The year is 1921. I’m thirsty for a goddamn beer. Damn prohibition. I tip a paperboy on the corner of Harbor and Commonwealth in Fullerton and ask what’s the scuttlebutt on some blind pig action. He says “I don’t know from nothin’ mistuh” and points down Valencia, the bad part of town. I tilt my seat back in my hayburner as the local residents watch us roll under the canopy of elm trees. My bearcat lights a ciggy as we pull into the orange shipping area of town. The other cars around tell us we struck gold. (20’s slang guide here)
Fast forward 90 years, Bootleggers gives a nod to that era. Sitting down in their tasting room in Fullerton, I get the sense they were going for either a 1920’s speakeasy, or they just don’t give a crap about the decor. The brewery and tasting room sit with eight fermenters bubbling blowoff tubes around various unmatching tables and chairs. The room smells like spilled beer, sanitizer, and yeast farts; which is precisely what a brewery should smell like. As I walk around, my shoes make a tacky noise similar to walking around a budget movie theater with spilled soda on the ground. As I park my ass in a circa 2003 Home Depot Resin chair, I clean the remnants of the last satisfied customer’s beer rings off the wobbly table with conveniently abandoned food truck napkins. Music pumps out of a muddled speaker above the restrooms, making familiar music seem dreamy and distant.The Amtrak Surfliner Train flies by outside and rattles the walls at regular intervals, perhaps re-agitating the beer aging in wooden barrels a few feet away. I contemplate running outside real quick and flashing my dick at unsuspecting train travelers, but the beer I’m drinking gets the best of me. I firmly place a foot on a table leg to prevent my beer from moving around the table top like air hockey, and take a sip.
Having just hit Bootleggers two days earlier I was really looking forward to sucking down the best beer ever; Bourbon Barrel Imperial Black Phoenix from my first official beer review. Black Phoenix is a year round offering at Bootleggers and the slight modifications they concoct keep this cowboy returning. The chipotle stout is easily one of Orange County’s greatest dark beer offerings (Cismontane’s Blacks Dawn and the Bruery’s Black Tuesday among others). On Thursday, they had the barrel aged Imperial version, the regular version on CO2, and a version on Nitro. As the tap was blown on my fave, I went for something I’ve never tried before, Plum Riot.
Along with 18 taps, Bootleggers offers bottles, kegs, and growler fills for take away.
I was saving Plum Riot for just this occasion; when all my favorites were out. I wasn’t disappointed either! Call the Fullerton Plum Riot Police, this is one tasty Belgian Dubbel! Aroma, I get freshly toasted bread with sour plum jam…YUM! Color is a hazy blushing pale plum with a pinky finger head that fizzed away quickly. Tasted some plum hard candy and some subtle spices that didn’t stick around. This isn’t a very complex beer but would be great paired with BBQ or Teriyaki as it would draw some sweetness from the sauce. For a 7.8% ABV beer, I didn’t get the slightest hint of boozyness and was quite drinkable and refreshing.
The head cheese and his bearcat; Aaron and Patricia Barkenhagen run the joint. (credit Derek Bougie)
Bootleggers draws in all walks of life. One table was filled with some dolled up gals stopping in for a beer before going out on the town. Another table had an older couple chatting about a recent Fullerton Police beating. Near the door is a gaggle of hipster looking types drinking non-PBR product. As the night wears on, the tasting room line is almost out the door. The music is completely drowned out by the crowd, until 9PM, when the death metal kicks in. Last minute growlers are filled and the place empties out.
9PM Leave or Death (metal)
With eighteen taps, Bootleggers has something for everyone. I highly recommend stopping in and doing a tasting flight for $4.50 with some friends. Whichever beer is your favorite, grab a pint, a growler fill, or a keg for your next party. I was shocked a 5 gallon keg of IPA was around $65! Compare that to any craft beer keg at Bevmo (over $100) and you’ll never do that again! Also keep in mind you’re supporting local business and drinking super-fresh beer! Applesauce!
They’re open Thurs-Sun and have food trucks on most nights. The location makes a great jumping off point for a night out in Downtown Fullerton. Check their website for details!