Just got back from a trip to my beloved Southern California. Visiting family and friends is, of course, always on the agenda, but what I really look forward to is hitting some of the new breweries cropping up and visit some of the old ones I have missed. On this trip I was staying in Long Beach aboard the Queen Mary so it was only appropriate to head downtown and see what was on tap! For years Long Beach was known as a not-so-safe place to visit. But over the last decade it has undergone some amazing changes making it much more tourist friendly. The downtown area has cleaned up, new businesses and shopping areas have opened, and there are even free shuttles to get you around downtown. My time for beer drinking on this trip was rather limited, but I gave it the “old college try!”
In the Long Beach neighborhood of Belmont Shore sits the Belmont Brewing Company. I did not have a chance to visit the brewery itself, but I did get to try one of their beers at the local Yard House. If you have never been to the Yard House (there are several locations in several states) you are really missing out! Over 100+ beers from around the world on tap. On the menu that night was Belmont Brewing’s Strawberry Blonde (4.5% abv). Fruit beer gets a bad wrap for being, well, fruity. Most men consider fruit beers “chick beer.” They couldn’t be more wrong, especially with this little gem. Fresh strawberry hits the nose before you can raise the glass. The fruit flavor is fresh and clean, does not taste syrupy. Lovely jamminess from start to finish but not too sweet. A lovely beer to get into the So Cal mood!
One night, I met with some very dear friends of mine at a more “spiritual” house downtown. Congregation Ale House is located right in the heart of downtown Long Beach. The actual brew house is located in Azusa, CA but there are three locations to enjoy: Azusa, Long Beach and Pasadena. The Long Beach “chapter” was quite lovely with glowing light, gothic arch ways, and gorgeous wrought iron chandeliers reminiscent of a gothic cathedral. The staff was very friendly and beer savvy and one of our servers, Kevin, was a kick in the pants! Thanks, Kevin!!
Praise On! Saison (5.8% abv) – This lovely farmhouse ale has a sour fruit aroma, wheat character in the body. It finishes sour and crisp.
Eternally Strong Brotherhood ESB (5.4% abv) – I love a good ESB and this one hit the spot! Very malty, slightly bitter, and very delicious. Light hops in the top, with a slightly sweet finish. Very enjoyable.
Dark Of The Covenant (7% abv) – This American Strong Ale, is just that! Soft, smokey aroma and dark chocolate body. This is definitely a sipper for dessert. Almost like drinking a smokey chocolate bar. Quite tasty!
A few doors down is Beachwood Brewing Company. This brewery is also known for its BBQ and has two locations: downtown Long Beach (where I was) and Seal Beach (a bit further down the coast). Very laid back atmosphere. Nice place to hang out.
Foam Top Cream Ale (5.5% abv) – The aroma of Golden Grahams cereal hits the nose right away. Honey-sweet body and a creamy finish. Very easy to drink. Perfect beer for So Cal.
Knucklehead Red (5.7% abv) – Very well-balanced red. Nice caramel character with just enough hops to give it the kick “hopheads” require. Quite nice!
On the last night of my trip I visited San Pedro Brewing Company located in historic San Pedro, CA. Just a stones throw (and a bridge crossing) away from the Queen Mary, the brewery is tucked away in a darling, historic neighborhood. This brewery/restaurant is BUSY! I was a bit bugged at first because it took almost 15min for anyone to acknowledge me after I sat down (as a former server/bartender, I’m pretty patient). Once my server stopped by things started looking up. I enjoyed a delicious grilled cheese sandwich and a taster tray.
Bruin Blonde Ale (5.5% abv) – This light bodied ale had a candy-like sweetness with a caramel finish. It was a bit like drinking, you guessed it, candy. Very nice for a hot day.
Sunken City Imperial Stout (8.3% abv) – Ink black color, dark chocolate from the start, but finishes smokey. Full bodied, malty, and very smooth. definitely and after dinner beer.
Port Towne Hefe (5% abv) – Hefeweizen is one of my favorite styles of beer. This one was OK, but just a bit watery than what I prefer. The traditional banana clove flavor and aroma were present, it just didn’t have the body I was looking for. Still, not bad.
Red Headed Hop Child (5.6% abv) – Gorgeous color! Hoppy with a touch of hazelnut on the palate. Nutty, crisp finish. This was one of my favorites!
Iowa Battleship IPA (6.6% abv) – Named for the historic battleship docked just a few minutes away, this IPA is sure to make any “hophead” smile, but easy enough for the “hop-shy” to warm up to. Beautiful floral aroma with light hops throughout. Nice, clean finish. This IPA is perfect for the beginner and easy to drink.
Blitzen Belgian (9.11% abv) – This was my least favorite, but not because of quality. I’m not a barley wine/hard alcohol kind of gal so anything higher than say 8% abv really comes through on my palate. This Belgian ale was thick, syrupy and VERY sweet. Too sweet and thick for me but is sure to please the barley wine crowd.
If you would like to stay on the Queen Mary, be sure to look into some of the ship activities as well. It is a fun place to stay and a great alternative to a traditional, boring hotel. The free shuttle I mentioned leaves from the parking lot and stops in the downtown area only but runs until about 2:00am.
To stay aboard the Queen Mary: http://www.queenmary.com