

#2: David Walker and Natalie Cilurzo address the media with concerns about CA’s drought in the state of beer. These guys were everywhere during the event for questions, selfies, and hugs. 

Educational sessions where you actually learn things. Here’s a bunch:

Don Barkley

#3: This is Don Barkley. His Q&A taught me about CA Beer history. He made beer at New Albion, America’s first craft brewery since prohibition in the 70’s. He is now the brewmaster of Napa Smith and has a big bellowing voice, and told great stories.

Vinnie Cilurzo and Ken Grossman

#4: Vinnie Cilurzo and Ken Grossman. They spoke about inspiration from Don Barkley (above) and Jack McAuliffe of New Albion. 

Tony Magee

#5: Speaking of tap talks, Tony Magee of Lagunitas gave a great one just days after announcing the sale of 50% of his brand to Heineken.

Julian Shrago and Tony Magee

#6: If one wanted to get pointers on buying/selling breweries, one could simply go up and ask. Julian Shrago of Beachwood BBQ & Brewing was probably doing just that, as they recently took over Beach City Brewing in HB this summer.

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#7: Hop sniffing at the expo. People walked away with hops on their noses like deranged hop heads. 

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#8: The guilds pouring beer at the expo. LA, SD, SF…pretty much the best of the best! The expo was also like a mini-CBC with vendors of all sorts. 

#9: The Fest to close things out. 150 CA breweries pour on the State Capitol mall.75 on this side, 75 on that side. No huge lines!

#9: The Fest to close things out. 150 CA breweries pour on the State Capitol mall.75 on this side, 75 on that side. No huge lines!

Actual brewers and brewery owners poured their beer, which was rad to ask questions and snap photos!

#10: Actual brewers and brewery owners poured their beer, which was rad to ask questions and snap photos!

Sold? I hope so. I will be there with the Four Brewer’s show from Thursday-Sunday! Come support California beer and have a hell of a road trip!

Check out the site for full schedule, tickets, speakers, and travel info!

 

Logical Menu Programming | FO Beer Dinner 2016

Tripping over my cat at 12:05 A.M. with two bags of glassware and four bottles of Fundamental Observation wasn’t the burglar-like entrance I had hoped, especially with a belly full of six courses of food and all the beers. The dogs came out to investigate the situation, one growling and kicking her back legs like a bull. The other, sniffs my leg and wags, obviously knowing what kind of shenanigans I had just endured. If this dog were human, she would be a foodie.

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Cooking in an alley, alley, alley – Patrick Whittaker, our chef of the evening.

Three hours prior, we were ushered into the back brewery of Bottle Logic Brewing. Big ass fan blowing DDB’s man-musk out of the room from the first seating, I’m guided to my table, delighted to see who I’m sitting next to: chef Cody Storts, Brandon Buckner (of Bottle Logic), main squeeze Christina, and Sean and Jessica McNew. A rowdy table, no doubt. I can ask chef questions about the food, and hit Brandon up about the beers.

You, light up my life, you give me hope...

You, light up my life, you give me hope… Haze Flux Vermont Style DIPA

Having been to the Darkstar November beer dinner earlier this year, I knew what chef Patrick Whittaker and the Bottle Logic team were capable of. What’s truly impressive is a brewery that has skilled staff to pull this thing off. There’s a million ways a dinner like this could go awry, especially if not done with regularity. The first improvement is Bottle Logic borrowed a food truck to use as a kitchen instead of cooking in the cramped brewery.

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Course one: Hamachi

My favorite moments of the night were many, but to name a few, the stone fruit salad paired with Berlinear Equation w/apricot & peaches was stellar. Refreshing on the warm night, the bready/stonefruity beer finishes clean and tart. The stonefruit vs. stonefruit beer seemed a bit obvious, but the real star of the show was a nip of basil that was like a ten-pin kicker when bowling a strike. Fantastic pairing.

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Getting stoned on stonefruit and Berlinear Observation with apricot and peach

One lobster tail and beef cheek later, the buzz hits. Haze Flux, Bottle Logic’s hazy Vermont style IPA was bursting with mango and pineapple notes. It didn’t take me long to blend the Bourbon Barrel aged and plain Cobaltic Porter pours into a cuvee to soften the blow of what was to come: Three versions of Fundamental Observation…holy shit, you guys!

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Fundamental Observation, sweating like me.

The first version, FO 2016 with Mostra Coffee gave the beer an ice cream-like smoothness. I pinched myself to stop myself from incessantly huffing the beer, like a man possessed. I saved the last half of the glass for my buddy Natalie DeNicholas, who helped the chef team prep and plate the dinner. She blew me a kiss. This beer is what makes me fall in love with beer all over again. Putting lipstick on a whale. Still a whale, but more attractive, for sure.

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Hospitality (and grammar) maestro, Lindsay Langton, w/ Patrick

Vanilla-vanilla Fundamental Observation is as good as 2015, albeit slightly different. It’s not as sweet, seems a tad lighter in body, and is backed with a poof of heat. The vanilla is way more punchy in the profile, which may fade with age. It’s a world class beer, I think the changes are more to my liking.

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Back alley Fundamental Observation purchases at 11:42 P.M.

Lastly, Fundamental Forces, a straight up vanilla booze jam and cheese plate closes out the night. “We keep feeding the yeast with more and more sugar until it gives up,” says Dylan Mobley, their brewer. Is it like 20% ABV? I’d like to try this beer on its own, not after the bellygasm that just took place.

My only complaint of the evening was the heat. Drinking big beers and multiple courses requires a certain temperature as to not get a sheen of glistening meat sweats. All in all, a hell of a lot of fun, and damn if I don’t feel like a 1%’er getting a seat. Keep up the fun, awesome releases like you do, Bottle Logic!

More pics:

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Lobster and Brexity pea vichyssoise (pronounced vishy swaz), whose kumquat paired well with the hazy DIPA.

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“HHHMMMBEEF…CHEEEKS!” Is what I yelled with this landed in front of me. Paired with all the Cobaltic Porters. So meaty, Bottle Logic. So meaty.

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The richest thing I’ve ever eaten. Inside the See’s candy looking chocolate puck is foie gras, which made me sweat with the Mostra Coffee FO. Super rich. YOOJ richness. Also I love me some chantilly cream and fucking Rainier cherries.

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“this is a fundamental beer dinner!” “you hit it right on the nose, bob!”

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Chef Cody Storts of Grits Fullerton and Chef Craig Brady of Haven Gastropub, both here to check out the dinner.

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my tablemates

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7.4 Things To Order At PUBlic 74

Highway 74, aka “Ortega Highway” is a squiggly road that looks somewhat like Charlie Brown’s shirt stripe. At either end of the scenic, twisty road lies PUBlic 74; one in San Juan Capistrano, one in Murrieta and yet another in Temecula. O.C.’s locale sits atop tiled stairs, a bit to the side, and a creep around back, just a light or two from the 5 freeway.

GNAG1645As we’re seated, I scan the twenty taps set out front and center, ready to be knocked down like bowling pins. Like a dazed robot, I glance at the lone TV; playoff hockey… the Sharks firmly chomping the Blues with a 4-0 shutout. I must be hungry, because the score makes me crave St. Louis ribs.

The beer menu is accurate, priced mostly at $4 for a 9 oz snifter, or $8 for an imperial pint. Draft beer is pulled 30 feet, lines and glassware notably clean. I opt for a Union Jack first, a beer I deemed as “a textbook IPA” on a recent podcast blind IPA showdown, and note its freshness, then dive into some food like a shark possessed.

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GNAG1615Starter: Callin Flower (left): Grilled roasted Cauliflower with spicy chimichurri and a serious dose of Pecorino Romano cheese. I asked chef Gerry (who looks somewhat like Sammy Hagar), “Is colly the new Brussels?” he replies, “actually it’s broccoli.” Great start and IPA pairs well with the layered cheesy lemon squeezy.

2) Fun fact: I like goats. If you do too, The Now Infamous Goat Toast is worth a stop alone. The bread crunch sounds somewhat like walking through freshly-fallen snow, only the snow is herbed goat cheese, and those aren’t uninflated red beach balls, those are in fact the sweetest, ripest, juiciest roasted tomatoes next to a leaf pile drizzled in motor oil. Oh, it’s not? It’s balsamic reduction on top of arugula? You are so right. I just verbally played with my food.I like to verb my nouns from time to time.
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3) Macc’n Frenchy (below) may sound like something I did in Europe atop the Eiffel Tower, but rest assured, it’s a French Onion Soup inspired Mac & Cheese, and it’s DANK, smokey, herbaceous, and holy hell I want to mac on a Frenchy now.

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DANK.

4) Let’s talk about the Kobe Goes Animal Burger for a minute. It actually doesn’t look like much, but I will make a bold statement and say this my new favorite burger. The flavors burst in waves, everything down to the sturdy bun, ripe tomato, beef that melts like buttuh and is seasoned ever so perfectly with salt and spread. Protip: don’t quarter this burger, halfsies will do. Fries? Oh yeah, the fries were also good. Splittable, for sure.

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5) What you Smokin Reuben? “Nothin, just some hickory roasted corn beef piled on rye, Emmenthaler Swiss and krunchy kraut.” Okay. This was my panty dropper. If I had panties, they would be on the ground. A bit on the salty side, so make sure and have a sturdy beer to back things up. Barley Forge IPA was my copilot.

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Like this photo on Instagram, okay? It needs more love. Click it! 

6) Despite much table controversy, the Grandson Meatloaf doesn’t contain any children. It’s basically poutine minus the curds. The fries hiding underneath the hefty slab of durok pork & chicken are the real treat. Kind of like the time I saw a dollar bill stuck to a stripper’s butt after she walked off stage. Yeah, sort of like that. Gravy soaked fries are just like that.

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7) Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding, that is served hot, steamy and scrumtrulescent. Pair it with a stout, or Hefeweizen!

GNAG1653Here’s a tap takeover you should check out for American Craft Beer Week! GNAG1644

Here’s some decor shots.

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If you see this guy, say Hi! He runs the place.

 

Blogunitas: When Big Gets BIGGAR

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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!

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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!

 

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?

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@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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!