Three Frenchs | One Short of 100, 2015 Brewery Visits

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

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

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

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

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

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Maine Beer Company

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Follow Robert French on Twitter @ThreeFrenchs

A Peek at Some New Good Beers

They say that your sense of taste and smell is heightened in the morning, which is exactly whey I opted to taste a flight of The Good Beer Company’s offerings Monday at 10am.

goodbeer georgeGeorge – 4.1% abv. There’s no better way to celebrate presidents day than to put a beer called George in my mouth. Shouldn’t this beer be cherries in honor of the cherry tree George Washington allegedly chopped down? Oh, it’s not about the 1st president? Damn. Turns out George honors owner Brandon Fender’s grandpa, who made killer peach dumplings every summer. But is it fruity? George bursts of peach preserves. French oak takes a back seat in the flavor, but does offer up some tannin in the mouthfeels. Lactic acid sourness also adds to the drink, hitting the brakes on any potential chugging. I’ve heard complaints about some of their low abv beers being thin, but George is not. He’s fit, full of peaches, and ready to party.

goodbeer nectarine oroNectarine Oro – 4.2% abv. Much like George, this Oro variant is so jam-packed with fruit, you’ll actually start to think the beer is part of a balanced breakfast. It’s so fruity, I swear juice ran down my arm on the first drink. As it warms, I could envision the fuzz from the fruit, the pithy flesh, and even the sense of nibbling nectarine off of the seed. The tart bite is there as well, if you follow my titratable acidity scale, I’d place both in the 5-7 range (mid).

If you’re not in The Good Beer Company’s ‘The Stable’ beer club, both beers (and others) will be available Friday, Feb 19th. Check out their facebooks. Go early, grab a sandwich from C4 Deli to keep you company in the crazy long line.

The Good Beer Company, 4th Street, DTSA

3 Floyds Brewing – Beer Travels with Three Frenchs

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Robert French is our beer travel corespondent

Here’s what I knew before my visit to 3 Floyds Brewing:

  1. Intimidation factor: Metal themed, aggressive hop forward brewery.
  2. Dark Lord, people go crazy for the Dark Lord: Had it, did not go crazy.
  3. Lines: We are getting there early, but how early?
  4. Limited distribution: Finding a 3 Floyds beer in Chicago is not that easy.

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Located in Munster. Indiana. 3 Floyds (or is it Three Floyds?) is about 45 minutes (no traffic) from O’Hare Airport, at least with my wife’s lead foot at the wheel.  The brewery is in a warehouse flanked by a large water tower with the word MUNSTER boldly emblazoned on it. The brewery, restaurant and retail space are basic, no frills. However the distillery and expansion they are building (not open) looks to be a really cool space.

We got there 30-minutes before they opened and found both a line for the restaurant and retail store.  Both lines were about twenty people deep and both at least tripled in size before the doors opened. While in line for the restaurant, I asked everyone close the same question “is there a special release today?”. There was no special release, this was a normal Saturday. Regardless of what you think about the beer, that is impressive following.

The restaurant is a cross between a dive bar and a coffee shop…a really cool coffee shop with metal music as it’s soundtrack. The menu is diverse, from duck fat popcorn to burgers to sweetbreads.  We stuck with a burger, I would highly recommend it. They offered a beer flight of the day which included:

  • Robert the Bruce  a 7% Wee Heavy
  • War Mullet 8% Double IPA
  • Moloko 8% Milk Stout
  • Alpha King  6.66% Pale Ale

23776977650_122e8683e4_oNot sure if they stick with the same beers, or just these were just the beer choices of the day. They were however, a nice sampling of what they had to offer.  Even though they only offer one set sampling flight, they do offer small tastes of other beers at no charge.

Besides the flight, I did sample Wigsplitter, 7.7% Coffee Oatmeal Stout infused with espresso. This is a dark roast coffee beer that is not shy on coffee. This is one of the best pure coffee beers I have had.  The next sample was Amber Smashed Face 6.66% Red Ale (a collaboration with the band Cannibal Corpse). This was an in your face beer with massive bitterness. These two beers were the highlights for me and even brought bottles home.

I also brought home a bottle of Deesko!, an 6.5% Berliner style weiss beer (their words) that had a great funky aroma with hints of stone fruit and sour tarts. A fairly clear beer with the color of hay. The initial taste had jaw clenching tartness that hit you right on the sides of your tongue. Not overly sour, but more tart and funky.

If you’re a beer lover or nerd, 3 Floyds is a must stop. Regardless about what you think about the hype (Dark Lord), the image or the over the top artwork…they brew quality beers with upfront flavors. Truly unique beers.

Follow Robert French on Twitter @ThreeFrenchs

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.

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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!

Beer Travels with Three Frenchs – Chicago – 5 Rabbit Cerveceria

Guest writer Robert French gives tips on beer travels and a review of a Chicago’s 5 Rabbit Cerveceria. GNAG4047

Beercations (I cringe a little at the title) don’t need to be whole vacation. Adding a day to a trip is perfect.  While at a wedding in Chicago, what’s one more day? With a rental car and an understanding wife, we had great food, met nice people, and managed to hit five breweries. Success! 

A key in my beer travels is having a partner, in my case my wife Julie.  She (who doesn’t drink beer), not only helps, but inspires much of the planning. This is a wonderful thing. Whatever you do, make sure you get to and from your stops safely. Be nice to the driver.

beercastionWhere to go? Everywhere. Having one or two “must” stops is important. Checking when they are open is critical.  Once you hit the ground, start talking to locals. This is a perfect way to find one of those new spots that has yet to make it on your radar. Plus most locals are excited to share their city.

When you set out on your travels, your expectations can play a huge part in the experience. Knowing exactly what to expect vs. being 100% surprised…what is your preference? I’ve been disappointed by some of the breweries I love the most and fell in love with breweries I had never heard of.

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5 Rabbit Cerveceria

Here’s what I knew about 5 Rabbit before my visit.

  1. Latin inspired brewery: Not quite sure what this really means to me, but hey.
  2. Not a hop forward lineup: As a fan of the hop, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
  3. Randy Mosher has a stake in the ownership: Cool-factor 100
  4. Not a fan of Donald Trump: (Read)5rabbit2

Their brewery is located in Bedford Park, Illinois in a grass lined commercial business park. Their building is nondescript. When you walk in, you’re greeted by a large warehouse brewery with ample room to grow. High ceilings and wide open.  You are also greeted by an extremely friendly tasting room staff. The tasting “room” area is in the warehouse and is delineated with wood barriers and decorations that let you know you’re in a right spot. I was taken aback by the size of their space, knowing that they were still on the smaller side, but i think they will be growing into it just fine.

The beer line-up of that day:

  • 5 Vulture Oaxacan
  • 5 Rabbit Golden Ale
  • Gringolandia Super Pils
  • 5 Grass Hoppy Ale
  • Yodo Con Leche
  • Lulo Galactico Telefantastico DIPA

5Rabbitbarrels (1)Great names and solid beers to back them up. A beer that really impressed me was Yodo Con Leche, a coffee infused double porter. These guys actually went to Costa Rica looking for the perfect bean to blend with this beer. Yodo has great coffee flavors without beating you over the head with the roast. Drinks very smooth and creamy, almost like a dessert coffee. So good, I had to bring a bottle home.

The Lulo Galactico Telefantastico juicy double IPA has great hop flavors without an over the top bitterness. This Galaxy hopped beer also incorporates Lulo, a fruit which I had no idea what is was. Lulo translates to “little orange”. in doing some research, people say the flavors can have elements of lime, lemon, pineapple and rhubarb. Not sure what flavors I got in the beer, but it was one of the most unique flavors I have ever had in a DIPA. I can totally see a hophead not thinking it was hoppy enough, but it crushes on overall flavor. I failed to bring on of these home. I must go back.

5rabbitbottle (1)I went on the $10 dollar tour (literally).  A pint of beer, a cool logo glass and a non-scripted tour with one of their brewers.  Well worth the time and money.   After the the tour I got a chance to speak to the Founder/CEO Andrés Araya for a few minutes. A quiet and unassuming guy that was very appreciative that I made the effort to visit his brewery.  If you want hear more from Andrés, he was on Good Beer Hunting podcast. Totally worth a listen.

courtesy 5 Rabbit facebook page

courtesy 5 Rabbit facebook page

I think you can figure out this brewery is one of my new favorites. With so many new breweries popping up, you need to ask, “what is this brewery bringing to show?” I’m very happy to say 5 Rabbit Cerveceria a unique and refreshing brewery that is not afraid to bring interesting and fascinating flavors to beer, while still not forgetting you’re drinking a beer.  Check this place out. 

Any tips for beercationing? Like 5 Rabbit Cerveceria? Any other must-try Chicaco breweries to check out? Leave a comment on facebook!

Follow Robert French on Twitter here!

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.

 

 

 

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.