There aren't many reasons to go to Rancho Santa Margarita when you're a food blogger. It's nice to head to the Pavilions on Antonio Parkway to see the orange trophy wives shopping in their terry-cloth yoga pants, and of course Pizza e Vino and Rice and Spice (our best Thai this year) are worth the expensive slog down the 241, but other than that there's not much to recommend there.
In April, however, another reason to visit RSM opened in a toll road-adjacent industrial park: Cismontane Brewing Company, started by two friends from Solana Beach who just wanted to make beer on a grander scale than the home brewer's friend (the bathtub).
While it doesn't have the lengthy list of beers that its North County (and San Diego) brethren do, it does produce one of the best beers for a hot day: El Modena mild. At 4.2% alcohol, it's about the same alcohol content as the major brands of beer, but the taste is much, much more complex: it's a brown beer with a nutty taste, somewhat reminiscent of a Newcastle.
The IPA, by far the most popular ale style on the West Coast, is well-balanced; it isn't a smack upside the head with a board made of hops the way most IPAs are. There's also Blacks Dawn, a coffee stout that made an appearance at L.A. Beer Week, made with coffee roasted by friends in Colorado. The brewers are also experimenting with California common beer, a steam-produced beer; the results should be in soon.
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The brewery itself is small, but has seats (are you listening, Bootlegger's and the Bruery?); the required big-screen TV means you won't miss the game as you sample. Samples are $1 or $2 each; glasses (usually pints, but occasionally tulips for higher-ABV drinks) are $4, and a growler fill is $10 ($13 for coffee stout, and a $15 one-time purchase of the growler glass).
Welcome to OC, guys; we look forward to an expanded beer menu.
Cismontane Brewing Co. is located at 29851 Aventura, Suite D, Rancho Santa Margarita; (949) 888-BREW; cismontanebrewing.com. Hours are Thursday and Friday 2-8 p.m., Saturday noon-8 p.m. and Sunday noon-5 p.m.; pronunciation is "siss-mahn-tayn" and meaning is "this side of the mountains". Yeah, we didn't know that either. You get an orography lesson with your beer.