Last month I paid yet another visit to California to visit family and old friends. I didn't make it out of the Los Angeles/Orange County area, except for a short trip to the mountains of Big Bear. But, as one would expect, I did visit quite a few new breweries while I was there, so I have quite a few new places to write about.
My friend Rick drove down from Oakland to spend a couple of intensive days of exploring and tasting with me. On our second day we decided to cross the Orange County border. Our destination was the city of Anaheim, home to the original Disneyland, where a major sprouting of new breweries has occurred in the past couple of years. Located just northeast of Anaheim, close to Yorba Linda and the Richard Nixon Library, is the city of Placentia. When I first heard about this place as a young teenager I thought it strange that a city would be named after an afterbirth. But the “i” saves it, as it’s actually named after Piacenza, an Italian city located on the River Po. It also refers to an English royal palace, a battle, and a slang term for a pleasant place to live.
We decided to pay a visit to one of the only two breweries in Placentia. Opened in 2008, The Bruery is a family-run business which takes its name from founder Patrick Rue’s family surname. Patrick had planned to become a lawyer but became distracted by his home brewing hobby, and instead of going into law he ended up opening this brewery. The Bruery specialises in barrel aged and experimental beer, and has more recently been brewing farmhouse-style wild and sour beers at their Bruery Terreux brewhouse in Anaheim. Nearly half of their beer is aged in oak wine and spirit barrels.
As we walked in we found ourselves in a big square room with a long L-shaped bar covering two walls. There was even a flight-ordering station, with pencils and order forms listing the up to 50 beers currently on the taps. Everybody in the place seemed to be doing 5-glass flights, so we grabbed a form and pencil and sat ourselves down to plan just where we were going to fly to. As the four-page draft menu was huge, featuring experimental IPAs as well as Belgian-style sour beers and members-only exclusive offerings, we decided to go for all sours from the Bruery Terreux page.
First on our list was Humulus Terreaux (6.3% ABV), a hoppy bret with Mosaic hops. Rick was reminded of Orval, as it seemed to have a unique slightly pungy casing of Brettanomyces yeast which softened the sharp bitter Mosaic filling. Or perhaps it was a horse blanket in a Monday locker room, tempered by the bitterness of a mosaic casing.
Next was Filmishmish (5.7% ABV), an oak aged sour ale with apricots. It took us awhile to get around to actually tasting this one because of the wonderfully massive nose that rose like a sensory caress above our glasses. This is one of those brews that could make you hyperventilate before you even get close to a sip. Enhanced by fresh apricot jam and wood shavings, it suggested shades of a really good dark red wine, but oddly enough it possessed the look and colour of fresh apricot nectar. There were three levels to this beer: the nose, the actual tasting, and my breath afterwards. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience.
Third on our list was Beauregarde (5.7% ABV), an oak aged sour blonde ale with raspberries. The first time I ever tasted a sour beer that pleased me (which was probably the second time I tasted a sour), I was sent into a gradually accelerating rapture. I quickly became enamoured of anything that wasn't sweet: peaty single malts, cheeses so dry they pucker the tongue, wit so dry it speeds unnoticed through thick minds. This is why both of us were moaning with contentment bliss as we sipped this nectar. In fact, it gave me goosebumps.
Our next beer was Sour in the Rye POG (7.3% ABV), brewed with passionfruit, orange and guava (hence "POG") with honey and vanilla, and barrel-aged to give it a woody character. And I tell you, we were talkin' sour! I needed to stretch my arms and chant "num-num-num-num..." as quickly as I could.
Our final experience was Oude Tart with Raspberries (7.7% ABV), aged in red wine oak barrels. The first thing that hit the palette was oak. And then more oak. This was like a fine wine. Something very subtle and hard to lay a finger on was just behind the middle of the top rise of my tongue. Ahhh...Rick felt like he was swimming through these five beers like an airplane, cleaving them at different angles, like cutting diamonds. Or something like that. It was a beautifully eloquent description delivered too quickly for me to capture in my notes. But I understood. We both agreed that good sour beers act as a tonic, and we ended up feeling like stretching, bending, and fanning our tail feathers which had somehow sprouted up during this session.
The Breury was quite busy for a Wednesday afternoon, and most of the customers were wearing various brewery and beer company t-shirts, suggesting there are a lot of beer industry people as well as very serious craft beer consumers who know about this place. The room was absolutely freezing as well, making me wish I had something to throw over my frozen arms. It was forecast to be 87 degrees F outside, so perhaps this temperature was necessary for the beers’ sake -- or perhaps just to keep all of our tastebuds on their toes. (Do tastebuds even have toes?)
For serious beer connoisseurs the Bruery features two membership-only societies that anybody willing to spend the money can join. The Preservation Society gives access to the Society Tap List as well as offering specials on online purchases ($58.50 per quarter). And the 2017 Reserve Society costs $295 and offers all kinds of things -- but currently this society is full up and taking no more new members, so don’t rush over with your credit card brandished.
Just before we left we stopped to use the toilets and were intrigued by the fact that one of the two restrooms was a two-urinal one-stall room labelled “Men'” while the other one was a one-toilet room labelled “Gender Neutral”. For expediency Rick used the Men’s while I used the Gender Neutral. I think he was a little bit envious.
- SPRINGVALE, SHEFFIELD:
Back in August we stopped in here and had a pint of Aurornis XUI (4.6% ABV, Dead Parrot Beer Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). Brewed with Citra, Pearle, and Simcoe hops, this is a malty amber beer, so it wasn’t really our style. But the only other option available was the dire Doom Bar, which apparently is popular with students but which we both hate. It looks like with the newest management in place, the Springvale has given up on having a good variety of cask ales. Hopefully this will change eventually.
- CLOSED SHOP, SHEFFIELD:
Back in August we stopped in here where I first had a taste of Summer Breeze (4.4% ABV, Stancill Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). This beer had that possibly antipodean thick tangy-hops edge to it and was quite nice. But I went for a pint of South Island Pale (3.5% ABV, Saltaire Brewery, Shipley, West Yorkshire). Brewed with New Zealand hops from the Tasman Bay, this was citrussy and quite hoppy, and surprisingly satisfying for such a low ABV. Andrew went for a pint of Styrian Wolf Bad Moon Rising (4.2% ABV, Stancil). A single-hopped brew with Austrian hops, this seemed a bit Czechy. Both of our pints would have been great for a sunny summer day on the patio -- but alas, it was dark and cold and blustery, probably because it was finally late August so the heatwave was over. At least I knew I’d be in SoCal in a few days.
The Shop now does Sunday roasts with all the trimmings from noon to 4:00pm Sundays, obviously, and there are choices of three meats, a vegetarian roast, and a vegan roast, which pretty much covers all the bases. What a great idea for both us pescetarians and all my non-pesce vegetarian friends. I've never heard of a seafood roast, but I suppose it's always possible. Still, I think I'd go for whatever the vegetarian or vegan option was. They also feature Happy Hour (called "After Works Drinks"), featuring Stancill casks for £2.25 a pint, on Fridays until 7pm.
And when I got back from America I met Andrew here after work. I started with a taste of Jester (4.0% ABV, Stancill Brewery, Sheffield, South Yorkshire), which was fruity but not really hoppy. So I went for a pint of Taiheke (4.4% ABV, Stancill), a New World style pale ale which was quite interesting and gets better and better as you drink it. Andrew went for Twin Town (4.2% ABV, Wigan Brewhouse, Wigan, Greater Manchester). It didn’t clear, unfortunately, and the barmaid’s patronising explanation prompted him to get his money back. The barmaid later told me that Twin Town is a collaboration between Wigan Brewhouse and Brasserie Angeuine in France.
- GARDENERS REST, SHEFFIELD:
It was a fine sunny Sunday the weekend before I went to America, so we stopped in here and found the pub and garden not surprisingly crowded. Andrew had a pint of Rodeo (3.8% ABV, Tapped Brew Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire), which I've had many times at the Sheffield Tap and is always a nice light hoppy quaff. I had a pint of Atomic Blonde (4.3% ABV, Don Valley Brewery, Mexborough, South Yorkshire) which was surprisingly intense, with piney resin hops that grab the palate. The young blonde woman smiling on the handpump didn’t look that aggressive, but she was probably raised in a mountain cabin and came to the bright lights of the city with ambitions of fame and romance, armed only with her survival skills including how to roast a stag and how to build a log cabin by hand. Yes, this is indeed a deceptive beer.
- SHEFFIELD TAP, SHEFFIELD:
Just before I caught my train to Manchester to leave for my trip to America, I found a tiny bit of table in an empty room in this ridiculously crowded pub for a pre-trip half pint. I went for Withens Pale (3.9% ABV, Little Valley Brewery, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire), which wasn’t terribly exciting but much needed after a stressful day preparing to leave for a much-needed holiday. As I sipped I knew I would relax once I got on the train and realised I was officially on holiday.
On a more recent Friday after work, my workmate John and I stopped into this train station pub. I had a pint of Jackpin Pale Ale (3.9% ABV, Framework Brewery, Leicester, Leicestershire) which was surprisingly good, brewed with sort of hops that I really like. Galaxy? Even some cheeky El Dorado? I don't really know, and at this time there's no information online, so I’ll just have to keep guessing. John had a pint of Epiphany (4.5% ABV, Great Heck Brewery, Goole, South Yorkshire), described as a "Seriously hopped IPA". This was absolutely delicious, I have to admit. Fortunately I was surprisingly happy with my lower-ABV pint of Jackpin.
- PRINCESS ROYAL, SHEFFIELD:
I met Andrew here one day after work, four days after I returned from California. It was amazingly quiet, which was not exactly what we were expecting. We sat by ourselves and had pints of American 5 Hop Version 31 (4.3% ABV, Blue Bee Brewery, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). The last version of 5 Hop I had was Version 10, so it looks like I’ve missed a lot of versions. Still, it was definitely Blue Bee American 5 Hop which is a very pleasing beer. The day was very cold but intensely sunny day, causing my eyes to be blinded from the intense sun-in-my-eyes gridlock bus ride through Broomhill I had just endured. Somehow I made my way down a polka-dotted Slinn Street to this polka-dotted pub to have a polka-dotted pint. Fortunately the spots eventually faded away.
On our next visit, for our friend Victoria’s 40th birthday celebration, on a blustery cold day during the first week of the university term, all of us cask ale drinkers had pints of 61 Deep (3.8% ABV, Marston’s Brewing, Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire). Brewed with five American and Australian hops, this prompted Andrew to pronounce, “A fine little session beer. No pretensions whatsoever.” No need to say more.
BOTTLED/CANNED BEER UPDATE:
- 12th of Never Ale (5.5% ABV, Lagunitas Brewery, Petaluma, California): One day after work I relaxed with a can of this offering from a favourite American brewery. The statement on top of the Lagunitas tin read "12 ounces of malt, hops, yeast, love, and vibe in a solution of dihydrogen oxide captured in an alumin-yum wrapper". This particular beer was named after the date "when the River Styx froze, when the final pig took flight, the last winged monkey departed the darkly fragrant netherlands, as wishes became horses and all the beggars rode, under a newly-blued moon at dawn on the very 12th of November the 2nd-to-last draft brewery in America pressed the green 'start' button on their canning line." It also said it was a hop-forward beer, pure, cold, and bitter. I did actually chill it first, in deference to a California craft beer in a can. And yum! I have to say it was extremely satisfying. "A strong statement of hops", said Andrew when he tasted it. "A mighty big beer." Put that on the label, Lagunitas!