After being called out a few times on Twitter recently for not blogging, (OTT, triathlon training, work & life are getting in the way!) I knew I had to write a recap of my birthday/Reserve Society beer trip to the Los Angeles area. Gotta stay sharp! Hopefully, after the 83rd Texas Legislature is over I’ll have more time for beer events and blogging. There is also a Belgium trip in the works for the fall, hello pilgrimage to the land of my favorite beers!
Anyway, after landing at John Wayne (highly recommend this airport- clean, small, fast) we drove straight to The Bruery in Placentia. Can I say the name of the town really disturbs me? Even if it is said “plah-cinch-ah”. Whatever.
Recently, The Bruery decided to close its Provisions location to concentrate on their ever-expanding Reserve/Hoarders programs and of course, their beer. Although sad for Orange County, once you visit the tasting room you’ll understand why.
The tap list was immense and for an out-of-towner from a state that doesn’t have Bruery distribution, it was mouth-watering. Melange 3 on tap, why the hell not?! You would be amazed to see the size of the system they are brewing on, considering they are so prolific. After deciding on my flight (okay, maybe two flights) I settled in at one of the tasting room’s beautiful wooden high-top tables to enjoy Bruery goodness. John and his brother were busy checking spreadsheets and taking the tour, so maybe it was more like three flights. Since there were 15 beers, I will just touch on what my favorites were, which is relative since I’ve yet to have a Bruery beer I didn’t like. Oh wait, their hoppy lager, Humulus Lager, didn’t really do it for me, (no surprise there) though it was well-constructed.
The standouts for me were, in no order: Nottenroth, Berazzled, Rueuze, Sour Rugbrod, Portola Rossa Gedeo Worka, Portola Rossa Casas de Lamina, 5 Golden Rings, and Melange 3. The first four are probably obvious to anyone that knows my palate. The Bruery surely knows how to make their sour/tart beers. Nottenroth was my favorite as I have an affinity with Berliner Weissebiers and this play on the original (Hottenroth) was just lovely with the addition of kumquats. The Worka and the Lamina were very interesting to me as a person that is generally not a coffee-drinker or a “red” ale fan. A base red beer, Portola Rossa, was then blended with five different coffee beans picked by the Portola coffee and Bruery folks. They were both very coffee forward without being bitter or overpowering the beer. Then there was 5 Golden Rings and Melange 3, because you just have to have them on draught. Golden Rings is the only golden ale in the 12 Days of Christmas beers bunch (so far?) and is spiced with cinnamon, allspice and ginger with pineapple thrown in for a slight tanginess. Decadent and delicious, but nowhere near the level of lusciousness that is Melange 3. It is a “blend of three bourbon barrel aged strong ales. White Oak Sap, a wheat wine, our Anniversary Series old ale and our imperial stout, Black Tuesday, join forces in this luxurious strong ale that links some of the best characteristics of each of the contributing beers”. Just reading that makes my mouth water all over again. Booze, dark fruits, chocolate and the taste of the oak barrels combine in beautiful harmony at a mere 15.5% ABV.
After loading John’s brother’s Prius (hey, it’s California) down with a ridiculous amount of Bruery beers, we headed out to stash those babies in a safe place while we checked out some of the other breweries on our list. While the Los Angeles (and surrounding area) is no craft beer haven like Portland or San Diego, it is definitely on the right track. Before calling it a night we stopped by brand new Ritual Brewing and Hangar 24 in the Redlands area near where we were staying for the night. Ritual was first and we tried all four of their beers that were on draught.
Hellion, their Belgian Golden Ale, was my favorite. Their imperial oat stout, Big Deluxe, was also pretty unique, though not quite imperial. It’s hard to fairly comment on their creations after having 15 exquisite beers at The Bruery, they were pale in comparison. Though, there is a time and a place for most beers, and Ritual’s beers belong in the every-day-drinking category, not the special occasion group with a lot of Bruery beers. This does bring up a great point though, are Bruery beers only special occasion because we don’t get them in Texas? Limited availability in general? Super high ABV (on some)? We’ll leave that for another discussion.
After trying a few of Hangar 24’s Barrel Roll series at home, I knew we definitely had to visit. Saturday night at Hangar 24 was packed! We ordered a flight and squeezed into a spot at the end of the bar while we peaked around at the brewing system and wished we could have a cool, local brewery to hangout at on the weekend. Sigh.
Of the nine beers in the flight, I adored the Vinaceous and Chocolate Porter. Vinaceous is the first beer in their Local Fields series that highlights local wineries and is an English style Old Ale brewed with Mourvedre grapes from Wilson Creek Winery in Temecula. It was malty with a great dark berry and barrel taste, a great example of the combination of beer and wine. The Chocolate Porter had a unique flavor that I’ve loved in several other beers, marshmallows. A creamy mouthfeel, flavors of vanilla, nougat, chocolate, and a slight roastiness made for a rich, not overly-sweet beer that I wish I could have in my fridge year-round.
Sunday, we headed back out West into the Los Angeles area, in preparation of our visit to Ladyface Ale Companie that evening for dinner and beers. I’ve wanted to visit and try more Ladyface beers ever since our trip to Stone for their barrel-aged beer festival, Oakquinox, in 2011. At the festival, my favorite beer and certainly on my top-5-beers-ever-tried list, was their cabernet wine barrel aged barleywine, Bluebelly. A lovely acidic note from the wine combined with a barleywine? It’s like they knew I was coming. I’ll never forget that beer; I used two precious tokens on it just to have seconds. Before I completely fall off into beer memory lane, back to Sunday in LA. We took a trip to Venice beach because it’s California and the beaches are beautiful, unlike certain nearby beaches. Looking at you, Galveston. Afterward we headed to Lucky Baldwin’s, an Irish pub with a stellar draught and bottle list. We decided to do a flight of a local brewery, Craftsman Brewing, since the production brewery isn’t open for tours.
After leaving Lucky Baldwin’s, we had lunch at the cutest Vietnamese restaurant before heading to Eagle Rock Brewery. Our flight included: Populist IPA, Populist IPA on nitro, Revolution Imperial Pale Ale, Manifesto Wit, Solidarity English mild, and the guest tap, Acorn Saison from Craftsman Brewing. The witbier was nothing special, and I didn’t much care for the IPAs and Pale ale, but the English Mild was very tasty. It’s a perfect example of a “dark” session beer.
Next stop was Golden Road Brewing before a hotel break and later, Ladyface. Even with the less-than-stellar customer service experience we had trying to order 5 tasters even though their flight trays only hold four glasses (yeah…) we were quite pleased with the main reason for visiting- their Berliner Weissebier.
It was a packed house, filled with kids and dogs, so suffice to say our visit was quite short.
Finally, we headed to Ladyface. Shout-out to our hotel for having a shuttle service to and from! What an immaculate place. Every detail is thoughtful, and the Alfons Mucha-esque style is seamlessly woven throughout the brewpub. From the artwork, color scheme, and merchandise, to the beer styles and food menu. By far, the classiest brewpub I’ve been too.
Our Ladyface flight included: La Blonde Belgian Blonde, Blind Ambition Belgian Strong Pale Ale, Trois Filles Tripel, Chesebro IPA, Picture City Porter, Cataclysm Imperial Oatmeal IPA, Cherrie Brown Ale, Russian Lullaby RIS, La Trappistine Belgian Strong Dark ale, Midnight Special Scotch Ale, and the Ladyface Weizenbock. The Cherrie Brown, Blind Ambition, Picture City Porter and La Trappistine were probably my favorites, though the IPA wasn’t even offensive and the Imperial Oatmeal IPA was very interesting. The Cherrie Brown is a nice balanced brown ale with cherries added that gives it the most subtle sour note, delicate and approachable. Blind Ambition their Abbey ale was phenomenal with a great balance of caramel and belgian yeast esters. I loved the porter for its modest roast character and presentation. The bartender topped the beer with coffe grounds and it worked so perfectly with the creamy mouthfeel and medium body of the porter. La Trappistine, a dark Belgian brewed with local Syrah grapes is another great example of wine and beer coming together for the best of both worlds. Even with The Bruery experience, I’d have to say that Ladyface was definitely my favorite place we visited on the trip. I wish I had more reasons to get back to Los Angeles.
Monday, my actual birthday (though pretty much all of January is my birthday), I was most excited for our dinner reservations at Animal. Before dinner we had a few drinks at Mohawk Bend, a great craft beer bar in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, that also served spirits strictly produced in California. I started with a Gift of the Magi from Lost Abbey that didn’t quite do it for me. So naturally, in the spirit of California, I had to have an organic gin drink where partial proceeds were donated to a charity that plants trees, the Mildred Pierce. Quite delicious. I also had their super sweet version of a sidecar.
After having their vegan buffalo cauliflower (also very tasty) we headed out in search of a bottleshop, Red Carpet Wine, because we really didn’t have enough. It wasn’t the best bottle shop, but had a big selection of beers not distributed in Texas.
We made our way towards Animal, a tiny, nondescript (no really, there isn’t even any signage) restaurant that doesn’t adhere to the vegan/vegetarian/healthy/blah blah scene that defines much of an outsider’s view of Los Angeles. Not that healthy isn’t good, but it was my birthday. It reminded me of a mashup of Feast, Boucherie, and Barleyswine, and it was perfect. If there are Brussels sprouts on a menu, it is guaranteed we order it. So, we inhaled the fried brussels sprouts that were accompanied by a lovely soft egg, pancetta and parmesan. Simple, rich and delicious. We also had the local burrata, escarole, katsuobushi, green garlic, leek and jalapeño dish that was light but packed with great flavor. John loves yellowtail, and the jerk spice collar with watermelon radish was divine. I now understand why people rave about the fish collar. To finish up we had the duck breast that was plated with cabbage, liptaeur and mustard with our final glass of wine and finally, a cappuccino. I just wish I could have tried more, especially a dessert but alas, vacation dieting means drawing the line somewhere.
Although Los Angeles might not be on the top of every beer nerd’s travel list, save visiting The Bruery, there are definitely plenty of places to fill a mini-vacation with. We also missed out on a few places due to being there on Sunday and Monday, so if you are there for work or otherwise, there is definitely some craft beer refuge in an unlikely city.