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"Perfection" is a hard word to live up to but TAPS Fish House and Brewery makes it look easy. From the moment you walk in to the Irvine location, you know you're not in Kansas anymore. In fact, you're not in Irvine anymore; you're in San Francisco or New Orleans, for this is the vision and concept of the Manzella family. TAPS is a top-notch restaurant with great craft beer brewed on premises, not a great brewery with OK food or the occasional food truck. This is where you treat yourself with a dinner of King crab legs or a $68 dry aged rib-eye. Or nibble on cured meats and delectable cheeses that pair perfectly with any of the award-winning brews on the beer list: a Great American Beer Festival Gold medal in 2001 for their Cream Ale, and two Silver medals at this year's World Beer Cup.
Saddle up to the bar and let one of their knowledgeable bartenders guide you through that day's selection of suds. Matthew let me taste the two stouts on the menu. Hi Croixson Imperial Stout (9% ABV) is creamy with nice coffee flavor and hints of dark chocolate—smooth and perfectly balanced. I went for a full pint with the Primordial Pearl Oyster Stout (6% ABV); brewed with oyster fossils and fresh oysters, the brininess of the oysters adds a subtle edge to the coffee and chocolate notes.
But the Mass-Hive Double IPA (8.2% ABV)—WOW! Craft beer at its finest! Hops, citrus, fruit and honey. Complex flavor profile, there's so much going on; the honey is at the back end and isn't sweet but blends with the citrus to keep the hops from tasting too bitter. If you're a fan of the Enjoy By or Luponic Distortion series you will love this DIPA, because it's PERFECT!
TAPS Irvine, 13390 Jamboree Rd., Irvine, (714) 619-0404; www.tapsfishhouse.com