Pacific Northwest Beer Chick

Breweries, Beers & Good Times

California Brewin’ June 19, 2013

Going back home to So Cal for a visit is always fun. Over the last few years my visits have become much more exciting with the addition of new craft breweries. It seems like every time I go home, there is a new crop of breweries. In the past, San Diego and Northern California were the only spots in the state that were known for brewing craft beer. It’s only over the last six-plus years that the craft brew industry has taken a hold of Orange and Los Angeles Counties with new breweries popping up what seems like every other month! That’s great news! On my last trip I was a bit pressed for time so I could only visit three of said new breweries…

Old Orange Brewing Company located in the city of Orange opened in 2011 by four local boys. The tasting room is406 simple and cool. The staff is VERY friendly, and the beer…great stuff!

Old Orange Cream Ale on Nitro (6.1% ABV) – Smooth, creamy. Light fruit. Reminds me of a 50/50 bar. Yummy!

Street Fair Orange Wheat (4.6% ABV) – Ah, memories of walking around the Orange Street Fair. I only wish I had one of these in my hand back then. Light, very easy to drink, soft orange fruit. Clean finish. Perfect for those hot, Orange County days.

Cussin’ Jim IPA (7.4% ABV) – This medium bodied ale is nicely hopped and well-balanced. Lovely floral aroma with a hop finish.

Old Dummy Strong Ale (9.3% ABV) – Brown sugar  body, hard alcohol fume hits the nose. Malty and easier to drink than you would expect. Hard alcohol finish. Tread lightly, though this drinks easily it will kick your butt all the way to Riverside!

Thumb Master Double IPA (8.5% ABV) – Hoppy, well-balanced. Touch of toffee sweetness.

432About a block or so away is another OC gem: Valiant Brewing Company. Set back in  and industrial park, this brewery is a little harder to find, but well worth the quest. The tasting room is large and open sharing space with the brewing equipment. There are plenty of tables for anyone, just no chairs. If you get hungry there is a great food truck parked right out side the tasting room and the food will be brought right to you. But, again, you have to stand while you eat. Let’s get to the important part: the beer!

Mighty Maximus Ale (3.6% ABV) – Dark and bitter. Slightly sweet and lightly hopped. Nice, bitter finish.

Fields Ablaze Saison (6.9% ABV) – Brewed with pear and lemongrass, this baby is quite unique. Both sweet and tart with a nice crisp finish. Smooth and fruity.

31 Kings IPA (6.5% ABV) – Very well-balanced and malty. Nice hop flower aroma. Crisp, clean with a lovely hop finish.

About ten minutes away is the pride of Fullerton, CA: Bootlegger’s Brewery. Located in the historic district B102ootlegger’s has been churning out the liquid gold since 2008. There is a lovely, large beer garden just outside the door.

Tropical Thunder Pale Ale (5.3% ABV) – Fruity, hoppy aroma. Well-balanced fruit body, but not sweet. Lovely hop finish.

Mountain Meadow Honey Blonde (5.5% ABV) – This little beauty was like drinking a nice glass of iced herbal tea. Honey, sage notes throughout with interesting “tea-like” qualities. Nicely balanced and finishes softly sweet. Gorgeous!

Old World Hefewiezen (5.0% ABV) – If you like german wheat beers (me, me, me) then you will really enjoy this one! Bubble gum, banana clove aroma. Sweet, honey and flowers in the body. Nicely done.

I wish I could have spent more time in “So Cal.” There are so many more new breweries yet to hit. I’ll keep you posted next time I go.






The Best of Orange County (part 4) April 5, 2011

As my series on Orange County pubs and microbreweries comes to a close I decided to save the best for last. The Olde Ship Pub & Restaurant and Heroes Bar & Grill are two Orange County icons that are very near and dear to my heart.

For close to eighteen years The Olde Ship in Fullerton, CA has been serving up some of the best and most authentic British beers and cuisine in Orange County. Upon first entering this cozy little pub (and I do mean little), you are surrounded by all things British. Low ceilings, dark wood paneling and beams, and more Queen Elizabeth stuff than Buckingham Palace! The Olde Ship prides itself on being British owned and operated, the almost completely British staff is warm, friendly and welcoming. In fact, The Olde Ship catch phrase is “You’ll be a stranger here but once.” What’s on tap? The best of Britain of course! Brews such as Boddingtons, Harp, Smithwick’s (pronounced “smidicks”), Abbot Ale, Fullers London Pride, Old Speckled Hen, and Blackthorn Cider are poured almost non-stop. And no British pub is complete without Guinness on tap.

The Olde Ship also serves some great, rustic, authentic pub food. The fish and chips are some of the best in Orange County along with “Bounty’s Bangers & Mash” and “Churchill’s Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding.” And the dessert…good night nurse! You haven’t lived until you’ve tried the Rhubarb Crumble or the Sticky Toffee Pudding.  If you are with a large group of friends, you may want to check out their larger, roomier location in Santa Ana, CA. The Olde Ship was the first British pub I ever stepped foot in and remains one of my all time favorite pubs. If you’re looking for a great place to sit back, relax, and actually have a conversation with your “mates” without yelling to be heard, the Old Ship is your place.

Up the road a few blocks sits the pub that started it all for me; Heroes Bar & Grill. It was here in this eclectic, unique, fun pub 17 years ago that my husband introduced me to my first “real” beer. That moment forever changed how I looked at not just microbreweries, but the beer culture in general. The walls and ceiling are saturated with antiques, vintage beer advertisements, and old photographs humbling one to remember that there were others enjoying life long before we were. Kick through the peanut shell covered floor, mosey up to the bar and stand in awe of the 119 beers on tap. Say what? Yes, 119 wonderful beers from around the world on tap! But don’t be overwhelmed, the bartenders are very knowledgeable about what they are pouring and can help you choose the right brew for you. Luckily for me, three of the beers on tap that day were from Bootlegger’s Brewery, Orange County’s newest and most exciting microbrewery.

I started off with Bootlegger’s Old World Hefeweizen. This unfiltered beauty has the gorgeous banana clove and wheat aroma that I just love. Clean, crisp and lightly hopped, this is a well balanced beer. Next up was the Palomino American Pale Ale. This ale had a smooth, creamy, almost nitro-feel with subtle hints of orange, spice and hops. I really enjoyed this ale. Lastly, I was pummeled by the Knuckle Sandwich Double IPA. I knew this beer wasn’t going to be a cakewalk; it’s a Double IPA after all. But, what I didn’t expect was to actually enjoy it. This IPA deceptively starts out smooth and then POW! Knuckle Sandwich punches you right in the face. I enjoyed the beers from Bootlegger’s and look forward to sampling their other brews.

Orange County is amazing. There’s no other place like it on earth and I look forward to my next visit and see what other new hot spots crop up. I hope you enjoyed my series on the Best of Orange County. Now, back to the PNW.




The Best of Orange County (part 3) March 28, 2011

Microbreweries lightly dot Orange County, each brewing with their own style and character.  Two of these breweries have become staples in the “OC.” Tustin Brewery has been serving up some of the best award-winning beers in Orange County since 1996.  Resembling a French château, Tustin brewery is just as pretty outside as it is inside. When visiting a few weeks ago we were somewhat limited on time. But, we did sample some of the “good stuff.”

Being a fan of wheat beers, I enjoyed the Lemon Heights Hefeweizen. Unfiltered and spicy with hints of lemon, this light hefeweizen would go great with any meal. You will definitely want to forgo the lemon it is served with. This flavorful beer doesn’t need it.  The American Pale Ale had a great hoppy aroma and flavor. Grapefruit and lemon gave this pale ale a great kick and clean finish. Lastly, we enjoyed Jackson’s Double IPA. For you “hop heads” out there, this beer is for you. Hardcore hops and citrus aroma hit you as soon as you raise you glass. The taste? Grapefruit and pine pulverize the palate. This beer is not for wimps.

Located directly across the street from the Honda Center in Anaheim, JT Schmid’s Restaurant and Brewery has become a permanent fixture in the “OC.” The restaurant is large, contemporary and chic. The beer isn’t bad either. I ordered the taster and started off with the JT Light.  Very light yellow in color, it looked more like lemonade than beer. But the flavor was anything but. JT Light has a sweet, straw flavor, a soft wheat aroma, and a crisp finish and would go great with a meal or on its own.

JT’s California Hefeweizen is another great “anytime” beer. The floral, spicy aroma grabs you and the banana clove and citrus flavor seals the deal. Yummy! Next up was the Anaheim India Pale Ale. This medium bodied ale is a bit on the hoppy side with flavors of grapefruit, caramel and orange. It’s an easy pale ale to drink so at 6.9 % ABV I had to watch my intake. Emil’s Amber has a deep, pretty red color. German hops are used to give a nutty, caramel flavor to this lightly hopped, malty brew.

 JT Schmid’s Extra Stout is ink-black and has a thick, tan head. I caught a whiff of brown sugar and roasted coffee. The flavor was every girls dream…dark chocolate! This was a full-bodied beer that should be sipped on its own. Lastly on my taster tray was the America Brown. This full-bodied brown ale was toasty, smooth and slightly bitter. Hints of molasses and brown sugar sweetened it up, but almost to the point of sickening sweet. Not bad, but a bit over the top on the sweetness.

When beginning the Best of Orange County I originally planned on a three-part series. But, there are still a few more hot spots worth mentioning so, being a female, I changed my mind. The fourth and final entry on my week in Orange County is coming soon!




The Best of Orange County (Part 2) March 20, 2011

If you have never been to a Southern California beach, you are really missing out. The sand is beautiful and white, the board walks and piers are filled with great shops and restaurants, and on a clear day you can see Catalina Island.  

Nestled along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway (“PCH” to the locals), Huntington Beach is unpretentious, beautiful, and the most laid back of the Orange County beach towns. Located just a half-block from PCH is the Huntington Beach Beer Company. If you are looking for great food, wonderful beer, and a gorgeous ocean view, this is your place. But enough of my rambling, let’s get to the beer!

Golden Bear Brown Ale is an English style ale that is dark amber in color, and the aroma and flavor is reminiscent of iced coffee.   I’m not a huge fan of IPA’s, but the brewery’s Indicator IPA could make me a believer. This IPA is unfiltered with light hops and the flavor and aroma of citrus and jasmine flowers. Indicator IPA is a wonderfully flavorful, spicy beer for spring.  Uncle Wilford’s Irish Red Ale is medium-bodied and has a sweet aroma and nice butterscotch flavor. The Irish Red would go very well with a burger. My favorite brew from HB Beer Co. is the Huntington Beach Blonde Ale. Light gold in color, this pretty ale has a sweet, floral aroma and a crisp, clean finish. The Blonde Ale is a perfect beach beer.

A few miles down PCH is another great seaside town with another great brewery. Newport Beach Brewing Company opened its doors in 1995 becoming Orange County’s second brewery. Brewing according to the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516, or “Reinheitsgebot”, NB Brewing crafts some of the best, award-winning beers in Orange County. My father-in-law and I enjoyed The Wedge Weizen and the Newport Beach Blonde. Beautifully unfiltered, The Wedge Weizen has that wonderful banana clove aroma and flavor that I just adore and slight hints of fruit nicely round this beer out. The Newport Beach Blonde is another perfect beach or poolside brew. It’s light, crisp and floral with a nice clean finish. Scott really liked the Pelican Pale Ale. Using Cascade hops, the pale ale is dry hopped giving it a great citrus flavor and aroma. 

The beaches of Orange County are like no others I have been to. Maybe I’m a bit partial, being a Southern California girl, but one only needs to walk down the shoreline and piers to understand how lucky we are to have a beautiful coastline.

 Part three of The Best of Orange County is coming soon!





The Best of Orange County (part 1) March 17, 2011

It has only been ten months since our last visit to my beloved Orange County, but it seems like a lifetime. Blue sky, fluffy white clouds and beautiful 75 degree weather stayed with us throughout our entire trip. Don’t get me wrong, I love the PNW, but in the words of Dorothy Gale, “There’s no place like home.”

Orange County has always had a strong pub scene, but new pubs are opening up all the time and micro-breweries are finally starting to make their presence known. In the next three blogs I’m going to share some of my favorite haunts and a few new breweries and pubs that have cropped up the last few years. Trust me; Orange County, California is more than just Disneyland!

First stop…The Auld Irisher in Orange, CA. Located in the Stadium Promenade just steps from the Honda Center; The Auld Irisher prides itself as Orange County’s first authentic Irish pub. To create the feel of an authentic Irish pub, theentire pub was hand crafted in Dublin, Ireland then imported and assembled where it stands today by Irish tradesman. The pub pours a great selection of traditional Irish and British beers along with many guest taps. The food is as authentic as you can get and the atmosphere is warm and cozy. It’s a great place to hang out with friends and has an outside patio. The downside? Classic rock blasting through the speakers until the live band starts. Call me crazy, but an “authentic” Irish pub should be playing authentic Irish music. We visit The Auld Irisher whenever in town.

One of Orange County’s newest breweries, The Bruery, opened a tasting room in Old Town Orange. Scott and I have wanted to sample these brews for a couple of years now and we finally had our chance last week. The tasting room itself is quite nice. The seating area is cozy and you can also purchase cheese and meat platters to go with your beer or wine flight. There is quite a selection of micro-brews, import beers and wine available for purchase in bottles. I’m a huge fan of Belgian-style beer and The Bruery specializes in crafting such brews. We sampled 12 of The Bruery’s own beers but for the sake of time (and the fear of rambling on) I will touch on a few of our favorites. 

My husband’s favorite beer, and one we could both agree on, was the Loakal Red. The Bruery uses Centennial hops and age the ale in American oak barrels for a truly unique flavor. This is a hoppy, medium to full-bodied ale with hints of caramel, vanilla, and pine tree. Loakal Red is an interesting and delicious ale. My two personal favorites are the Orchard White and the Imperial White Orchid.  Orchard White is a Belgian-style wit beer spiced with coriander, citrus peel and lavender. Yes, lavender. The aroma is heavenly and the taste is just as sweet. The Imperial White Orchid is another lovely spring time beer but a bit strong in alcohol, 9% ABV to be exact. Brewed with orange peel, coriander and nutmeg, this beer has a very pretty honey, floral aroma and taste. The Bruery is quickly making a name for itself and has fast become an Orange County favorite.

As you can see our first two days in Orange County were filled to the brim. Once we got past the sticker shock of $6.00 pints we had a wonderful time. Part 2 of my 3-part blog will be posted in a few days.




where the heck am i? March 13, 2011

I’m in Orange Co., California checking out the pub and micro-brew scene. Will fill you all in when I get back!




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