Hot ‘Buzz on Buzz’ Action – Portola Coffee Invades Iron Press Tap Takeover

6:42 PM on a Tuesday, The Iron Press, OC Mix, Costa Mesa, California, USA, Earth, Milky Way, dot on the back of a ladybug in an alternate universe.


Much how a car runs on oil, The Iron Press runs on beer. Each tap handle a piston, each waffle sandwich an airbag punching you in the face and each beer the gasoline that pumps through our sparkplugged-veins. Tonight, we’re getting lubricated with high-octane turbo caffeinated beers; all Portola Coffee Lab infusions from (mostly) local breweries.

After a flight, I find myself clutching the bar tightly with one hand and curiously tapping the drum solo to Rush’s Tom Sawyer with the other. Curious, because DJ LexaKhan’s turntable is spinning Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get it Up.” “Can I get a Heyay! Can I get a Ho-oh!” he requests waving his hand in the air. The highly java-based beer buzz yields an immediate response from the tightly packed P-shaped restaurant; some found it proper to wave their shaky beers around in the air (like they just don’t care).

Portola lives and breathes just a few steps from The Iron Press in the OC Mix. Jeff Duggan, the owner/roaster is at this event; smiling, intense and looking like Rick Moranis in ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids’. “What’s your favorite so far?” he asks, sliding his glasses up his nose fastidiously. “Smog City’s Fluffy Fuzz Buzz,” I reply, noting the Kongo beans blending well with the base beer. He nods, knowingly, “Hmmm, yes”.


Sitting in the blind spot.

The beer menu at this event is ripe with seventeen varieties, laid out with ABV’s ranging 3.8% to 13.8%. As I was expecting all stouts, I’m astonished with the variety of styles. Graetzer, Flemish Red, Cream Ale, Stout, Amber, Tripel and Porter are here presenting the range of choices that work with Portola’s beans to varying success. Some beers are production versions, such as Noble’s Naughty Sauce and the Bruery’s Mash & Grind. Others are one-offs for the event.

After sipping Epic’s Big Bad Baptist with a shot of espresso tossed in at serving, I take my light jacket off and lean back. Sweat forming on my brow, this beer is a real leg-crosser. I’m somehow channeling my inner-Italian Spiderman, sipping my beer like a freshly-fired macchiato…pinkie out and making subtle slurping noises.


My faves: Torrance’s Smog City and Monkish

The fruitiest beer of the bunch, Monkish’s Caffè della Vita melded dark fruit coffee notes, nutty pistachio, vanilla and Belgian yeast esthers behind a very well hidden 9.8% ABV. What’s with these Torrance guys killing it? Topping things off, I even got a shoulder massage from Monkish’s Brian White, claiming “you look tense.” You bet your ass I look tense. The Iron Press is tense with uppers and downers fighting for your soul like a tug-o-war. If terrorists were to attack the OC Mix, safe to say the people inside this restaurant would fucking roll their non-caffeinated sober asses like a pissed off beehive.

010ee09f55a15b4d2e799062a203623b143e9a8612The Iron Press roped off the patio creating an outdoor space for Beer Savage swag and casks from Cismontane and Coronado Brewing. Blue Bridge Coffee Stout, one of my favorite easy to get $5/22oz coffee stouts. Sadly, it lacks any tickling of carbonation. Cismontane’s Roja I used to be a fan of, however this version has a funky acetobacter type sourness and hints of mildewy wood on the finish.

Overall, I consider Portola Coffee Labs to be among the brewing community and this evening proves it. Great beers, DJ Lex is always a pro, and the Iron Press continues to be the best place to grab a beer in Costa Mesa.

2014 Predictions Coming True – High End Eateries Finally Add Craft Beer



New years day 2014, I sat with my laptop open pondering predictions for the year. Will this be the year of session IPA? Will Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton’s iCloud get hacked showing the world their nude bodies? I came up empty and searched the internet for “Nostradamus beer”. I was shocked to see this bold prediction in one of his secret books.

In the year of 2014, as the Blue Moon fades,

restaurants will have good beer where good food is made.

I’m pretty sure what the Nostradamus is trying to predict high-end eateries will finally get a decent beer list. By years end, a restaurant with an A+ chef and A+ wine list will no longer be in F- beer territory.

photo (2)I recently got a taste of this bold prediction in Irvine of all places at a posh place near John Wayne Airport called Bistango. Modern art fills their walls at every angle, twinkle-lights wrap the patio palm trees and relaxing jazz sets the mood. Among many happy-hour bound professionals, the thing I was most interested in was a proper beverage to accompany my food. Without taps, I thought the choices would be the usual macro lager or super-sweet Wit beer. When opening the drink menu, I was pretty shocked to see a lengthy beer list.

The menu seems to be very well thought out. Although missing are some stellar Orange County made beers, the list seems to have been formed by researching beer review websites. Going down the selections, all the beers featured are 90+ on beer advocate. IPA’s, Double IPA’s, Belgian beers, Wheat beers, Stouts and even wild/fruit beers round out the fifty or so beers included. All are priced appropriately.

photo (1)I asked my server what beer I should get with the daily special, a seafood Paella, he hesitated and said, “Porter.” Wise man! Bistango’s Paella was full of sweet clams, perfectly steamed mussels, plump scallops, snappy shrimp on top of a spicy bed of rice drowning in deliciousness. Deschutes Black Butte Porter would get the nod for the pairing as the rich roastyness of the beer calmed the heat and enhanced the delicate flavor of the seafood. Their bar/happy hour menu is tapas heavy, making a beer and bite an excellent choice pre-flight or perhaps to miss a bit of traffic. The rest of the menu is very well rounded if you’re in the mood for big bites.

One gripe: getting a frosty glass is not how one should roll with craft beer; ask your server for a room temp glass as many of the flavors and aromas of beer don’t open up until 54 degrees for some styles. I can only hope that the “frosty mug of ice cold beer” stigma will die with Nostradamus’ 2015 prediction.

Got a great $$$ or $$$$ restaurant that now serves craft beer? Give me a shoutout below or on twitter at @OCBeerBlog. Cheers!

Images credit Bistango Website.


Belgian Proper | The Globe Belgian Gastropub

photo Jessica Rice #beerandbaking

photo Jessica Rice #beerandbaking

In Orange County, where Belgian-style beers are brewed local and served fresh, sometimes it’s important to sample the real thing from the motherland. If you don’t have a passport and a plane ticket handy, historic Main Street Garden Grove makes a quick getaway to northwestern Europe as quick as drive to old ‘small world’ Disneyland.

photo Jessica Rice #beerandbaking

Historic Main Street Garden Grove is a quick drive from Disneyland Resort – photo Jessica Rice #beerandbaking

14030362158_5fe8245f0b_zNot only does owner/purveyor Michael Pauwels insist on serving only imported Belgian beer, your pinkie will rigidly extend from a beer artfully and scientifically poured in proper glassware. Belgian beer is somewhat like Cinderella, fitting ever so perfectly in her glass slipper. A Saison Dupont served in a mason jar? Hideous. An Urthel Hop-it in an American shaker pint glass? Disgusting. With eighteen taps (Stella as the only ‘crap’ tap) and numerous bottles, I found it easy to find a beer I haven’t tried, much less heard of, outside of Europe.

The kitchen has recently undergone a renovation, complete with new staff and an updated menu. New executive chef Chrisophe Jardillier paints broad strokes across the Globe, with dishes inspired from his mother back in France, contrasted with hearty pub favorites. As is when I travel abroad, a charcuterie platter with a beer is a perfect start to a meal after a day exploring the countryside.


The menu is not only seasonal, but regional flare is introduced monthly, making a visit to The Globe an exciting adventure. One appetizer that steals the show is Belgian Nachos. Somewhat of a hybrid between perfectly done Belgian frites, Irish Nachos and a Canadian Poutine, I could not stop myself from grabbing ‘just one more bite’. The base fries/frites make a perfect base to absorb and carry the stretchy cheese and little morsels of goodness.


The Globe’s hearty huntsman-like dishes also make my comfort-food bone quiver: Steak au Poivre is something I can see craving on a regular basis. Intensely tender beef topped tastefully with a green pepper sauce had me draining the keg of Saison Dupont with a perfect beer pairing. With all entrees less than $20, a solid Belgian beer is an easily affordable side-kick. If you like funky gorgonzola cheese, definitely check out the Steak Frites and pair it with a Lindemans Gueuze. The fries at the Globe are not to be missed.


Take the Chimay goblet challenge, get your portrait on the ceiling! The Globe is great for large parties. photo Jessica Rice #beerandbaking

Overall The Globe Belgian Gastropub is offers a trip to European cuisine with perfectly poured Belgian beer without leaving Orange County. As the food is locally sourced, it would be interesting to see how a locally brewed Belgian-style beer would fare. As Garden Grove is a veritable craft beer wasteland, it could be a potential bonus for local to sample some locally made beer. Tattered Prince Saison from Bottle Logic Brewing or a Tradewinds Tripel from The Bruery would be a fine start to join the myriad of fine trappist monk-made beers on hand.

With the updated kitchen, it’s nice to see the Globe dismiss “Euro-slow” dining. Chef Chrisophe and wait staff had our table filled with goodness in no time.

The Globe Belgian Gastropub is located at 12926 Main Street, Garden Grove 92840


Owner Michael Pauwels raises a glass!


All photos Jessica Rice – Beer and Baking, follow her excellent beer adventures on Facebook.

The rest of the photoset is available here! Cheers!





Good Beer Hunting While Shopping for the Holidays

This holiday season, instead of hitting the local caffeine dispensary for a frustrating day of speed-shopping, take it easy. Relax, enjoy the day. Sing to the annoying music. People watch. While you’re out at the local shopping mall, take a break in your day and grab a beer and bite at some of these great spots.

hollingsheads bar2

1) Main Place Mall – Santa Ana. Chances are you’re here because either A) You like the Abercrombie & Crotch smell or B) a you enjoy a crooked owner that (allegedly) undervalues malls to pay less taxes (I personally think he’s dead on with Main Place). When you’re rumbly in the tumbly, head up Main street a block or so for a DIPA and appetizer that can cut through the festive mall stench and provide a bit of your own.

  • Eatery: Hollingshead’s Deli.
  • Dish: Pickled eggs!
  • Beer: Russian River Pliny the Elder. Usually on tap due to their long-time relationship with Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo, the IBU’s are just high enough to dull your olfactory senses to survive the rest of your day. Bonus, buy some really great beer for gifts!
credit: facebook like page

credit: facebook like page

2) South Coast Plaza Oh you fancy huh? As this mall brings in more money than the state of Maine, don’t be surprised if you see kids in strollers talking to other kids in strollers via Bluetooth headsets. With no proper food court and the removal of Del Taco, I’d recommend crossing the bridge for necessary food and drink. Although this destination does have beer, this is one place where the brewed and bubbly takes a back seat. After mixologist James Wood won a Golden Foodie award, he immediately took over the bar master duties at Scotts.

  • Eatery: Scott’s Restaurant & Bar
  • Dish: Peruvian Ceviche
  • Drink: Blossom – any drink containing Templeton Rye is a friend of mine! Hell, even the bitters are whiskey barrel aged. I noted hints of cinnamon and honey with a great refreshing crisp mouthfeel. Alternately, a cocktail called Hops has Anchor Distillery Hophead Vodka if you’re so inclined for a nicely balanced libation.
  • Crystal Court/Metropointe?: Karl Strauss all the way for some Four Scowling Owls paired with Holiday Gravlax. Boom.

Taco Asylum’s pretty tacos. credit: facebook (probably Anne Watson)

3) The Lab Anti Mall/The Camp When people watching makes you wonder why a certain breed of men like to dress like lesbian lumberjacks, it may be a time for a beverage and a bite. I recommend two here based on what side of the Bristol street you’re on:

  • The Camp Eatery: Taco Asylum: Ghost Chili Pork Taco as eating it makes you look super uncomfortable and pissed. Grab a can or two of 21st Amendment Bitter American: because hey, this isn’t distributed down here and also, you’re fucking bitter as hell. Scowl and enjoy.
  • The Lab Eatery: Seabirds Kitchen: Beer Battered Avocado Tacos because they’re insanely good, crisp and creamy all in the same bite. Beer? Go with a can of Uinta Brewing’s WYLD. It’s perfectly crisp and fizzy enough to wash your palate clean. Plus, it’s vegan and organic if you swing that way.
Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 3.23.39 PM.png

photo – nagel, beer – nagel

4) Fascist Island – With outdoor temps in the mild 70’s near the beach, outdoor malls are a nice way to spend the day with oddly dressed rich people walking ugly dogs. Fortunately, Whole Paycheck opened with an actual pub with good food and craft beer taps. If that’s not enough, you’re welcome to bring anything in the store into the pub and consume it on premise!

  • Eatery: Back Bay Tavern
  • Dish: Stone IPA Battered Fish & Chips
  • Beer: Whatever the hell you want. With a dozen taps and one of the better selections of craft beer in a cooler, this is worth coming to this mall on its own.
tender greens steak salad

Credit Yelp User Jonathan Z.

5) Irvine Spectrum – You’re probably thinking “Yard House” right? Sadly, that’s where you’re wrong. With all the holiday debauchery, I like to treat my temple to a vegetable or two for some nice fiber and bonus vitamins.

  • Eatery: Tender Greens
  • Dish: Backyard Steak Salad with horseradish vinaigrette
  • Beer: Cismontane Dead Santa, because hey, drink to Santa’s health.

s-ipa-bttle226) The Block (or whatever it’s called now) – After Alcatraz went belly up after a much improved year, this might surprise you. Step one, get a Krispy Kreme sample. Step two, shop.

  • Eatery: Rubios Fish Tacos
  • Dish: Original Fish Tacos with copious amounts of their new Diablo sauce.
  • Beer: Stone IPA, because a nice San Diego food/beer pairing is a total win! Not a fan of hoppy beers? Grab a Hangar 24 Orange Wheat with the Habanero Mahi Mahi tacos.

P10607377) Brea Mall – The only reason you shop here is because you hate Main Place or live in the area. Regardless, Brea has a couple of great choices nearby.

  • Eatery: Lazy Dog Cafe
  • Dish: Hawaiian Ahi Poke
  • Beer: House Hefeweizen –  After Firestone Walker gave up contract brewing, Lazy Dog grabbed LA’s Golden Road to make their house beers. I’m not sure if the recipe is the same as GR’s Hef, but it’s still tasty and goes great with Poke.
  • Eatery #2: Taps Fishhouse & Brewery
  • Dish: Oyster bar!
  • Beer: TAPS Irish Red. Such a beautifully simple and delicious beer…the combo brings me back to my trip to County Clare Ireland, drinking fresh Smithwicks and scarfing seafood.

I honestly haven’t shopped anywhere else in the last ten years! What are your recommendations? 

Autumn at the Brewhouse – New Belgium Beercation Station


New Belgium uses freaky-deaky Dutch name tags.

P1060501The only company I have on this tour bus is a young couple a few rows back and a cooler packed solid with canned craft beer to my right.  “How long is the trip?” I ask Dave, the eco-bus driver while mentally solving complex bladder-math. With no crapper on board, I’m good for roughly 2.5 BPH without rupturing various body parts. “About an hour and a half” he yells into the rear-view. I side-smirk and crack a can of Sunshine Wheat with one hand and adjust my roadboner situation with the other. I’m not sure if the chub is pure excitement for where we’re headed or this relentless ‘pothole highway’ devastated by Colorado floods weeks ago. My beer froths and bubbles from the good vibrations. Eco-Bus = Sybian.

IMG_5468 _Snapseed

credit – new belgium

Speaking of random erections, I feel like a kid on the first day of school…although the school in this case is New Belgium Brewing Co. in Fort Collins, CO. Crushing my second beer, I inhale the crisp-moist air and belch out hop infused steam. Nearby rooftops and fall foliage are still dripping rain from a fresh shower that stopped minutes before our arrival. Above the brewhouse, smoke stacks gush beery scents that meet the low lying black clouds. Such a beautiful scene.



Here for a VIP event, this is basically a chance for small touristy brewers and media here for GABF to get a proper look at America’s third largest craft brewery. Having been to #1 and #2 in the past year, I’m more than intrigued to see New Belgium’s operation. Walking around, I huff the air even deeper; I can’t recall the last time I took in a fresh lungload of fresh air. I could get used to this!


I love lauter tun. photo – nagel

P1060502New Belgium’s brewery is what I imagine the Lego factory to look like when I was a kid. It’s woodsy and shapely like a Frank Lloyd Wright house and is surrounded by lush flowers and trees. Light pours through movie-screen sized windows into the brewhouse. Fat-Tired bicycles literally litter the landscape, both inside and out.

P1060514For this event and tour, there’s a white tent in the front parking lot with a few food trucks, a great selection of free beer and festive folk and bluegrass music. I get a full pour of New Belgium’s Kriek, a ruby colored beer with cherry pie notes chased with subtle hints of vinegar. Jeff, our tour guide, is a relaxed version of Jeff Bridges; “Welcome to the tour” he says with a smile almost meeting his lengthy sideburns.

Arse over tit, we start the tour with the infamous spiral slide. Normally the last stop on the tour, we opt to start with it because we’re nutty.  My playground instincts kick in and I run to be first.  On a rainy day, it’s somewhat of a carpet-burn endeavor, but I’m still happy to be birthed down its curly plume. Every employer should have a slide and copious amount of beer on hand.


Expansion. photo – nagel

Every brewhouse tells a unique story and New Belgium is no different. The most common theme is that of expansion. New Belgium is segmented into two main brewhouses. Brewhouse one (BH1), the original brewery, reached capacity and was doubled by adding BH2 in 2002. The 200 barrel brewhouse is cooking around the clock by a small team of plaid-wearing brewers of various beard lengths.


Tap-it Brewing took the tour with me. Lovely people! photo – nagel

The other story is environment. The employee-owned company voted to pay a higher premium for wind-power in 2008 and hasn’t looked back. Wind, along with solar and reclaimed gasses make up most of the power needed for all operations at the fifty acre property in Fort Collins, CO. The culture seems infectious as many employees commute to work via bicycles.

P1060517The beer samples offered on the tour thus far take the brewhouse story a step further: proof. Their full line up of beautiful and interesting Lips of Faith Series beers, solid ‘pays the bills’ beers, interesting throwback ‘Folly’ beers and hopped up ‘Hop Kitchen” beers. At every stop on the tour, glasses are kept fresh with whatever strikes your interest.

P1060551Midway through the tour among a foeder farm, we sample the un-soured base beer of La Folie next to the two year old sour version. Not only has the flavor and aroma changed considerably, the color went from Michael Jackson ‘Off the Wall’ skin tone to Michael Jackson ‘Bad’ skin tone.  I never thought aging beer would affect the color so much! This is fascinating stuff…and tasty too. La Folie hits the nose like a freshly opened bag of sweet tarts; notes of cherry, green apple and hint of oak. The flavor forces a smile and an eye-roll for good measure. Goosebumps? Yep.Pretty much. Beautiful beer.

P1060570Along the tour, I’m happy to see New Belgium doesn’t stop the fun with the spiral slide. Among the foeder farm? A rock climbing wall. In the bustling bottling/canning line? Shuffle board. Outdoors? Sand volleyball court. What a great culture of beer and fun. The tour is concluded with pulling a fresh Shift off the canning line. Nothing is more fun than that! ~Cheers


bottles whiz by. photo – nagel

OC Fest of Ales & Beer Run 5K September 21, 2013 +exclusive promo code

As you may know, one of my favorite elements of craft beer is the community. Drinking beer alone is a magical thing, but add in complete strangers, friends or family to the mix and the beverage is elevated to new heights. One of my major goals with this blog is to grow that community by any means necessary. (TLDR discount code on bottom)

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait approached me at Noble’s 1st anniversary and asked, “how do we get Anaheim on the beer map?” Months later, a beer festival committee was formed with a few beer heads and a die hard group of people that want to see their city succeed. Devon and Shelly Reeves of Downtown Anaheim, various city volunteers, Brad Daniels, Spence Coleman and I brainstormed how to make a fest different, fun and educational. Getting the chance to volunteer for my city…to bring the community together in the name of great beer…is an honor I don’t take lightly. It’s a lot of hard work and I can’t wait to see it all come together on 9/21! Last year, we made it happen in three months…this year, we’ve had time to relax make it something special.

The event supports a local non-profit – the Downtown Anaheim Association. They intern have weekly farmers markets, art crawls and donate their facilities to children’s groups and others. This year it also helps support an 80 year Anaheim tradition – the Halloween Parade and Fall Festival!

I won’t bore you…it’s a beer fest. I hope my passion has compelled some interest!

For my readers, I’m offering a special discount code: GONZO. This will take $10 off!

The fest is a few days away! I hope to see you there! Stop by and get some! Cheers!

“Roid-out” your Angel’s Pregame at The Catch of Anaheim

Stadium food be damned. 


ROID RAGE MAKE BLOGGER USE PADDLE TO KNOCK TACOS OUT OF PARK – Flight of TAPS beer next to Blackened Mahi Mahi and Carnitas Tacos on the Gameday Menu.


Mexican vs. Irish Nachos! America wins.

You’ve got Angel’s tickets burning a hole in your pocket and a couple hours to kill before the game. Of the many beery spots surrounding the stadium, one happened to ‘catch’ my eye this past week. The Catch of Anaheim is literally a Chuck Finley pitch to the stadium parking lot and rocks an inventive game day menu. After witnessing the pitcher’s mound-sized Snack Bomb Nachos, I dub the gameday menu as “steroids for fans”. The plate is loaded with everything a doping test failee might crave. After sampling the part chip/part fry snack bomb, I instantly feel like Barry Bonds in a home run derby.


The Catch also happens to be TAPS Fishhouse & Brewery’s sister restaurant. As such, you can bet your Angels jersey they have award-winning TAPS beer on draft plus a slew of other craft beer, wine and cocktails (ALL less than stadium prices too). On game days, The Catch opens three hours prior to the national anthem, oh say can you see?

Thirsty as all hell, my darling hot wife kicks things off with a lavender martini that is sweet/tart with a layer of citrus foam on top. I (shockingly) get a TAPS Cream Ale…a beer so blonde and swiggable it can fool old’ uncle Jim the macro-drinker into crossing over. It’s light and refreshing enough to stand up to the gameday menu. It’s less filling…and it tastes great.

P1060232On the lighter side of the gameday menu, yellow-fin tuna tar tar happens. The tuna is tossed with some chili, soy sauce,avocado, then dribbled with some wasabi crème fraÎche on a butter lettuce leaf. The Catch keeps it classy by using all sustainable fish exclusively from Santa Monica Seafood.

P1060243Always the adventurous type, I’m curious to try the pork cemita. Sort of like a ‘torta from a different morta’ with a toasty sesame-seed bun, this cabron is legit. Ancho chili marinated pork tussled in chipotle sauce and sprinkled with wild cilantro, Oaxacan cheese, avocado and a spritz of lime…The real star of the show is the crispy chicharrones inside. Pair this with Hangar 24’s Chocolate Porter (available on Nitro on my visit) for an insta-grand slam in your belly.

P1060239The Catch is classy, simple and delicious. There’s some sports memorabilia, bobbleheads, and some screens placed perfectly in the bar without being overdone. The wine cellar sits in the nosebleeds up a spiral staircase. On gameday, a sea of red jerseys are there to keep you company. The atmosphere is relaxed and the service is spot on. Outdoor seating is almost too comfy on their chairs. My only complaint is I was too full and happy to go see the game.

The Catch on Urbanspoon

Big Boy Food Comes to Fullerton | Executive Chef Cody Storts Transforms Hopscotch

Photo -

Photo –

Sitting down over a few beers with Hopscotch’s new Executive Chef Cody Storts, one thing occurs to me: How have I not heard of this dude? There’s no doubt I’ve eaten something he’s prepared over the years I’ve frequented downtown Fullerton. Le Cordon Bleu culinary school trained, he’s put his talents to work everywhere from Stubrik’s, the Lime Truck and a gourmet catering co. Now the big cheese of Fullerton’s best craft beer spot, I can’t wait to see what he has to offer. 

Fitted with a chef’s coat, a newsboy cap and swedish chef tattoo on his sautéing arm, he looks to add a bit of southern drawl to traditional French technique at Hopscotch. Sitting in the newly air-conditioned lower area, we get down to business chatting about kitchen philosophy, kids, beer, and of course his food.  “We’re all about having fun in the kitchen” he confesses, “we make the kind of food we really love to eat.” Anyone with the Muppet’s Swedish Chef Tattoo probably knows how to party, am I right? He jumps up, heads to the kitchen as I study the beer list. 

photo (1)

Opting for a fresh paddle of British beers among the many local craft beers, a plate of house made pickles pays a visit. Melons stripped wide seemingly by a woodworking planar tool, pickled red-onion and butter pickles are piled high and full of bright tangy goodness.

photoRolling the dice on some fried pig ear, I’m not disappointed. Served on a dark wood plank , the cracklins come alive with a squirt of lime and schmear of in-house chili sauce. This dish is a call to Mexico, any fan of chicharones, pork, or life in general should try this. Again, the dish is piled high and worthy to share. Other small bites I sampled: Duck taquitos, pretzel bites with white cheddar foam…all eye-rolling good.

photo -

Country Fried Chicken – Photo –

Fried chicken lands and my eyes bulge. Huge meaty crusted chicken piled high on a bed of fingerling potatos. I’ve never had sous-vide chicken before, but I’m a fan now! Swamped in its own juices, the chicken squirts across my table on the first bite; a drop or two landing in my English bitter ale. This dish is a force to be reckoned with! The herbed crunch and squirt of this dish alone proves Chef Cody’s ability to shock and awe. Also from the dinner items I sampled the scallop dish and pork butt; easily favorites for time to come.

Pan Seared Scallops and Pickled Veggies - Photo -

Pan Seared Scallops and Pickled Veggies on the side – Photo –

Chef Cody Storts is the missing puzzle piece in Hopscotch. The food is beautiful, aromatic, and juicy. My eyes rolled. I had goosebumps. It’s not over-the-top either. “Adventurous and approachable” is the best way to describe it. Paired with the beer, whiskey and cocktail prowess of James Wood, Hopscotch is a destination. It’s great for a few beers with friends, some small bites or a nice date night out.
Before shot. credit PacificElectric.orgHopscotch is romantically housed in the historic Pacific Electric Railway building of Fullerton. The current scene is set to a time when men killed animals, boozed at the desk job and nailed secretaries. It’s got a mountain lodge vibe with a repurposed whiskey barrel bar and a wall of a hundred whiskeys. Fifty craft beers (20 draft) also pair great with the food. The draft list is supple and curated intelligently. 
A thousand thanks to Corky at for the excellent photos!
Tonight! July 31, don’t miss their inaugural pairing dinner! 

Scheduled for Wednesday, July 31, guests will enjoy a five-course scratch dinner prepared by Chef Cody and his staff, accompanied by a range of beverages including crafted cocktails, whiskeys, and craft beer, each hand-selected by Director of Libations James Wood.

The first of its monthly pairing dinner program, guests at the inaugural pairing will be treated to a sample of the inventive culinary prowess HopScotch has become known for with courses including butter poached lobster, and beef cheeks with whiskey-soaked cherry demi sauce.

“We’re all very excited about our first pairing. It’s our first opportunity to really let loose and show guests what we’re all about. Not only from a culinary standpoint, but the full spectrum of our craft beverage program,” said Storts. It will be a night to celebrate great food and drink.”

Limited to just 50 guests, the event priced at $85 per person, is expected to sell out early. Seating by reservation only, guests are advised to pre-book at 714.871.2222.

The five-course dinner is scheduled to include the following:

FIRST: Amuse

APPETIZER: Charcuterie board
Beverage Pairing – Kir Molecule Cocktail with Cremant Blanc and Chambord pearls

THIRD: Butter poached lobster; Cognac cream dipping dots, smoked garlic confit foam
Beverage Pairing – Cocktail “Aged to perfection” including smoked cognac, peach puree and aged balsamic vinegar
and our house cherry vanilla bitters

ENTREE: Beef cheeks with whiskey soaked cherry Demi, English pea and carrot puree
Beverage Pairing – Barrel aged stout

DESSERT: Caramel corn panna cotta, kettle corn dust, dehydrated candied cherry medley
Beverage Pairing – Few Spirits Rye, Chicago;
James E. Pepper 1776


HopScotch on Urbanspoon

Beer and Loathing in Paso Robles | Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival

P1050620This post originally appeared on the website  West Coaster, a new Southern California beer magazine.

We were somewhere around the edge of wine country in Paso Robles when the craft beer began to take hold(1). Baked and dripping with sweat, I dump the remnants of my tasting plate on the ground and use it as a makeshift fan. The air is thick, hot and pointless, laying on us like a sleeping bag you can’t escape. Black bugs have somehow managed to attach themselves to odd parts of my body and pinch every so often. “Holy Jesus! what are these goddamn bugs?”(2) One clings to my armpit as I smack it and smack it again, making it bite harder. “SHIT! Shitfucker!” I yell as spectators laugh wildly. I duck in the bathroom and dunk my head under the bathroom sink, then sling on my hat to grab a beer…the only cold thing in this dusty, arid place called Paso Robles.


Two seconds after this picture was taken, purple girl trust-fell into they guy behind her.

Flash backward a few hours as this ‘Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival starts and I’m in ‘kid on Halloween’ mode. Media check in and pre-fest starts early and I’m not taking any chances. It’s peaceful. Nearby cows moo. It’s time to drink.
P1050609Standing near Russian River Brewing I hear brewer/owner Vinnie Cilurzo say the words “five-day old Pliny and two-year old Temptation.” These words fish-hook multiple members of the press. We walk like we’re in a Broadway musical, jazz hands fluttering. A pretentious voice behind me mutters, “I’ve had two-day old Pliny once” while clearing his throat nervously. Five day old must taste like piss to this this guy. I toss it back, note the fresh Simcoe, Amarillo, Centennial and CTZ hops and move on quickly for a glass rinse and something dark before it gets too hot. The forecast is dialed in at 104 degrees.
agostino from birrificio italiano and terrance sullivan of SN
At this festival, beers like Pliny the Elder are ‘just beers’. Not to discount the highly baited Double IPA from Santa Rosa, but there’s some serious beverages to be consumed today. Brandy Barrel Aged Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout from Cigar City (won the People’s Choice award), Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Lord Three Floyds Brewing and other barrel-aged treats that elude the west coast. Lambics, framboise and collaborations are being unleashed from MikkellerThe Lost Abbey and Firestone Walker.  Orange County’s sole contingent, The Bruery, is leaking several rarities on the crowd every hour. Tyler King, The Bruery’s senior director of brewing operations  quotes, “It’s an honor no matter where we’re from, we love so many of these breweries and to pour beer next to them is pretty amazing.”
P1050650As much as the public loves this festival, brewers also gush at the prospect of getting an invite.  Tony Yanow of Golden Road/Tony’s Darts Away quips, “We are a very young brewery and to present our beer along side our heroes is an honor.” Meg Gill, also of Golden Road reminisces, “I cried in a department head meeting about it today…I have the fondest memories of pouring beer with Tony the last hour and fans gushing over our Berlinerweiss. It was the first festival I brought my parents to..their first beer fest ever.”
Fascinated with the thought of sampling fresh beer from Europe, my associate Daniel Fernandez and I make a trip to the fest’s ‘little Germany’. “I had no idea Germans were so tall” says Daniel with his sub-sombrero sized hat. The guys at Mahr’s Brau Bamburg put David Hasselhoff to shame, and the girl at BraufactuM is at least three inches taller than me in flats. Birrificio Italiano sent Tipo Pils, a beer that inspired Firestone Walker’s brewmaster Matt Brynaldson to brew Pivo Pils which should be arriving in the southland soon.
P1050662Of the many, many beers sampled, three are standouts:
  1. Mikkeller’s Spotancherry Lambic gives me repeatable goosebumps. Juicy tart cherries burst in my mouth with the tiniest sip.Tastes like fresh tart cherry pie.
  2. Lagunitas is shocked to hear my love for Sonoma County Sour Stout. “It’s pretty shocking considering we aimed to break every rule when making it…a stout on a hot day that goes down easy? Shocking!” says the biker-looking guy pouring. Layered flavors and aromas hit me, then hit me in waves with each sip. Tart roastyness, oak, tart fruit, some pleasant funk. The sign aimed to debunk it’s tastiness, only made me want it more.
  3. The Lost Abbey’s Framboise de Amorosa is also among my standouts. Very bright and clean raspberry tart without any metallic notes. Finishes dry with tons of flavor. Shocker, I know.
P1050624Food at the festival is dotted potluck-style amongst breweries. 25 local restaurants brought small-plate tastes to serve throughout the day. I really enjoyed the Bloody Mary Granita from Luna Red and Ancho Duck & Cheese Quesadilla from McPhee’s Grill. Near the end, most food was gone.
The Music from Hot Buttered Rum fit the mood of the festival – hyperactive progressive bluegrass is something I could very well be a fan of without  knowing it. The White Buffalo also performed later in the day but I was blissfully altered by craft beer at that point in time (see top paragraph).
P1050623The Gripes – None! If you go to one festival a year in California, this is it. It’s like a GABF greatest hits mixtape in a small venue with really good food and music. This is the gold standard of beer festivals! Despite the hot temps, there was no problem finding shade, misters, water or an NFL sideline cooler.
Title,(1),(2) – quotes inspired by “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, copyright 1971 by Hunter S. Thompson
Bonus – I found out who signed this girl’s breasts…none other than Agostino from Birrificio Italiano.

Provisions Marketplace is OPEN – Blogger Doesn’t Hang Himself

P1050559This post originally appeared on the website  West Coaster, a new Southern California beer magazine.

Never fully healed from The Bruery Provisions closing this past January, I had all but given up hope of a worthy suitor taking over the quaint spot in historic Old Towne Orange. Still stuck somewhere in the seven stages of grief, losing one’s favorite local craft beer and cheese shop is a tough wound to heal.

Then, a miracle happened. “Provisions Market” read the sign out front. I dropped to one knee and held a nearby bench to collect myself. I re-read the sign in disbelief, “It’s here!” I yelled at a confused old couple nearby. To celebrate, I scored some coconut gelato from a nearby cafe and went home to cut the rope hanging in my garage. The Haven Collective is here to save us!

P1050574 P1050567

P1050566What makes Provisions Market unique is the space. It’s one part bottle shop, one part tasting room and one part chef-driven food shop. Provisions is basically an artisanal 7-11. The best part about Haven moving in is their track record of providing high quality food and 100% craft beer at all of their locations in LA and OC. Partners Wil Dee (beverage manager), Ace Patel and Chef Greg Daniels look to add to the community by offering draft beer, bottles, cheese, charcuterie, snacks and sandwiches – all within a relaxed communal vibe. They also partnered with Portola Coffee Labs, which will open its second location within the market.

Bruery Provisions’ soul still haunts the new Provision Market, but in a friendly ghost sort of way. Thirty taps are locked and loaded, shined bright and ready for war. “We have room for ten more” says Wil Dee like he’s calling in an air strike over the lively tasting room. The space is freshly furnished with new seating in the shop area.  Bottles sit off to the sides like shy wallflowers waiting for a dance. I tip a pint of Trumer Pils, inhale deep and take in the evening, reminiscing about all the memories and friendships forged in this room over the years. TV’s are now a thing, although hung inconspicuously (volume off) allowing people to keep the conversation going without digging for a phone to check the latest scores. “The idea is, we will turn up the volume for huge events like the SuperBowl or other big games” says Wil.


The first guests arrive at the first Family & Friends soft opening.

Beverage Mgr. Wil Dee preps for the Family & Friends soft opening

Beverage Mgr. Wil Dee preps for the Family & Friends soft opening

The Haven Collective got its start in 2009, a short five minute walk from the new Provisions Market. When creating Haven Gastropub four years ago, Chef Daniels stressed, “We just wanted to make a pub, then realized the potential of the space.” Before Haven settled on the Gastropub spot, Chef Greg confesses “we were originally in a bidding war with Patrick Rue for the equipment (from the previous tennant Frogs Breath Cheese Shop), had we known it was him, we would have bowed out.”

Burrata, Olio Nuovo EVOO, Saba vinegar and edible flowers. Prettiest thing I've ever eaten.

Burrata, Olio Nuovo EVOO, Saba vinegar and edible flowers. Prettiest thing I’ve ever eaten.

Now capping off both sides of the historic Orange circle, the area is once again a Socal craft beer destination. Several craft beer friendly restaurants dot the old-town historic tree-lined street surrounded by a dozen antique malls and other fun shops. “The beer scene in Orange was bleak before we moved in. I would sit outside smoking a cigarette while we were building Haven and wonder if people would come.” says Greg. The area is now ripe for a proper beer crawl.

The patio at night.

The cozy patio at night.

The Haven Collective now owns four all-craft beer locations in OC and LA; The original location of Haven Gastropub in Orange (12 taps, bottles, cocktails and wine), Haven Gastropub +Brewery in Pasadena (40 taps + brewpub and bar), Taco Asylum in Costa Mesa (4 taps + craft cans and aguas frescas) and the latest Provisions Market (30 taps and bottle shop).


From the press release: Orange, CA (June 2013) – After much anticipation, haven collective’s new bottle shop and specialty market, Provisions Market, will open its doors in Old Towne Orange at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 5th (143 N. Glassell Street, Orange). Sidecar Doughnuts has partnered with Provisions to have their signature doughnuts sold on site, and the first two dozen customers on Opening Day will receive a complimentary doughnut!

This post was originally posted on West Coaster Socal!

Provisions Market on Urbanspoon