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…


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.


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.


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


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.


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?


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.


Cheers to the team!


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


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

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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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:


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


“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.


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.


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


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


my tablemates





The Art of Going Big | Grits Fullerton + The Bruery Beer Dinner


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.


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.


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.

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.


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!

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.


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.


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.


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?


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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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.


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.

Pub Night at the Clay Oven

Duck Samosas

Duck Samosas/Uinta Hop Nosh IPA

I can’t say that I’ve ever seen an IPA at any Indian restaurant until tonight. The name aside, a nice fresh India Pale Ale works wonders with the cuisine; opening one’s palate, complimenting the creamy spiced food, and accentuating the heat. Vice versa, the food elevates the style by drawing some tropical-piney notes from the hops and some of the sweetness of the malt.

Behind the creaking door at Irvine’s Clay Oven Indian Cuisine, beer is winning. One of my predictions of 2014 was that local craft beer would soon start appearing in high end restaurants to compliment their line up of chef driven menus. Tonight? IPA’s, Belgian, German and local beers are being poured next to a custom menu.

Allagash's Hallie Beaune gets involved with a beer

Beer Chick and Allagash’s Hallie Beaune gets involved with a beer description

The Clay Oven is hosting ‘Pub Night’, which consists of small plate Bombay-style street food paired with five beer distributor reps pouring their best. I snap a few shots and dig into my first bite: duck samosas (above) topped with a fruity/earthy tamarind mole. Uinta’s Hop Nosh IPA gets the nod to wash down the mellow cumin flecked bite, stoking the tamarind sauce’s sweetness.

Chef Geeta Bansal

Chef Geeta Bansal

For over 25 years, Chef Geeta, Husband Praveen (and son Tarun) have been running around the matchbox-sized restaurant with warm smiles, keeping guests happy. I get the sense they love what they do and it shows through with not only the longevity of the eatery, but in the high quality of the food.

Being familiar with the beer offerings, I’m more excited to adventure into the heart of Tandoori cooking. Some menu items unfamiliar, yet approachable. Ordering the ‘Airbags’ dish, for example…I can’t say I’ve ever seen one much less eaten it. “Try it with the sour beer and pour it inside before you bite” says Chef Geeta. I feel like a kid again, scooping in the spiced veggie puree into a pinkie-punched hole, then pouring in some Petrus Aged Red into the thin crispy sack of deliciousness. “I can see why it’s called an airbag” I say as the flavors punch me in the face, saving me from certain hunger death.

Filling the Airbag with sour beer

Filling the Airbag with sour beer

Other wild dishes like Tandoor roasted bone marrow have us drooling for more. Intense garlic and fatty marrow melts like butter. Beers like Piraat Pale Ale and Allagash Tripel do their best to clean up the rich bite and have me licking the bone clean.I can’t say I’ve ever eaten goat, but it ended being my favorite of the night. Chucky bites sitting on a yogurt salad topped puffy pita? So perfectly foreign yet familiar, tasting somewhat like a beefy lamb, moderately spiced and delicious.

My heart and cheeks warm from the afterglow of the Clay Oven, I can’t help but dream about coming back. The Clay Oven is near Irvine Valley College on Jeffrey/Irvine Center Drive.


Duck Samosas – Tandoor-roasted Mary’s Organic Duck Breast in cumin-flecked pastry, dash of tamarind mole

Bread Pakoras – Famous Indian Snack, minced lamb sandwich, chickpea-batter fried

Lamb-Stuffed Naan – Spicy lamb baked into a fresh naan bread

Airbags – pastry cups veggie stuff paired with sour beer

Mediterranean Naan – Feta cheese baked into a fresh naan bread

Tandoor-Roasted Bone Marrow with breat and accoutrements

Eggplant Pakoras – Ma-Zu eggplant fritters, batter-fried, pomegranate emulsion

Braised Goat Bites – Puffy pita topped with slow-braised goat and yogurt salad

Hopscotch Hosts Valiant Anniversary Beer Dinner

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

chef and brewers

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

The Unexpected:

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

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

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

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

The Good

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

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

The Bad

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

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

The Best: Winner Winner Lengua Dinner!

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

OH MAI, Dessert!

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


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

I’ll see you at the next one!


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

Tuesday, December 10th at 7 p.m.

Pre-Course – The Bruery Humulus Lager

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

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

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

Dessert Course Brioche Bread Pudding, Poached Pear

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

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


Ballast Point Drops Anchor at Schooner at Sunset | Beer Dinner Review

P1060010Looking like a boat washed ashore on Pacific Coast Highway in Sunset Beach, Schooner at Sunset isn’t your grandma’s nautically-themed diner & bar. The mini-Statue of Liberty on top beacons visitors from far-away lands such as the beaches of Sunset, Huntington and even the beaches of Long. Inside the main dining room, the vibe is classy Bikini Bottom kitch set to the croon of a live lounge singer. In the bar, don’t be surprised if a local Jack Johnson-y band is bongo-ing in the cove, or a Talking Head’s record is spinning open air without notice.


P1060029All of the ambience isn’t without merit. Within seconds of walking into Schooner, thirst for a potent potable turns to lust. Thankfully the bar-bilge pumps all craft beer via twenty taps (plus bottles). Cocktails and wine are also quick to please the saltiest of dogs, the crustiest of surfers, and botox’d of cougars. Needless to say, there’s some epic people watching to be had in Sunset.

The main menu is diner-grub meets gastropub. The selection isn’t huge, but hits on the most common cravings. Alternate menus include “Tiki-Tako Tuesday” and a weekend brunch worthy of a few Bloody Mary’s strong enough to knock the barnacles off your boat.

~~~~~~~~Ballast Point Beer Dinner~~~~~~~~


Like two ships passing in the night, Ballast Point Brewing Co. dropped anchor on a five course beer dinner at Schooner at Sunset. The evening is hosted by the boisterous beer writer Daniel Drennon, Schooner Chef Vasili Tavernakis and Ballast Point Director of brewing ops James Murray. I sit with fork and knife akimbo waiting for a taste of something. Anything.

1. Longfin Lager – meet and greet with the brewer.


What I liked: Swigging a crystal clear sweaty glass of Helles after a long day. I learned Ballast Point imports all malt and hops from Germany, strips the water down (RO) and re-adds minerals to be authentic to the German region. The brewers hate brewing Longfin as they have to manually add 50lb sacks of malt to the mill. At over 3,000 lbs of malt per batch, I can see why they slug it out. The beer is bright, floral and refreshing…oh so worth it.

What could have rocked it:  an appetizer in lieu of one of the other courses. Crab cakes? Calamari? Bueller?

2. Sextant Oatmeal Stout (on nitro) with stone fruit salad; mache and frisee greens, citrus vinaigrette, blue velvet apricot, orbit peaches and nectarines.


What I liked: Creaminess of a nitro beer with peaches worked rather well, evoking a ‘peaches and cream’ moment. Big burst of fresh citrus on each bite followed by fresh stone fruit and greens… made me sit up straight and pay attention. Full Popeye/spinach moment! Quote at my table, “A beer dinner isn’t complete until Daniel Drennon gets an epi-pen shot in his ass” – James Murray, Ballast Point.

What could have rocked it: Ballast Point Wahoo Wheat. I see what they were going for with a contrasting/palate cleanse pairing, but in the end, I really liked the salad. Drinking Sextant Stout did its job as described and even offered some nice creaminess/chocolate notes. In the end, I want a fireworks show on my palate, not a mute button. Wahoo Wheat, with its Belgian yeast could have carried the salad to the next level.

3. Thai Chili Lime Wahoo Wheat with seared halibut and grilled shrimp. sticky coconut forbidden rice, mango salsa, sweet and spicy coconut sauce, and micro greens.


What I liked: The dish itself looks like Davy Crockett with a shrimp hat sitting on a pitcher’s mound. Beautifully done. “I want to build a moat around my house with the sticky coconut forbidden rice.” I say to Kevin Leonard, the OC Ballast Point sales rep. It’s addictive, and forbidden. I say “fuck it” and ate it all, then threw my fork in the ceiling like a lumberjack. I’m totally kidding about that part.

What could have rocked it: The beer was “Fear Factor hot” and unfit for human consumption. I use ghost chili pepper hot sauce at home, and this beer was hotter than that. Going with a beer hot enough to strip boat varnish for a food pairing is beyond me. I would have preferred Indra Kunindra Stout with south asian spices (including coconut) to really play with rice. The seared halibut was overdone, but still tasty.

4. Three Sheets Rum Latin Manhattan with Macadamia nut crusted Atlantic Salmon, rum/maple glaze, sweet potato puree, baby heirloom carrots and scallions.


What I liked: This dish could have been the main. Sweet, crusty mapley goodness through and through. Scallions and black pepper balance it out, but found myself streaking my pinkie across the maple syrup/crushed black pepper like Kate Upton in a Carls Jr. commercial. Honey dribbled micro carrots are now apparently a “thing”. I’m not a cocktail guy, but the Latin Manhattan is great. Nose is all pumpkin bread and some raisiny rum barrel action with spices. Nice to finally try a Ballast Point spirit, I can totally get behind this rum.

What could have rocked it: A beer alternative such as the caramely goodness of Ballast Point’s Calico would have had a gay marriage with the dish. (It’s just marriage now, right?) To geek it up a notch, why not add Ballast Point’s Homework Series Batch #1 Hoppy Red Ale? Hops balance out sweet right? I enjoyed the cocktail and the dish immensely, but no comprende on the pairing other than the rum note.

5. Sculpin IPA or Habanero Sculpin with Six day braised pork, charred pineapple bbq, confit fingerling potatoes.


What I liked: Any time you do pork slow and low (for six days!), it’s bound to be great. Charred pineapple with Sculpin had me gulpin. Habanero Sculpin was even better! Ballast Point dialed in the heat, making a the habanero play a role in the intense hop bill of Sculpin.

What could have rocked it: Skipping this dish in favor of an appetizer. It was good, but it was way over the top (fat-wise) to enjoy after the three prior dishes. I didn’t get anything from the duck fat confit potato, other than potato. I guess I’m just a spud boy, looking for that real tomato. Devo quote in a food review? Why not.

6. Victory at Sea Coffee Vanilla Imperial Porter with strawberry shortcake, homemade pound cake, berries, Victory at Sea chantilly cream, vanilla bean creme anglais.


What I liked: I hate dessert. Give me a beer, okay? FINE, I’ll write about it. The cream dollop on top and the violet colored berry sauce went in my mouth. I sipped beer and ate a few bites. Happy? I really hate dessert. Victory at Sea is actually a great dessert on its own.

What could have rocked it:  Victory at Sea had a victory over the dessert. The beer way overpowered the delicate berryness thing going on. Victory is a perfect dessert beer, though. It just needs something with some UMPH to stand up to it. Spotted Dick or Creme Brulee? I don’t know, I rarely eat dessert.

Overall: I have to hand it to Schooner at Sunset Chef Vasili Tavernakis and kitchen staff. Everything was beautifully prepared and full of great aromas and flavors. Some minor tweaks here or there in approach and beverage would have got me pregnant… nine months later, I’d have a baby Schooner.

On the beer side, Ballast Point has some of the best beer in the world and we’re spoiled to drink their beer so fresh. They brought some great company for guests to mingle with; the lovely Amber Crocker (with red shorts), Kevin Leonard, Matt Wilson (best sales rep in America according to Drennon), Jake Wittmann, Skip Stegmair, and James Murray.

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