San Diego? Oh, please. La naranja is where it's at these days for beer. We've got the space, we've got quasi-libertarian city governments who would love nothing more than to bring in business, and we've got 3 million thirsty people and easy access to Los Angeles. Here are 10 of the best.
10. Bayhawk Ales
The longest continuously running brewery in Orange County isn't anyplace interesting--adjacent to McCormick and Schmick's in Irvine--and it doesn't have a tasting room per se (the Pilsner Room at M&S does not count as a tasting room), but you've definitely had Bayhawk beer before. It supplies the house beer at M&S, Oggi's and Lucille's, including an amber ale that's better, a little hoppier, a little more interesting than Newcastle.
2000 Main St., Irvine, (949) 442-7565; bayhawkales.com.
9. Old Orange Brewing
It was only a matter of time before Old
Orange turned into a beer-lover's paradise. First, there was Haven with its well-curated beer list; then the Bruery Provisions opened as a bottle- and flight-shop north of the circle. Technically, Old Orange Brewing isn't in Old Orange, located as it is in the industrial reaches of Batavia between Taft and Katella, but . . . well . . . close enough.
1444 N. Batavia St., Orange, (714) 744-8410; oldorangebrewing.com.
8. TAPS Fish House and Brewery
It'd be easy to write off TAPS as just some soulless King's Fish House knockoff located in Brea (motto: "Beige Is Best"), except it'sgood
good. The food's good, and the beer is first-rate. It's the little brewery that could--it alone brought home a gold and two silvers from the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, not to mention Brewer of the Year for braumeister Victor Novak. Worth the slog up the 57? Oh, yes.
101 E. Imperial Hwy., Brea, (714) 257-0101; also at 2745 Lakeshore Dr., Corona, (951) 277-5800; tapsfishhouse.com.
7. Cismontane Brewing
Even staid Rancho Santa Margarita has a piece of OC's burgeoning craft-brew scene; Cismontane is in the back of beyond, off the end of the 241 toll road, but its tasting room is cozy, allowing a lot more interaction between the staff and the people stopping in for a taste or a pint. Cismontane, incidentally, means "on this side of the mountains."
29851 Aventura, Ste. D, Rancho Santa Margarita, (949) 888-2739; cismontanebrewing.com.
6. Pizza Port
Short of places such as the Yard House, Pizza Port has arguably the largest number of taps in the county. At any given time, more than two dozen house-brewed beers are on tap--and each location of the Pizza Port has its own brews as well as chain-wide brews. (There are three other Pizza Ports, all down in San Diego County.) What to eat with it? Duh.
301 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente, (949) 940-0005; pizzaport.com.
Additional locations at 571 Carlsbad Village Dr., Carlsbad, (760) 720-7007; 135 N. Hwy. 101, Solana Beach, (858) 481-7332; and 1956 Bacon St., San Diego, (619) 224-4700.
5. Anaheim Brewery
Simultaneously the oldest and youngest brewery in the county at this writing, Anaheim Brewery has reopened after a long absence, in the converted Packard dealership. Its tasting room has the advantage of being in downtown Anaheim, which makes it possible to bring a wide variety of food in to complement the beers, the best of which is the 1888
336 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 780-1888; anaheimbrew.com.
4. Noble Ale Works
The best part about Noble Ale Works--besides its ridiculously good, hop-heavy IPAs such as Knight Changer--is that it's walking distance from both the Honda Center and Angel Stadium, tucked away in a corporate park with a lenient eye toward parking. Go there, preparty, walk to the game, have the required one corporate-crap beer at the game, then walk back and continue partying. Owner Jerry Kolbly says they're nearly done building out the brewing equipment--at which point the number of taps will explode.
1621 S. Sinclair St., Anaheim, (714) 634-2739; noblealeworks.com.
3. Tustin Brewing Co.
It may look like a set out of Hansel and Gretel, and the parking may be fiendishly difficult, but once you're through the doors, you'll see why Tustin loves its hometown brewers so. The bar is long, loud and cheerful; the beers are award-winning (the Golden Spike ale won gold at GABF in 2009, and Blimp Hangar Porter won bronze last year). If you don't care for any of the offerings, it has a very generous list of guest beers--and the sausage plate with a pretzel and various pickled vegetables is, hands-down, the best beer snack in these fair orange acres.
13011 Newport Ave., Tustin, (714) 665-2337; tustinbrewery.com.
2. Bootlegger's Brewery
Bootlegger's is the reason to go to downtown Fullerton and a welcome sight as the Metrolink train pulls in to the Fullerton station. Well-known for its expermentation--at any given point, it'll sell pilot batches by the half-pint for rock-bottom prices and solicit opinions--and for the astonishing Knuckle Sandwich Double IPA, it's the chameleon of OC beer; there's just about nothing Aaron Barkenhagen won't try. Sours, English mild, rye IPA, lambic--it's all fair game, and it's mostly great. It's looking for larger premises--always the first sign of success.
401 S. Richman Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-2337; bootleggersbrewery.com.
1. The Bruery
When anyone outside the local area hears "Orange County craft beer," they think of the Bruery, Patrick Rue's Belgian-style
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in Placentia. So popular are the ales that on special release dates such as Black Tuesday, the lines can be out the door and wrap around the back. While nearly all its beers are excellent, it's the sours that send the beernoscenti into fits of rapture.
715 Dunn Way, Placentia, (714) 996-6258; thebruery.com.