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”.
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.
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.
The 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.