Claremont Village Craft Beer Walk | Blues & Brews

P1050938This post originally appeared on the website  West Coaster, a new Southern California beer magazine.

Having only visited Claremont a couple times, I find myself wielding a token Pilsner glass, map of the festival’s downtown area and a dozen tasting tickets. Bizarre sets in quickly as I sip a locally brewed Oak Hills Brewing Conviction Pale Ale outside the local Coldwell Banker/Foot massage parlor. There’s no gates. There’s no fences. The only thing corralling the surrounding herd of beer-sipping strangers is a piece of paper that reads ‘no beer past this sign’. Claremontonians follow this simple honor system as well, bouncing off the invisible force-field until their glass is deemed empty.

P1050991This is not your average beer festival. Laid out like a beer/food/blues scavenger hunt, most of Claremont’s charming college-town village participates in the annual Blues and Brews festival. Over thirty establishments open their doors for craft beer samples and bites from local eateries that are also open for business. Around every corner, live blues fills the air and sets a relaxing tone. Just as the taste of one beer fades on the palate from one stop, music cross-fades to the next. Each band and beer pulls us from stop to stop like a magnet.

Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 10.00.15 PMAlmost buying some used-retro cowboy boots from Replay Village while sipping an Oskar Blues Deviant Dale’s? Yep. Sipping a Hangar 24 Belgian Summer ale inside American Apparel? Check. Doing a flight of Pomona’s Sanctum Brewing’s four beers inside a great chachki store called Heirloom? Totally. Simple food samples being served at most tasting spots are a delight. Bacon wrapped dates at the Last Drop Cafe were great next to Craftsman Brewing Co.’s ruby-red Cabarnale.


Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 10.01.22 PMAt The Green Gypsie, (a store I wouldn’t be caught dead in if there wasn’t beer) I pinch myself. A summery blonde hands me a beer of the same ilk from Oceanside Ale Works with a warm smile. A few feet away, a vintage 1981 Atari Centipedes cabinet calls my name. With one hand on the fire button and one hand clutching the summery beverage, I easily clear three levels without moving. Who knew this was such a great strategy? The eclectic shop is filled with vintage iPhone docks, artistically modified vintage plates (one with R2D2), and one of the biggest gold pimp cash registers this side of the Mississippi.


As we zig-zag through the village, each tasting area is unique, friendly, and not part of a huge chain. The small-town vibe is held up firmly by the Claremont colleges and keeps this area pristine and interesting.

Several sites offer non-alcoholic treats, making this one of the best festivals ever for designated drivers. If you simply wanted to enjoy good blues, the event is basically free.

The beauty of this festival is best summed up by my last stop at Aromatique Skin Care: One part Wiens Brewing Descend Black IPA, one part dimly lit massage room, plus one part complimentary hand/foot massage. I nearly climaxed with pure joy! Seriously. A free massage at a beer fest. Who knew.

P1050987Gripe: No beer festival is perfect, however this one had some issues with beer service that can easily be corrected. Some of the stops had varying degrees of success drawing proper samples. Some tastes were over-carbed, some under, and one I had completely flat. Adding standard jockey boxes at each location would easily fix this issue. I haven’t seen a hand-pump party tap since college…those belong nowhere near a beer festival.

P1050995Overall, Claremont Village is a perfect backdrop for a beer and blues festival. It’s refreshing to see a fest do something completely different. Trusting the sell-out crowd with beer and all-you-can-eat food samples is quite a task. I guess if you treat people like cattle at a beer fest, they’ll act like it. Everyone was mellow and enjoying the day.

If you can’t wait for the next fest, I highly suggest grabbing some friends and taking the train for a proper beer crawl through Claremont Village: Start off at the Back Abbey for some Belgian Beer goodness and crawl to a Shop Called Quest for some comic books, hit the Cheese Cave for a nibble and a beer, then hit Eureka Burger for American craft beer. Shop at some unique shops inside the historic Packing House for some retro goodies and bottle shop. Also in the Packing House, the Beer Belly Deli has one of the cleanest turn of the century bars ever and is set to open soon. End your day with some spa action at Aromatique Skin Care for a relaxing massage and sleep the train ride home. Sounds relaxing, no?

Claremont also hosts a wine version of this fest in September and sells out every year. Visit for more info. The beer fest happens yearly in late June.

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Hangar 24 Craft Brewery | Redlands, CA

Driving down a two lane road a half-mile deep inside orange groves makes me roll down my windows and screech the car to a halt. “Smell that, kids? It’s oranges” I say excitedly. My daughter says “I smell paint” in her nasally voice. Indeed. Smog fills this noxious punch-bowl of a valley like a witch’s cauldron on Halloween. Surprisingly, I can actually see the mountains a mile or so away from the Redlands Airport which means it’s only a stage one smog alert.

A stone’s throw from the Redlands Airport sits Hangar 24 Craft Brewery. I have a lot of history in Redlands. Most notably, I lost my virginity by a girl named Sam; a tall debutante with Tinkerbell-like hair. Twenty years later, Hangar 24 Craft Brewery was born. Note that it’s not my baby…Ben Cook, H24’s founder and master brewer would lay that proverbial pipe four years ago.

Most breweries have a fun story to tie in their inspiration or side hobby. Hangar 24 is no different. Breaking it down in children’s book format:

Ben flies airplanes. Ben brews beer. Ben shares beer with friends. Ben builds a brewery by the airport. Ben brews Orange Wheat. Ben has more friends. Good night, Ben. The End.


As Hangar 24 recently reached 15,000 barrels per year, they are the quickest brewery to reach Regional Craft Brewer status, ever. After touring their meager brew house, I’m not sure how this feat is accomplished. “We maintain a 24/7 brew schedule here at Hangar” says Donn, the tasting room Host. Most tasting rooms are devoid of activity while their brewery is operational. Not Hangar! My group was able to whiff a full bucket of CTZ hop pellets, chat with the brewer, put on safety goggles, pretend a hose is our shaft and hump a brite tank, and generally geek out on the live operation.

I love labeler.

I enjoyed the old school manual labor bottling line. “The bottling line came with an Italian user’s guide, and randomly causes a bottle to explode while in use”. I’m sure some Italian engineer built in that functionality to keep workers awake. I fucking love Italians.




I painted this with my tasting flight while sitting there.

The line of people in the tasting room is all that separates the brew house from the tasting room counter. A few local gals, dressed in traditional Inland Empire garb (miniskirts and flip flops), oogle a brewer cleaning out a filter. Two of H24’s beers are filtered per style, Helles and Pale Ale. I order a tasting flight of all their beers and get served a custom wood tray, when filled with all eleven beer tasters, resembles an artist’s palate if he was going to paint a bale of hay. We were instructed to start at the lowest IBU and go from there, which in our case was the Belgian Summer Ale, Orange Wheat, then Palmero.

Drinking their Belgian Summer Ale at this moment in time is pure heaven. Brewery fresh seasonal beer, aimed at drinking on a hot summer day is a bullseye with everyone around us. It looks like a Wit beer, with even some of the traditional coriander (or nutmeg?) notes backed by a funky fruit (Pluot?), finished with a refreshing acidic kick (tart lemon?). It was tough to nail down the subtleties, but damn this beer is refreshing. Craft beer converts usually stick with the Orange Wheat, which is a shame with this many low IBU offerings.  I did learn that Orange Wheat flavors change twice a year due to the availability of Orange varieties. Some H24 fans are snobby towards one or the other!

Palmero is my other favorite of the day, cutting loose from the other hopped offerings. Hangar 24’s Local Fields beers have been full of character and, you guessed it, stuff from local fields. Packed with dates from the nearby Coachella Valley and  fermented with a Belgian yeast strain, this beer gives off tons of dark fruit notes that reminded me of a traditional Swedish drink called “Glög”, but in beer form. Their other Local Fields beer, Essense, is essential to finishing a hot day in the Inland Empire. A Double IPA packed with three varieties of citrus (naval orange, sweet blood orange, and grapefruit) is also super refreshing. The grapefruit shines through on the finish, really carrying the complimenting hop aroma and flavor.

Their regular season lineup has something for everyone. The aforementioned Orange Wheat remains their top seller on top of their Pale Ale, IPA, DIPA, Helles, Alt Bier and Chocolate Porter. For the beer geeks, look for their Barrel Roll series and variations of beers on cask in the tasting room. I personally look forward to Polycot fermented 100% with Brettanomyces.

Bottom line, if you’re ever out in the IE, Hangar 24 is a must-stop! Pick me up a few bottles while you’re there! Thanks Matt, Donn and their whole team for the tour and hospitality! Service was excellent!



Gripe: My only piece of criticism with the visit is the taster board. Too many beers + small plastic cups + hot sun = insta-skunk. I opted for beers I haven’t tried first and picked a few favorites. Proving a point to a guest near me, I ordered a pint of a beer we both didn’t care for in the taster, but loved the pint. My suggestion would be to break the taster board into smaller chunks of four with themes, sort of how Bruery Provisions serves flights. Perhaps even work in the airport ‘flight’ theme. Serving so many beers at once without an accurate sheet describing everything is also confusing for most. We did have a sheet, but it only listed eight of the beers.