Playami Beer Garden in Playas de Tijuana

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The craft beer scene in Baja California continues to grow with the opening earlier this year of Playami, a beer garden by Border Psycho, located in Playas de Tijuana. Playas is a short, $10 Uber from the border, it’s a small, sleepy beach town that everyone drives by on their way to Rosarito and Ensenada. I have friends that have lived there for the past 5 years and on my first visit I was surprised by how quiet the town is, but that was 5 years ago and there is now a fun night life. 5 years ago if you wanted to drink and whoop it up you had to go to Tijuana so with the opening of Playami you can just walk or Uber it over and enjoy craft beer from 5 Baja breweries. Yep, Border Psycho has not only their delicious suds on the menu but they carry beer from Insurgente, Agua Mala, Fauna and Wendlant. There is also Mezcal, tequila and wine on the menu and if you’re hankering for a Heineken they have that too!

But wait, there’s more..

Border Psycho Brewery was founded in 2010 by brothers, Roberto and Javier Albarran, and they have built one of the most popular Baja craft beer breweries in Tijuana and are distributed throughout Southern California, they also collaborate with San Diego brewery, Mason Ale Works. Playami is their third tasting room and they went all in with a coffee roaster, Sur A Norte, that opens at 8 am, Karbon, a grill that also open at 8 am for breakfast, wine from Valle de Guadalupe and the 36 to 40 taps of beer. The tasting room is very comfortable, there’s plenty of room inside and the patio outside is pet friendly and features second story patio to soak in the rays while you enjoy the food and drink.

On my first visit I enjoyed some shrimp tacos with a few brews, I had the hoppy Mako Pale Ale from Agua Mala and then I had to try the Zonkey Coffee Stout which is a collab with Mason Ale Works, this version was barrel aged and was so good! My second visit was to try the coffee, I went with a French Press of some mild roast beans from Veracruz and an order of churros that were made in house. Awesome!! The third wave coffee movement game is strong in Playas, they source their beans from different regions in Mexico and I found them to all be very tasty.

Playami is a one stop, get your beer/coffee/food/tequila/mezcal kind of a place, a real game changer as far as I’m concerned. Everything was top quality, the menu at Karbon had a good variety from breakfast, lunch, dinner and appetizers. If you don’t want the hassle of dealing with traffic in Tijuana I would definitely make a trip to Playas de Tijuana! Cheers!!

Playami is located at 795 Av, Paseo Ensenada, Playas de Tijuana

 

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WELCOME TO GUNWHALE BREWERY AND TAPROOM CITY OF ORANGE
Gunwhale Brewery and Taproom

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The award winning brewery, Gunwhale Ales, has opened a second location in the city of Orange. This new Brewery and Taproom is a few blocks east of Anaheim Stadium and just south of the Honda Center, it’s also a few minutes from Old Towne Orange. The address is 1501 W. Orangewood Ave., it’s set in an industrial park across from El Camino Park, with a huge outdoor patio this new Gunwhale Brewery and Taproom will be the perfect spot to chill before an Angel game, Duck game or concert.

Gunwhale Ales was founded in 2016 by Justin Miller, JT Wallace and Bobby Fitzgerald, in 2017 they brought on Head Brewmaster and Orange native, Kevin Hammons, they specialize in yeast driven Saisons and Farmhouse Ales. In 2018 they won a Bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival for their Classic Saison, Hayshaker. Along with the Saisons you will find a great variety of IPA’s, Hazy IPA’s, Sours and Stouts. On my recent visit I enjoyed Shellmaker 5.5% ABV Oyster Dry Stout, using whole oysters in the boil this stout was such a treat. A hint of brine with a full roasty stout profile and at 5.5% it’s not so boozy woozy, it was extremely enjoyable. Of course I couldn’t leave without having a Hayshaker 6.4% ABV, it truly is a Classic! Crisp and refreshing, this Saison is on point!

The Taproom is nice and roomy, plenty of seating with a view of the production area, this new location will allow Gunwhale to increase their output and creativity. Like their Costa Mesa location the founders have put their personal stamp on the art and woodwork both inside and out. There’s plenty of parking and it’s pet friendly with a family atmosphere. Food trucks will be scheduled but if you know the area there are plenty of places to pick up a bite. I have the number of the local Zito’s Pizza on speed dial if you want it!! 🍕🍻😊

I encourage my fellow homebrewers, Cerveceros and Cerveceras, to visit Gunwhale Brewery and Taproom for some tasty brews, let’s meet up! Cheers and Congratulations to everyone at Gunwhale Ales on  the new location!!

Gunwhale Brewery and Taproom, 1501 W. Orangewood Ave.,Ste 101 Orange Ca 92686  949-239-9074

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Landing Strip Raspberry Blonde Ale; SoCal Cerveceras!
SoCal Cerveceras Brew Day

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Every weekend homebrewers meet up for a brew day which typically can last 6 to 8 hours so food is also included in the planning. They will decide on the style of beer that will be brewed, build the recipe, maybe add some fruit, coffee or spices to the mix. Typically brew days are male dominant occasions but on this particular brew day in a backyard in South Central Los Angeles the participants were all female. They are all members of the fastest growing Latino homebrew club in the United States, SoCal Cerveceros, the club was founded in 2015 in a backyard with 6 friends and at last count has over 150 members. With the encouragement of co-founder and current club President, Ray Ricky Rivera, the women of the club wanted to get together for an all women brew day so they invited current female members and home brew curious friends to the home of Laurie Gutierrez. The results of that brew day were a Raspberry Blonde Ale (using Kölsch yeast) that was labeled Landing Strip, the members also named their group SoCal Cerveceras and became a group within the SoCal Cerveceros. 👏👏👏👏

A momentous event especially when diversity in craft beer is a major topic. A recent Boston Globe article addressed this issue, titled, “Craft beer’s diversity problem: Too many white male hipsters” written by Shirley Leung was blunt and to the point, “whites account for 77 percent of the market, while Hispanics are 10.6 percent, blacks constitute 5.4 percent, and Asians are 5.1 percent”. The Brewers Association recently appointed a Diversity Ambassador, Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham, this past April SoCal Cervecero co-founder Agustin Ruelas was invited to participate in a panel conducted by Dr. J, as she is known in the craft beer community, at the Craft Brewers Conference held in Denver, a seat at the table is always a good first step.

Women brewing craft beer shouldn’t be such a surprise, the original brewers were women, dating back to 1800 B.C., Ninkasi Sumerian Goddess of Beer, women were the brewers up until the 1500’s when men formed brewing guilds and started to make specific rules for brewing. In 2007 Teri Fahrendorf founded the Pink Boots Society, the first meeting was held with 22 women and now has a worldwide presence to help promote and train women in the craft beer community. In Atlanta you can find the Dames and Dregs Beer Festival which honors past, present, and future women in the beer industry.

The first brew day of the SoCal Cerveceras was led by Laurie Gutierrez of Cimarron Street’s Finest, (she brews delicious ciders), Janet Aguilar of Wasted Brewery, Janet brews with her boyfriend, Sal Bernal, they can be found drinking beer from Ensenada to Delaware and everywhere in between, and Tyler Sadler, Tyler started brewing in her kitchen in 1 gallon batches. The other Cerveceras in attendance were Catrina Acosta, Maria Preciado, Melanie Faure, Sarah Flora, Ash Eliot, Jackie Correjo, Lourdes Ceja, Marie Madrid and Adriana Bautista. I was fortunate to get a couple of swigs of Landing Strip, it was very crisp and refreshing, the Kölsch yeast was a great idea, it gave the Blonde Ale that extra brightness, the raspberry was subtle, not too sweet at all, it was perfect for the summer heat. The next SoCal Cervecera brew day is tentatively planned for November, follow the Cerveceras on Instagram for any future news and info.

The importance of the SoCal Cerveceras can not be understated, the group is open to all levels of experienced women brewers, it’s a great opportunity for anyone that is interested in learning about craft beer, I’d like to tell you more about the SoCal Cerveceras Brew Day but what happens in South Central, Stays in South Central!!!

BobbyKnowsBeer! Cheers!!

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SoCal Cerveceros presents ColdXela 2019
How I went from Writing about SoCal Cerveceros to brewing with Socal Cerveceros

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On April 27, 2019 SoCal Cerveceros held ColdXela 2019 in Downtown L.A. at La Plaza de Cultura y Artes. SoCal Cerveceros is the largest Latino focused home brew club in the United States, they formed in 2015, with a handful of members and now have 140 members and counting. In 2018 Anchor Brewing named them the 2018 California Homebrew Club of the Year, many of the members are award winning home brewers and soon a few of the groups will be opening their own breweries.

I’ve been writing about the group since 2017, at the time I was  the beer critic for the OC Weekly, my editor, Gustavo Arellano, forwarded an email sent by then SoCal Cervecero Vice-President Ray Ricky Rivera, an invitation to their event, the email also included a short promotional video that I watched over and over again because I couldn’t believe that these Latino homebrewers existed. I had been approached earlier that year by a couple of guys looking to make a documentary about homebrewers and asked if I knew any POC brewers. Of course I said no, in my visits to the breweries in Orange County the only person of color was usually me, I even asked around and I couldn’t come up with anyone, male or female. But here they were brewing in plain sight, the SoCal Cerveceros! That year the event  featured 9 groups and was a great success which led to last year’s Coldchela 2018 with 20 groups pouring their home brewed beers and 400 people attending. I was a judge at last year’s event and I was considered an honorary member until this past year when I joined as a full member. This review will not be about the specific beers poured at this year’s event, sorry, I will tell you how I went from writing about beer to brewing my own beer and pouring it at ColdXela 2019. I’ve been on the brink of homebrewing but I wasn’t quite ready, now that I have retired I have plenty of time to brew, I had a lot of help along the way, which is one of the reasons for joining a home brew club. If you are interested in home brewing this story might help you decide, there are home brew clubs everywhere and I recommend joining one for the support.

I initially hesitated at home brewing because I knew that I would disappear into my garage and no one would ever see me again, which pretty much did happen. This isn’t a hobby you can just dabble in, especially at first, there is so much to learn, whoever told me that brewing beer was easy was lying!! Ha! Writing about craft beer gave me an insight to what goes on in the craft beer community, then when I decided to start my own website so that I could write more than just reviews I also conducted interviews with a couple of home brewers and I then had a front row seat to their world. My very first interview was with Thien Le, an award winning home brewer from Anaheim, he belongs to the OC Mashups, they meet at Barley Forge Brewing in Costa Mesa. We of course talked quite a bit for his interview, we then have become friends and he has been a tremendous help, I hope I can follow in his footsteps and eventually win a few awards, if not I want to at least brew a decent beer for my friends. I was very interested in the brew in a bag method of brewing beer, I even attended a class  in Santa Ana at El Indio Cerveza y Botanas, held by bartender and homebrewer, Robert Ramirez,  it was very helpful in making my decision, Robert and his girlfriend, Bee Ramirez(@beer_and_adventures on IG) also poured at ColdXela 2019, they’re brewery is named Obscuridad Brewing, follow them on the gram.

I decided to buy a Grainfather brewing system when I saw one on Craigslist selling for $500, they cost $1000 brand new so I asked Thien(who brews with one) if that was a good deal, he said, “if you don’t buy it I will!” Done! The seller had a stainless steel fermenter which I also bought along with a few odds and ends. I bought most of my stuff on Craigslist, it’s cheaper but beware that you should know exactly what you are buying, the fermenter was missing the racking tube which I had no idea what that was until I was going to brew one day and realized that I needed to buy one. My mistake for not knowing!! You can get good deals on CL but please do your research or have an experienced brewer go with you so they can help inspect the item. It took me a few months to accumulate the parts and equipment for my brewery, chest freezer I bought new, mini fridge I found one on CL, CO2 tank CL, everything else I am going to Windsor Home Brew Supply Co. in Costa Mesa, Scott is very helpful, he carries just about everything you need to brew.

My first brewday I started at 10 am to clean and sanitize my equipment, first rule about brewing: Clean. Clean. Clean. Then Clean some more. I worked for 43 years as a meatcutter and having a clean shop was also a very important rule in the meat department so I’m pretty good at getting everything spic and span. My Grainfather works hand in hand with my iPad where I have the Grainfather app, as a beginner I feel the need to have as much guidance as I can get and the app will tell you what you need to do as you brew, when to add the hops, it will automatically start the boil, etc. I also watched a ton of videos on YouTube so I could get familiar with the Grainfather but nothing can prepare you for anything until you actually do it. I found this out right away, my first mistake, and I made plenty, led to all the other mistakes that I would encounter on my first brewday. I really fucked up and I’m still surprised that the beer survived and was drinkable, it took me 12 hours to finish brewing my first beer. It reminded me of my first time skiing, my friends took me to Snow Summit and we went to the top of the ski slope, they said see you at the bottom! It took me over an hour to get to the bottom, I was exhausted.

When my water got to the right temp and the Grainfather app indicated to start the mash, I forgot to put the basket in the Grainfather, I started the mash and I felt like, wow, this is cool, I’m making beer, then about halfway through I saw the basket and realized I made a huge error, I had my brother help me pour out the mash into a bucket and put the basket into the Grainfather, I then poured back the mash and continued, everything seemed fine, it took me until the next day to realize that when we lifted the Grainfather to pour out the mash, we partially pulled out the power cord, the cord did eventually fall out right when the water got to the boil temp, it took me some time to figure out what to do, we reset the Grainfather, I panicked when the power went out, I didn’t know what was going on so I threw all the hops and orange zest into the wort, I thought if this is the hottest it’s going to get I better get these hops in there. I don’t have a kettle or I would have just continued to boil the traditional way. Everything just seemed to take so much time, once I got it going again, cooling down the wort took forever, I finally got it into the fermenter around midnight, I was done. I closed the garage up, went inside and said to no one, who wants to buy a Grainfather!

I did take a gravity reading but honestly I don’t know what it read, I was too tired. A week later I checked on the beer, it tasted ok, a little hoppy and the finish was somewhat bitter. On the tenth day I added a can of mango puree and some Tajin, I wanted to see if that would temper down the hoppiness and mask the bitterness. After another week I kegged and carbonated it at 30 psi, I didn’t taste it at that point I wanted to wait. Two days later I poured a glass, it was foamy, I think there’s a leak in the gas out post, after it settled it tasted fine, I’ve had worse, it wasn’t going to win any awards but as I sat there I poured a few tasters and I liked it. It wasn’t what I intended it to be, an Anchor Steam clone, but I felt I could pour it at SoCal Cerveceros event, ColdXela, so I emailed the club Presidente, Ray Ricky Rivera, he told me that someone had dropped out so I was in luck, there was a spot for me. Yay!

ColdXela 2019 had 52 brewers, we were paired up so there were 26 tents, my partner was Daniel Moreno, his specialty is ciders and he’s very good at making them. There were 3 live bands, DJ’s and food vendors, the event attracted 1500 craft beer enthusiasts, it was a tremendous success raising money for the Gumball Foundation. I brought my one keg and knew I would run out which would give me time to walk around and try some of the beers, well it got pretty busy, we had a great time pouring and talking to all the guests, which included the founders of Cerveza XTECA, Fred Sotelo, Mario Lopez and Xavier the X-Man, they were very gracious with their support and advice. Also in attendance were David and Carmen Favela, owners of Border X Brewing, they also tried and liked my Orange County Common, I’m looking forward to visiting their new Brewery in the city of Bell, where fellow Cervecero, Lewis Martinez of Preston Brewing is working his hops off.  When my beer kicked at 4:30 I was too tired to walk anywhere, my brother and I just kicked back and watched everyone else as most of the other brewers also ran out of beer. I saw a lot of feedback on Instagram and from what I read everyone had a fantastic time trying all the different styles of beers that were offered, IMHO at niche craft beer festivals like ColdXela you will find more experimental type of beers that you won’t find at the commercial type of fests, homebrewers brew usually in 5 gallon batches and will take more risks with exotic adjuncts than a bigger commercial brewery that brews in huge amounts.

I wish I could tell you about the different beers that were poured at ColdXela 2019, I talked to Sarah Bennett for a bit so I hope she will write a review, I can tell you that it was an amazing experience from the brewer point of view, I received constructive criticism from my fellow brewers, for the most part they said I did good for my first time brewing, the guests liked my beer, I provided lime juice and Tajin on the rim of their cups, that was a big hit. My next beer to brew will be an British IPA, I like maltier beers, I learned a lot just watching how the experienced brewers set up their equipment, next year I hope to bring more than one keg, because next year’s ColdXela will be bigger and better!! Cheers!!!  BobbyBrewsBeer!!

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2019 Ensenada Beer Fest!

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Before I tell you how much fun the 2019 Ensenada Beer Fest was why don’t you tell me why you didn’t go? You don’t like craft beer from 120 breweries?  You don’t like Live music from 5 different stages?  Or maybe you don’t like great food, not just Mexican food but everything from pizza to sushi was offered at this year’s Fest. This was the ninth year of the EBF and it just keeps getting better, the music was great, more live acts this year, the beer was also markedly improved, so let me say this for those in the back, Go! Go! Go! to next year’s EBF!!

Our trip started with a pit stop for lunch in Rosarito, we stopped at Tacos El Yaqui, if you have never been then mark this on your foodie bucket list. These tacos are BOMB! Please refer to the picture I posted, they are huge, they’re packed with carne asada that is grilled right before your eyes, then they add beans, guacamole, salsa all in a sturdy AF flour tortilla. I had 2 of these bad boys but I probably should have just had 1 so my food coma wasn’t so intense.  We drove in on Thursday, the event is on Friday and Saturday and tickets go for $500 pesos( about $25 to $27) beers are not included but they do offer very small tasters for free, a pint will go for $3.50. If you only want to attend one night then buy your tickets ASAP because Saturday sells out fast. I attend on Friday so tickets were still available on the day of the event. If you don’t want to drive there are groups that meet in San Diego and take the bus R/T, Google Ensenada Beer fest 2019 and you will find different groups, some even offering hotels if you want to stay the night. We go on Friday and leave Saturday for the Valle de Guadalupe, but that’s another review.

We stayed right across the street at the Corona Hotel and Spa, there’s also Airbnb available and of course other hotels but book early for the best deals! Friday we had a great breakfast at my favorite spot in downtown Ensenada, El Rey Sol, It’s an old school restaurant with a big dining room complete with a piano player tickling the ivories as you eat, I really enjoyed the shrimp omelette with a slightly spicy cilantro sauce. YUM! For lunch we paid a visit to Tacos El Fenix, some of the best shrimp and fish tacos in town! The Beer fest started at 4 PM so we wanted to make sure we had a good base going, we’re professionals. Ha!

It was almost 5 PM by the time we walked into the fest, outside I could hear the music and I was surprised that it was a live band playing, I thought a DJ was playing, the band was so good, Pearl Jam, RATM, The Cure, Nirvana, one after another they killed it! My first beer was a Hazy IPA from Heisenberg Brewing, they won a Gold Medal for it and it was GOOOOOD!!! Seriously. Very good stuff from one of the oldest breweries in Ensenada. Cheers! We went around trying little tasters from different breweries, all good too, I finally had a full pour from another old school joint, Insurgente, I was hoping they would be pouring their version of Xocoveza but no luck, I did enjoy their La Lupulosa, their intense IPA that is both hoppy and malty, best of both worlds. Viva Mexico! From there I went to visit my buddy, Charlie Carillo from Zombie Labs, last year they had won for a stout and again this year they won again! Click the link for our interview! Everything is going great with Charlie except that they had to close their tasting room in downtown Ensenada, they are looking for another location, I hope so, their beer is tasty!! I drank a full pour of Zombie Lab’s stout then went inside the complex to meet up with some friends, this year like the year’s past we have a great group of friend’s that we meet up with and get muy borracho, this year I also met up with a few friends from the home brew club I belong to, SoCal Cerveceros, the largest and fastest growing Latino home brew club in America. There’s another stage inside so we enjoyed some salsa music and a few more beers. I also met Paul Woronicz, originally from Boston but has lived and brewed in Ensenada for the last 10 years, he is the owner of Old Mission Brewing, his mole stout was phenomenal!! After drinking a full pour of the mole stout I went to say hi to Benjamin Wood who I had met last year at EBF, he is owner of Hairy Nose Brewery from Tijuana, he told me that he’s pouring his suds in a tasting room in Tijuana called Colectivo Cervecero La 20 Tasting Room. I’m looking forward to paying a visit to La 20 on my next visit to Tijuana. Ajua!

Unfortunately this is all I can remember, Ha! I did notice that there were not as many breweries from San Diego this year. In the past there was always a few, in fact last year there were at least 10. I hope you try to make next year’s Ensenada Beer fest, you won’t be disappointed! Cheers!!

 

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Road Trip! Mason Ale Works/Urge Gastropub and Whiskey Bank in Oceanside
Mason Ale Works

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I’ve always enjoyed the brews from Mason Ale Works, they do so many collabs and I feel that their Respeto Mexican Lager is one of the best in that category, hints of corn on the back end remind me of a fresh tortilla. So when my pal, Rudy, asked if I’d like to go with him and another friend to Mason Ale Works in Carlsbad on Ash Wednesday in the rain during the day I was like, Helles Yeah!

We left before 10 a.m. and got there shortly after 11 a.m., it was a quick trip, light traffic and minimal rain, you take the 5 south and take the 78, Hop Highway,  into Carlsbad, from there it’s about ten minutes. The Oceanside area is where the Hop Highway begins, starting with Bagby Beer Company and Mason Ale Works you will encounter a third of all breweries in San Diego County as you go East towards Julian. Road Trip!!

Mason Ale Works is part of Urge Gastropub and Whiskey Bank, which is a member of 3LocalBrother.com group of businesses, owned by Grant Tondro, and brothers Nate and Zac Higson. This location opened in 2015, their original Urge opened in 2010 and they just opened another brewery/gastropub in San Marcos(Hop Highway West). We found our seats at the bar and sat there admiring the beautiful restaurant, it’s located in a former bank and you can still see the bank vault doors. In case you don’t drink beer Urge carries 260 whiskeys and 30 wines, they pour 40 draft beers, 26 from Mason Ale Works. With so many beers to choose from we decided to do some tasters so we can try as many different styles as we could. Of course I had the Respeto, I also had Donny’s, their Pilsner, Charley Hustle, their Red Ale and so many more. We had a great lunch, I enjoyed the Wedge Salad, Rudy attacked the cheeseburger with fries, the menu is impressive like everything else. I have to say that my favorite beer was Jackie, a cream ale or as they describe it their take on a white Russian, notes of coffee, vanilla and cinnamon made this a super enjoyable and different brew.

We decided we would definitely come back but next time take the Amtrak from Santa Ana, it’s a $12 trip one way or about $25 roundtrip, well worth it because also in this area is the aforementioned Bagby Beer Company check out their website for food menu and their phenomenal beer menu. Road Trip!!  #BobbyKnowsBeer

 

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Santa Ana River Brewing Company is OPEN!!
Santa Ana River Brewing Company

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The doors are finally opened at Orange County’s newest brewery, Santa Ana River Brewing Company, three years I’ve been following their journey on Instagram and I’m happy to say it was worth the wait. Geoff Brand, Mike Miller and Ian Maddux are the homebrewers behind the hops and grain, they are focusing on hoppy, West Coast Style beers but the menu has a little bt of everything for everyone.

SARB (Santa Ana River Brewing) is located in the south western corner of Santa Ana, near the corner of Harbor and Warner, the address is 3480 W. Warner but it’s actually set back in a newer looking industrial building complex anchored by a Self Storage unit. It might be hard to find at first but once you do find your way you’ll be welcomed by one or all three of the brewers, they are a very friendly group and will help you decide on your choice of suds. The area when you first walk in is where you order your beer, you can sit there at the bar or go back into their large warehouse area where all the brewing equipment is. It’s cool to see that they still use their homebrewing set up to brew beer, using it for small batches which I’m looking forward to. This part of Orange County is totally devoid of fresh brewed beer, Fountain Valley is close by as well as Costa Mesa, and they’re a welcome addition to the other breweries in Santa Ana. Drink Up People! 😄

I started off my visit with the Par for the Course Pale Ale 6.4% ABV, Single Hop w/Citra, very refreshing, hop forward but not bitter at all. Delicious! Sometimes Pale Ales are, well, Pale, no body, just blah, not Par for the Course, this Pale would compliment a juicy steak or burger, YUM! I then had to have the Saigon Stout 6.8% ABV Nitro Milk Stout w/Cascade Hops and Vietnamese coffee. Smooth AF! The coffee is from a local roaster, Delta Café Roasting, excellente!! Rich, wonderful flavors, one of the best Stouts around. Next up was the FarCryo All Cryo Hops IPA 7.4% ABV using Simcoe, Citra and Mosaic. Fantastic IPA, again this beer was super hop forward but with no bitterness, smooth, enjoyable, so much going on with all the hops.

I was told to let the homebrewing community know if you want to hold your meeting here you are more than welcome. SoCal Cerveceros let’s meet up! SARB is closed on Mondays but Tuesday they will start having a Trivia Night with a Taco Truck @tacos_el_gringo. For more information follow them on Instagram @santaanariverbrewing or www.santaanariverbrewing.com

Cheers! BobbyKnowsBeer!

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Happy 30th Birthday to the Real OG, Karl Strauss Brewing!
Karl Strauss Brewing in Anaheim and Costa Mesa

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Yes I know there is a brand new brewery in Downtown Disney, I’m sure it’s big and beautiful, the beer is probably pretty tasty but let’s hear it for the OG of breweries, still independent after 30 years! Happy Birthday to Karl Strauss Brewing! On February 2, 1989 two friends and one Uncle opened the first Karl Strauss Brewery on Columbia Street in San Diego. Before that date craft beer did not exist in San Diego, they were the first to brew hand crafted beer, recipes invented by a Master Brewer named Karl M. Strauss, uncle of Chris Cramer who along with his college roommate, Matt Rattner changed the world of beer as we know it. Bow Down!!

I have to be honest, the first time I reviewed Karl Strauss Brewing in Costa Mesa I assumed it was a corporate company with a made up name to sound official. I had even seen the real Karl Strauss introduce Social Distortion back in 2003 at the San Diego Street Scene, I assumed it was an actor named Karl Strauss who did all the events. Boy was I wrong! When Chris Cramer asked his uncle to help with opening their brewery, Karl had already helped as a consultant in planning 50 breweries and brewpubs. Mr. Strauss fled Nazi Germany in 1939, he had already been working in a brewery and ended up in Milwaukee at Pabst Brewing Company, he worked his way up the company, and after 44 years he retired in 1983. He worked at the company that carried his name until his death in 2006. #Respect

I recently paid a visit to the Karl Strauss Brewing location in Anaheim to celebrate my brother’s birthday, I hadn’t been there in quite awhile but the last time I was there everything was great, the service especially. On this visit things haven’t changed, from the moment we walked in we were treated very well, the staff at Karl Strauss are trained well and other restaurant’s should take notes. We all ordered our beers, I always will order from the beers that are brewed on premises, small batch brews that don’t last long and are always very good, the brewer at the Anaheim location is Jarrod Davis and he’s an exceptional brewer. The rest of the beer menu are the core beers and season beers of Karl Strauss Brewing. They have won  109 awards over the years with Red Trolley being one of the most popular. The waiters and bartenders have a nice habit of bringing you tasters of beers that pair with the food you order a nice touch. Be comfortable in knowing that whatever beer you order is going to be top shelf!

The food also excels at Karl Strauss Brewing. The executive chefs are constantly changing things according to season and as new beers are introduced they will have new food pairings. You have to try the pretzel bites fried in duck fat! Oh My! They pair with any of the beers on the menu, dip them in the aioli or ask for some mustard. I’m usually good with just those but since we were celebrating a birthday we all ordered burgers and I ordered the Mesquite Chicken sandwich that came with in house made chips. Everything was so good, my brothers enjoyed their burgers and when it came to dessert we mentioned to the waitress that the pickles were just the best we had and she brought us all an extra one!

Go over to Karl Strauss and enjoy the festivities as they celebrate their 30th! Here’s a link to a great interview I found in San Diego Magazine with owners, Chris Cramer and Matt Rattner. Still Brewing! Still Independent!!!  Cheers! BobbyKnowsBeer!

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My 2018 Year in Review, BobbyKnows….

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2018 is now a distant memory and I’m over my bout with the flu so let’s reminisce a bit. Craft beer enjoyed another year of growth and creativity, not only here but all over Southern Cali and Baja. I started the year writing for the OC Weekly and I eventually decided to do my own thing so I can write more than reviews, I’m thankful for my time with the Weekly as I watched Orange County go from about 18 breweries in 2016 to now almost 40 and more on the horizon. I now write about not only the local craft beer scene but I will cover Baja Norte, some L.A. and Long Beach, I’ll do homebrewing stories, interviews and food reviews. Yeah!

The first beer fest for 2018 was the DTLA Breweries United Fest 3.0, this was held in the Triangle Lot next to Angel City Brewery and featured the 7 breweries from the Art District. A small, intimate fest that was so much fun! This year’s fest is coming up on January 20th, take the train and Uber/Lyft over to the site, it’s $45 and Pearl’s BBQ will be offering food. Tickets available at Eventbrite.com

Next up in 2018 was the Ensenada Beer Fest held in early March. You got to check this fest out! 120 breweries from all over Mexico plus some San Diego breweries such as Stone Brewing and Mason Ale Works. This last Fest I met Charlie Carrillo from Zombie Brew Labs, check out my interview with Charlie here on my site, I also met Ryan Brooks from SouthNorte Beer Co. an up and coming brewery that I will be reviewing soon. The Fest  starts at 4pm till midnite, bring your dancing shoes and your stretchy pants! There’s so much besides the beer, music on three stages, food galore. Tickets are already on sale, price doesn’t include beer but you can get a taster for $1 or a pint for $3. I’ll be there for the Friday session so let’s meet up!

Next up was Coldchela 2108!! I was fortunate to be a judge at the biggest Latino homebrew club event, it was a blast! 20 groups of home brewers, 2 bands and DJ’s plus food! This event sold out so follow @socalceverceros for ticket info for Coldchela 2019 which will be held in April. I’ve been writing about SoCal Cerveceros for almost 3 years now, they started with a group of friends and now have over 100 members in their home brew group. Membership is opened to all, the more the merrier! Home brewing is a great hobby, it’s fun when you have the support of other members to help and share your brews with. Orange County has some big groups, they meet at different breweries, OC Mash Ups will meet at Barley Forge and Phantom Ales hosts 2 different clubs. I am getting ready to start brewing my own suds soon! 🍻

In 2018 Orange County breweries did well at two of the biggest competitions for craft beer, the World Beer Cup that was held in May in Nashville, Tennessee and the Great American Beer Fest which is held in Denver, Colorado in September. At the World Beer Cup Orange County breweries won 16 medals, an all time record, at GABF they took home 12 medals, another great showing. Now I’m not trying to start any beef with other cities or counties that claim to be the “Capitol of Craft Beer” or “Best Craft Beer City” but facts are facts. Your county/city might win more awards but how many breweries do you have? Uh huh. Right. With 35 breweries the chances of you drinking an award winning brew in Orange County is far greater than in any other metropolitan area in the United States. Fact! From San “Suds” Clemente to “AleAHeim” the quality of craft beer is The Best in the World. BOOM! Go ahead @ me!

In December I had the honor of teaming up with Sarah Raphael Garcia who runs the smallest, biggest book store in Downtown SanTana, Libromobile, it was her idea to pair Books and Beer which we held at Alta Baja Market located in the 4th Street Market. I’ve written more than a few times about the beer selection at Alta Baja, owner Delilah Snell does a fantastic job carrying local craft beer along with an extensive selection of Baja craft beer both in bottle and on draft, they also make 7 different Micheladas on premises, so we had plenty of beer to try! It was a great success and we plan on holding more Book and Beer tastings in 2019! 🍻📚

Here’s my list of some Best’s for 2018

Best Brewery: Tustin Brewery! Winning 2 medals at WBC a Gold and Bronze! But they win everyday at their home away from home in Tustin. Always a good time at TBC. RIP Kat

Best New Brewery: Gamecraft Brewing in Lake Forest. Owner Scott Cebula has put together a winning team, from Head Brewer Andrew Moy to the Crew in the kitchen making all that good grub! Keep on eye on those lagers!

Best Pro Am team that didn’t medal at GABF: Riip Brewing and Thien Le for Parts Unknown Pandan Stout. Smooth as silk and slightly sweet on the back end, what do those judges know anyways. Riip took Le’s award winning recipe and also did a coffee version that was out of this world! Looking forward to more collabs with Thien.

Best Coffee Roaster: Brot Coffee in Orange. I haven’t written my review(I’ve been sick!) but if you haven’t been then be prepared for some very good fresh roasted coffee beans with some Toast! ❤

Best Tacos: Anepalco in Orange( State College and Chapman location) hands down the best tacos I’ve had that were not from Mexico. Chef Danny fills his tacos to the pinche brim! Yeah they’re pricy but fuuuuuuuuck you get your dinero worth. Try the Hibiscus Margarita!

Best Taco Tuesday that doesn’t involve Tacos: Asylum Brewing in AleAHeim. Buy a pint and get a slice of pizza! Free! Helles yeah I’m down for a slice of pizza with an Achtung Lager! Tuesday!Tuesday! Tuesday!

Best Beer Dinner: Chapter One in Santa Ana paired 5 courses with Modern Times suds and the results were astounding! One course after another blew you away as did all the tasty craft beer. Look for more beer dinners in 2019 from Chapter One and Chef Chicken Wang!

Best Brewery in Tijuana: This is easy. Border Psycho on Revulocion. Basically I go there with intentions of visiting other breweries in Tijuana and I never leave. The beer is always great plus they have food and mescal! See you there! Ajua!

I hope your 2018 craft beers were as good as mine and here’s to 2019 and more excellent suds, more reviews!, more interviews!,  BobbyKnowsBeer!

 

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Gamecraft Brewing Grand Opening!!!!
Gamecraft Brewing

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Saturday, December 8th, is the official Grand Opening of Orange County’s newest brewery, Gamecraft Brewing. They’ve been in soft opening mode for a few months, getting everything ready, testing out food and brews, making sure all the kinks are out before they cut the ribbon on their beautiful Tasting Room and Game Room. Owner Scott Cebula has brought in award winning brewer, Andrew Moy, who won a Silver Medal for Riip Brewing at The Great American Beer Festival in 2016 for his Super Cali IPA. Hoppy suds are Andrew’s thang but at Gamecraft he will be offering Stouts, Ales, and plenty of Lagers. assisting Andrew with the brewing is Mike Ewoldt, They will be opening with 7 beers brewed in-house and about 6 guest beers, the lagers will be introduced soon, the first thing I noticed when I walked in was the 6 lagering tanks, yes, 6! Me thinks Andrew has big plans for those tanks and I can’t wait for the results, I’m going to go ahead and predict more awards for Andrew and Gamecraft Brewing down the road. 🥇

The Tasting Room is super comfortable, it’s managed by Demetria Dorame and Ian Frailey, there’s also a patio and a huge video game room, along with traditional board games you will have plenty of cool stuff to do while you enjoy the fresh suds and tasty pub style food. Lead cook is Jesse Robinson, he likes to give some of his dishes some kick so expect some spicy treats from the kitchen. There’s cheese and charcuterie boards, flatbreads, karaage chicken( get the hyper-spice), pulled pork sandwiches, tots, and both entrée empanadas and dessert empanadas. Everything can become addictive, it’s so good, if you order an empanada take a close look at the custom stamp, a nice touch.

On my visit I had the Not Your Father’s Brut Beer IPA 6.3%(ABV) super fresh and crisp, nice and dank some notes of fruit and finished very clean. Another in-house brew was the Imperial Stout, Dark Archon with Portola Coffee 9%(ABV) BOOM. Yummy rich with loads of chocolate and fresh roasted coffee. I’m keeping my eye out for the lagers and some more IPA’s as Andrew builds his menu. Scott has done a fabulous job in hiring some great staff, you can tell that everything has been given plenty of thought, it’s a very nice location, he has lived in Laguna Hills for a long time and has put his heart and soul into Gamecraft Brewing, Scott even has a plan in case they need to expand. If you are planning an event please contact Kanda Chokkijkarn Events/Merch Manager. Gamecraft Brewing will be open 7 days a week and open at 11 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m. Sun-Tues. and 10 p.m. Wed-Thurs, @ 12 .am. on Fri-Sat.

Congratulations to Scott and Thanda, to Andrew and to the whole crew at Gamecraft Brewing! A great addition to the craft beer community of Orange County.                 BobbyKnowsBeer!

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