CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> 3 Anaheim Brewpubs

Previous Pint Pleasures - March 24 2019

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Phantom Ales, 1211 North Las Brisas Street, Anaheim, California

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Bottle Logic Brewing, 1072 North Armando Street, Anaheim, California

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Asylum Brewing Company, 2970 East La Palma Avenue, Anaheim, California

Just when it probably seemed like I was once again firmly ensconced in writing about new pubs in Sheffield, I’m afraid I’m bouncing back to California for this review, as I still have a few more pubs there to cover from my visit last September. I admit I do enjoy bouncing around and also time travel. So once again I’ll bounce to SoCal, specifically the unlikely beer city of Anaheim.

Founded in 1857 by German immigrants, the city of Anaheim was incorporated as the second city in Los Angeles County before it split off into Orange County in 1889. This inland city is mostly famous as the home of the original Disneyland, which has become the Disneyland Resort, and also the Angels baseball team. At the risk of dating myself I recall, as a young child, the long drive down Katella Avenue out to Disneyland before the San Diego and Garden Grove Freeways opened in the late 1960s. The city is a lot different these days, but I still picture long wide never-ending suburban boulevards and oppressive dry heat when I think of Anaheim. (You have to remember that I grew up in a beach city in Los Angeles County, so I’ve always been prejudiced against Orange County.)

Anyway, on the second day of the two-day 2018 version of the Mistah Rick and JC Brewery Tour, we decided to penetrate this as yet unexplored brewing territory. As it was just before noon we started our day at Phantom Brewery because it opened earlier than the other stops on our list.

We had a bit of trouble finding the appropriately named Phantom, as it’s hidden away in a very plain business park, tucked around the corner from a business forms company. We parked the car and walked through what seemed to be a working part of the brewery, passing a utility sink on the way. The main bar is fairly small and has a friendly feel to it, and there were just a scattering of earlybird customers, all male except for myself. Adjacent to the bar was a hanging paper lamp in the shape of a hops bud.

We decided on a flight of five 4-ounce tasters for a reasonable $10. As it was noon we also ordered a sandwich to share, a Parmesan-crusted grilled cheese sandwich with cheddar and provolone. We sat at one of the long high wooden tables, enjoying our tasters and food as we watched brewery workers move empty kegs in and out.

Our first taster was Hazy IPA (5.0%), brewed with Mosaic, Galaxy, and Chinook hops. “Yes! Oooh!” we both concurred heartily. Rick commented that he would easily have had this beer for breakfast. In my opinion it was extremely ooohy.

Our next taster was Citra Smash IPL (5.0% ABV). This was refreshingly grapefruity and suggested a slightly hoppy pilsner -- although apparently the IPL is short for India Pale Lager. Number Three on our tasting journey was Brutus Brut IPA (6.25% ABV). Brewed with Citra, Centennial, and Simcoe hops, as well as Champagne yeast, this small-bubbled dry brew was very nice, especially with the yummy grilled cheese sandwich. I could definitely see this beer being served in a champagne glass. Next was Flying Brick IPA (8.2% ABV), which is dangerously drinkable -- in fact too drinkable for an 8.2% brew. Between the two of us it went down really fast, which was a bit worrying. I had to keep telling myself it was only two ounces worth for each of us, so that's probably why it disappeared sooner fast.

Our finally taster was the nobly named Sir Alex Stout with Caramel Coffee (7.0 ABV), which we intentionally saved for our dessert taster. A stout with a caramel-tinged strong coffee character, this was a bit sweet, like a proper dessert, but it was very nice to sniff.

The Phantom Brewery, which started its first incarnation in San Francisco in 2017, features happy hour on Monday-Friday from 2 to 6pm, which is a perfect post-work time for local beer drinkers to visit. As we sat enjoying our flight we noticed we were surrounded by five TV screens, all showing something different -- American football, baseball, ice hockey, a program about solar panels, and YouTube-like videos of cute animals -- and all of them were on mute while music emanated from the sound system. Above our heads was a balcony populated by a band of Day of the Dead-style skeletons playing instruments. Were they a pre-Halloween decoration, we wondered. No, they’re probably permanent, as we were in the Phantom Brewery, after all.

Suddenly, at 12:59, the pub was invaded by a large flock of people, mostly women, probably some sort of works group or perhaps a day-long seminar on their lunch break. They seemed to have emerged out of nowhere, so we had no idea where they actually came from, or what it was they actually did besides eat food and drink beer. As we were a bit intrigued by them we decided to share a final taster of the Brutus.

Later in the afternoon we visited two more breweries on opposite ends of another business park, and there was a third brewery we passed between the two. Bottle Logic was fairly empty when we walked in, but it wasn’t long before the pub became really crowded. I mean, you’d expect that to happen in a city center pub on a Friday after work. But as this was a Wednesday afternoon in an industrial park in Anaheim, it seemed a bit surprising. It just shows that craft beer is alive, abundant, and well attended even in the suburbs of Orange County.

We sat at the bar and had a taste of Aeon of Strife (5.7%), which was the barman’s favourite. Described as a crushable hazy pale, this had a really bitter hops kick. We also had a taste of Recursion (6.5% ABV), a West Coast IPA brewed with Mosaic and Simcoe, which was a pleasant light hop experience, but a tad sweet for our tastes. As we had spent the afternoon enjoying flights of small tasters, we both went for full pints of Oregon Trail (7.2% ABV). This is a West Coast IPA with Super Critical CO2 Hop Extract consisting of Chinook, Summit, Centennial, and Citra Hops. Oh, this was a fun brew, served in a stemmed 436ml wine glass which suited its flavour.

As we happily sipped we chatted about what CO2 hop extract is exactly. Apparently it’s a hop extract created by using temperature and pressure to create phase changes in carbon dioxide so that it stays fluid. Apparently it’s useful for extracting cannabis oil as well as brewing interesting beer. You learn something new every day.

As we didn’t have time to try both of the other breweries in the park, we opted for the Asylum Brewing Company. The little storefront was quite dark with extreme air conditioning, so I found it a bit too cold for my comfort. Four people sat at the bar up front as we entered, followed by a man with a smelly terrier. We ordered three tasters for $2.00 each and sat at a table in the middle. Our first choice was Haze & Loathing Hazy Las Vegas IPA (7.2%). This had a grassy character, biscuity with what we decided was a rat-pack aroma. And I’m not talking about your lawn grass, because we began to wonder if Hunter S Thompson might have been anywhere near the brewing vat. Our second taster was Things We Never Had Brut IPA (6.8%), brewed with Southern Passion hops from South Africa. This was subtle but quite interesting, with a definitely suggestion of magnolia (the flower, not the off-white paint.) And our third taster was Monsters We Breed (7.4%) a dark IPA brewed with Mosaic hops. I would describe this as a dreamy brew, so the monsters aren’t really scary at all.

As we sipped our final beers of the day we admired the 1980s style graphics on the wall. I especially liked the black and white graphic of a microwave oven overlayed on coloured vertical stripes. It reminded me of some of the band posters I and a couple of friends used to design back in my old band days. At this point the goosebumps on my arms had migrated all around my body, so I think I might have preferred a roaring fire rather than a microwave oven. All around us people seemed comfortable in their short sleeves, so I began to wonder if I was losing my steely Yorkshire edge. Oh well, I suppose I’ve always been a bit “nesh”, which for American readers is Yorkshire dialect for tending to feel the cold a lot. Perhaps my Southern California upbringing will never fade away...