Sunday, October 30, 2011

LA Beer Week

The Beer Fest that marked the end of LA Beer Week was a huge success. The event was sold out and the late October weather was much warmer than last year's overcast and wet weather. After crashing the Volunteer's after-party last year, my conscience got the better of my and I became an official volunteer for this year's fest.

The beauty of the LA Beer Week Festival is it's location in downtown Los Angeles at Union Station. I don't know what parking is like near Union Station but I do know that I can easily park my car in Fullerton and catch the train to the festival. Well, I could if I was just an attendee. The festival was open from noon to 4pm, but as a volunteer, I was needed from 10 am to 8 pm. The only MetroLink trains running that early are on the San Bernardino line. 

So, I was up at the crack of dawn to catch the 7:51 from Covina to Union Station. It's a good thing I left early because CalTrans had two freeway closures in place that had me wandering all over eastern LA county. I made the train on time and enjoyed a great breakfast at Philippe's before I showed up to volunteer.

Once I found my assigned table, I was happy to discover I was working the Steelhead Brewing Co. table on "Orange County Row." To my left was Taps, The Bruery and Karl Strauss and to my right was Cismontane. Karl Strauss is based in San Diego but I consider them an OC brewery since they have a location in Costa Mesa that I became familiar with during law school.

As I waiting for Eddie Leal, Steelhead Irvine's head brewer, I helped set up kegs at the Taps table with Brewmaster Victor Novak. At the Cismontane table, Andy was giving assignments to the volunteers at a rapid pace. I didn't have much to do at my table since Eddie had arrived early, set up and had also walked to Philippe's for an original French dip sandwich. 

Twelve o'clock arrived and the festival goers began trickling in. According to Aaron from, a riot was about to break out at the front gate as the line to enter was not moving. The drinkers I was pouring for seemed happy, but I understand how things could get nasty if you keep a man from his beer.

The day went well. We ran out of Guava Licious IPA. It was a big hit. Good word of mouth kept people coming to our table for a taste. The Espresso Stout was well received as well. I learning a lot about beer, brewing and the business from Eddie. It was a great experience. Clean up was simple. 

Pouring with Steelhead Brewer Eddie Leal
Now for the after-party. The organizers told the volunteers that we couldn't eat or drink until the entire area was policed. We discovered a few bottles that a distributor had left behind and after some hesitation, we were encouraged by the organizers to take a bottle home. I put a couple of brews aside with my jacket only to find later that they had disappeared. No worries, I was enjoying great food and some great beer that wasn't available to the festival attendees. Another bottle was offered to me and like a fool, I sat the bottle with my jacket, only to find it gone a few minutes later. Was I naive to believe that there are no selfish people in the industry? A pity.

Other than three lost bottles of great beer, I was able to try some great beers and talk to the brewers in a lest hectic setting than during the main festival. I met Andrew Marshall, the owner and brewmaster from Black Market Brewing in Temecula. We spent a few minutes talking ethics and philosophy. Cyrena from Ladyface Alehouse & Brasserie and Melissa of Melissa Kobe Photography were also there. Ladyface Alehouse is a place in Agoura Hills to enjoy great food and locally brewed craft beer. Melissa is a fantastic photographer. Be sure to check out her website.

My train didn't leave until 9:00 so some of us moved the after-party to Far Bar for more craft brews. I was still able to walk back to Union Station, purchase a Los Angeles Starbucks coffee mug and make my train with minutes to spare.

Next year I'm back on the other side of the table to as a festival goer. Volunteering was great but watching hundreds of drunk people was a little crazy. Next year I'll watch the sober people. 


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It Was A Long Hot Summer

What happens when three guys get together to smoke cigars, drink their favorite libations and shoot the shit? ADDs Brew Fest is born!

I have spent the last couple of years telling my smokin' buddies about the great local breweries in North Orange County but they needed something more to get them to visit. After listening to me rave about the locals for the umpteenth time, Aaron came up with a great idea; let's spend a Saturday touring the local breweries. Danny, more of a Scotch and wine connoisseur was in as well. Aaron volunteered his wife, Suzanne, to be the designated driver. ADDs Brew Fest was born!

Photo courtesy of Anaheim Brewing
I mapped out a route that would take us to Anaheim Brewery, J.T. Schmid's for lunch, Noble Ale WorksOld Orange Brewing CompanyBootlegger's BreweryThe Bruery and finally to the Lido Deck for a stogie to finish off the day. We even created our own commemorative shirt!

We arrived at Anaheim Brewery early and had Greg and Barbara to ourselves. They fascinated us with the story of their background, the history of and future plans for the brewery and great beer! Don't miss this place!

J.T. Schmid's, while not in the same genre as the other breweries on the list, has great food and good beer.

Noble Ale Works is famous for its IPA's, not a favorite of Aaron, but Danny and Dale enjoyed the samplers. The big screen TV in the brewery is great for Saturday or Sunday afternoon football! There is almost always a food truck on hand during the evenings when they're open. I went to their grand opening earlier in the year and enjoyed great beer, great food and great music!

Old Orange Brewing Company had only been open a few weeks and they were happy to welcome the ADDs Brew Fest crew. OOBC has a unique bar that was salvaged from an upscale LA bar with an interesting story behind it. They were gracious hosts and even sent us home with ADDs Brew Fest commemorative tasting glasses!

Bootlegger's Brewery has to be one of my favorites as it is the first OC brewery I visited over a year ago. True to the bootlegger's theme, they serve their beer in Mason jars. Bootlegger's seems to specialize is one-off batches that are always good. Nighttime will find food trucks here as well and the Dos Chinos truck is one of the regulars and very good!

Finally to the world famous Bruery. The Bruery specializes mainly in Belgian style brews. They helped start the recent barrel-aged craze which produces some great brews. The Bruery Provisions is a wonderful shop at the Orange Circle where you can wine taste, beer taste, pick up a bottle, and enjoy a cheese or charcuterie plate. In addition to their beers, The Bruery Provisions carries a variety of wonderful craft beers and refrigerate much of the beer so you can stop in before a party to pick up some cold craft brews. They also have other brands on tap. The Bruery also produces some batches that are only available in bottles at The Bruery Provisions.

Our last stop was the Lido Deck (Aaron's back yard) for a smoke and to discuss the... Zzzzzzzz.....

(c) Aaron, Dale, Danny, suzanne Brew Fest 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I Gotta Stop

I have a habit of ending a blog post with a hint of what's coming in the next installment. Those promises never seem to come to fruition. Here I go again. I promised that this edition would be about my second trip to North San Diego County to visits breweries but that's not what this is about.

I was waylaid by a spur of the moment beer and cheese tasting event hosted by Marian the Foodie at The Bruery Provisions in Old Towne Orange. Spur of the moment for me, not for Marian, who had planned this event for some time. She had a couple of last minute cancellations and through the power of Twitter and SMS, I was able to snag a spot at this private event. I had not discovered Marian's popularity on the Interweb but now know all about her blog, YouTube channel, Facebook fan page and her Twitter feed. She did a great job with this event. I had a great time!

This was not my first time to The Bruery Provisions so I knew what to expect and I wasn't disappointed. Great beer & cheese are always on the menu and tonight was no exception. Special tasting menus were printed just for use with thorough descriptions of each beer and cheese.

Beer Flight (All by The Bruery)

  • Orchard White - A very light witbier, perfect if you're new to craft beers. 5.7% ABV
  • Saison De Lente - A nice Spring Saison brew with that wonderful Brettanomyces yeast. 6.5% ABV
  • Loakal Red - A wonderful blend available only in The OC. My favorite. 6.9% ABV
  • Rugbrod - A very tasty strong brown ale. 8% ABV
  • Old Richland - A nice hoopy barley wine. 9% ABV
Cheese Plate
  • Ibores - A spicy Spanish goat cheese.
  • St. Agur - A creamy bleu cheese.
  • Geitost - Great caramel flavored cheese that doesn't look like cheese.
  • Pop Candy Pistachio Fire - Not cheese, but a wonderful brittle with a kick.
Did I stop there? No. My thirst was not quenched so I ordered a Stout and Porter flight and reveled in five wonderful dark beers with exquisite flavors. From right to left.
  • Great Divide Espresso Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout - Coffee!
  • Taps Porter - A nice creamy porter.
  • Telegraph Stock Porter - Oak-barrel aged and delightful.
  • Stone Imperial Russian Stout 2010 - A very black, slightly hoppy stout.
  • Flying Dog Wild Dog Coffee Stout - Coffee again with a wonderful dark rusty head. My favorite.
I also took home a nice loaf of bread. I have no idea what it's called or who made it. One of the very attentive staff told us that it's made mostly of crushed grapes. After the juice is extracted for wine, a bit of flour is added with some other spices, such as rosemary and fennel, to create a wonderful purple bread. It's a perfect accompaniment to the fantastic cheeses we sampled.

Thanks to Twitter, The Bruery Provisions and especially Marian the Foodie for a great time tasting new beers and new cheese. You can see all my beers posted on @Untappd

Next time? Well, I'll be at a Bootlegger's Brewery tasting tomorrow night at Versai Wine Bar...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Okay, So I Lied

How did I lie? Not really a lie but I did mention a couple of things in my previous posts that I have not followed through with...

My intention was to write a new blog post each week and I've fallen far short of that. October to January? Not exactly once a week. I also closed my last post with a promise that the next post would be about Cuban cigars. I have collected a few Cuban's in preparation but I thought I would share my latest adventure first...

The San Diego craft beer industry has been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years. With Stone leading the way, a number a breweries have sprung up all over the county. The highest concentration seems to be in North County so I thought I'd take a road trip.

It took me three weekends to visit all of the breweries on my list. Not because there are so many but because of logistics. I planned on stopping at Stone on the day before Thanksgiving but I arrived too late and the place was packed. So I drove up the road to The Lost Abbey and was not disappointed.

Lost Abbey
Located in Stone's old facility, Port Brewing has created a haven for fans of Belgian ales. The staff was very knowledgeable and friendly and I even met one of the pastors who participated in the blessing of the water for their brews. I was able to taste an Old Viscosity and an Older Viscosity. Essentially the same beer but Older is aged in Bourbon Barrels. Quite a difference. Both beers are fantastic! As you may know, those are two Port Brewing American Strong Ales. You may also be aware that Lost Abbey is part of the Port Brewing Family that also includes Pizza Port. Quite a family!

On January 22, 2011 you can tour their new expansion. They are doubling in size! A visit to Lost Abbey is well worth the trip. You won't be disappointed. The brewery was decorated for the holiday.

In the next installment I'll tell you about my trip to Stone Brewing Company and World Bistro.