The Orange County Beer Trail
Ever heard the joke about how drinking Coors Light is like having sex in a canoe? Because both are fucking close to water? It's an old, tired joke, sure, but back when Santa Ana's Mayor-for-Life Miguel Pulido was a wide-eyed innocent, 3.2 percent beer was all that was available in OC. Those days are happily going the way of the Great Park boondoggle. The craft-beer revolution, which reached a fever pitch in San Diego a decade ago, has claimed our infernal county as its latest territory, with breweries, craft-beer bars and liquor stores specializing in bottles and kegs of luscious elixir popping up as though mushrooms after a rainstorm. These days, craft beer isn't just for plaid-clad, bearded hipsters and people who compulsively check into bars on Untappd; you'll find it in airports and dive bars, in the hands of people ranging from the gnarliest 8 a.m. drunk to the snobbiest foodie this side of a DSLR lens.
So behold our guide to all things cerveza in Orange County, along with a handy-dandy map for pinning on your cubicle. Read all the blurbs we have on the county's breweries, finer liquor stores and pubs, with a special shout-out to our country cousins in Long Beach. And, finally, come to the latest OC Weekly/KCRW Good Food Happy Hour on Thursday, Feb. 7 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the king of OC's New Beer Revolution: The Bruery at 715 Dunn Way, Placentia, (714) 996-6258. Meet Evan Kleiman of KCRW's Good Food and your favorite Weekly food writers, and enjoy beers released exclusively for our event—see you there! And remember Mark Twain's advice: Write drunk and edit sober!
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1. AMAZING GRAPES WINE STORE
Don't let the wine moniker fool you: When Cismontane Brewing is closed, it's not time to play in traffic, the only other thing to do in RSM. Just head to Amazing Grapes next door and pillage its huge, brightly lit coolers full of California craft beers. 29911 Aventura, stes. D, E and F, Rancho Santa Margarita, (888) 299-WINE; amazinggrapeswinestore.com.
2. BRADLEY'S FINE WINES & SPIRITS
Bradley's is where Tustinites go to buy good wine cheaply, and the good prices extend to beer. The selection can be daunting, though not as bad as the parking lot it shares with Trader Joe's; the staff is just as good at knowing beer as wine. 12932 Newport Ave., Ste. 1, Tustin, (714) 544-1444.
3. DIMENSION LIQUOR
Foothill Ranch may be a soulless place, where life is put on hold pending a review by the HOA's architecture board, but Dimension Liquor, just downhill from the 241 toll road, is an oasis of craft beer that will make the waiting for Godot much better. 20761 Lake Forest Dr., Ste. J, Lake Forest, (949) 380-8786.
4. G&D LIQUOR
We could write about the selection, but we'd rather write about the best deal in OC craft-beer retail right now: make your own six-pack for $9.99, with no more than three of any individual beer. At that rate, you'll make your way through the cooler in a few months or so of steady drinking. 338 N. Euclid St., Fullerton, (714) 525-0085.
5. HACIENDA BEVERAGE
A cluttered hodgepodge of liquor in no particular order (try to find a specific bottle of tequila!) stands between you and the huge back wall tiled with craft beer. Consider a pole vault because the selection includes Eagle Rock and other LA microbrews. 670 S. Brea Blvd., Brea, (714) 529-1593; haciendabeverage.com.
6. HI-TIME WINE CELLARS
As with everything else liquor, Hi-Time is a juggernaut, our Elysian Fields of booze, with an enormous walk-in beer cooler containing everything from ESB to English mild. Just remember to wear a sweater. 250 Ogle St., Costa Mesa, (949) 650-8463; hitimewine.net.
7. HOLLINGSHEAD'S DELICATESSEN
If it's German beer you're after, you've got to wander the aisles at Hollingshead's, one of the OC pioneers of great beer. There are craft brews from the U.S. as well, but the vast majority of the hundreds of bottles are from places that sprechen Deutsch. Just don't wear a Vikings jersey or root for the University of Michigan—you've been warned. 368 S. Main St., Orange, (714) 978-9467; hollingsheadsdeli.com.
8. ICON BEVERAGES & CIGARS
Little ol' Cypress is blessed with a liquor store that can boast of the best U.S. craft-brew selection in the county by far, with 600 craft beers; a knowledgeable, friendly, staff; and an upcoming tasting "room" cordoned off by so-flimsy-it-can't-be-true 3-foot barriers. 5721 Lincoln Ave., Cypress, (714) 229-8904.
9. K&S FOOD STORE
K&S, just west of oh-so-fancy Floral Park, looks as though it ought to specialize in malt liquor, but wind your way through the labyrinth of boxes, and you'll find a surprisingly good selection of local brews. 2626 N. Bristol St., Santa Ana, (714) 543-7190.
10. MR. KEGS
Where do you go when you're having a keg party and you're past the "bro" age at which Coors Light is okay? You go to Mr. Kegs and stock up on California craft beer in 5-gallon party balls. 5914 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 861-7270; mrkegs.com.
11. O'SHEA BREWING
This is a wonderland in South County: brewing supplies, cheesemaking supplies and craft-beer kegs. Also, you can get the house brew, made by Bayhawk to its recipe, for far less than other craft brews. 28142 Camino Capistrano, Ste. 107, Laguna Niguel, (949) 364-4440; osheabrewing.com.
12. PACIFIC PARK MARKET
Eventually, life in Aliso Viejo loses its stately, Levittown-like charm, and that's when it's time to head to Pacific Park Market and rifle through the beer coolers in an attempt to while away the long, boring hours between meals at Opah. 27792 Aliso Creek Rd., Ste. B100, Aliso Viejo, (949) 831-0330.
13. SWEET'S LIQUOR
Sweet's doesn't have a huge selection of craft beer, but what it does have is good, and it's the only game in town if you've got to have Bootlegger's after midnight, as it stays open until 2 a.m., the state-mandated cut-off. Don't be late! 15553 Beach Blvd., Westminster, (714) 892-5712; sweetsliquor.com.
14. VENDOME WINE & SPIRITS
Vendome may be a wine store, as well as an import from LA, but the back wall is one long testament to the beer production of Southern California. There are also guest beers from the other, lesser states, as well as Belgians and Germans. 3115 Yorba Linda Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 524-0800; vendomes.com.
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15. ANTHILL PUB & GRILLE
College students drinking something besides canned piss water? At UC Irvine, education doesn't stop at the swinging bar doors: the on-campus pub has a tap list that must be seen (and drunk) to be believed. UC Irvine Student Center, Room C215, 4200 Campus Dr., Irvine, (949) 824-3050; theanthillpub.com.
16. BRIX BREWS & NY DELI
The menu reeks of New Yawk faux authenticity, and two-thirds of the place is dedicated to wine, but there are 24 taps on the wall in the beer room (including a nitro tap, the Holy Grail of beer taps) and great happy-hour specials. 16635 Pacific Coast Hwy., Sunset Beach, (562) 592-3167; brixsunsetbeach.com.
17. BRÜ GRILL AND MARKET
Imagine if the Yard House had all craft beer and good food, and you've got an idea what Brü is like. Pub snacks such as hot pretzels and burgers are chased by an impressive list of craft brews, and there's not a single Bud Light in sight. 23730 El Toro Rd., Lake Forest, (949) 305-5757; brugrill.com.
18. THE GLOBE DINE BAR
Check out our longer review in the food section this week. My thoughts: When you want to taste where your California craft beer came from, you go to the Globe. Not a single domestic tap graces the wall; it's all Belgian, and the most familiar name is Stella Artois—but branch out! 12926 Main St., Garden Grove, (714) 537-7471; theglobeoc.com.
19. HAVEN GASTROPUB
Haven's tap list is displayed, loud and proud, near the window, the better to tempt people in for a snack and a glass of beer. The kegs kick quickly—it's a popular place—but are always replaced by something just as good. It brews its own, too, trucking the stuff in from distant, smoggy Pasadena. 190 S. Glassell St., Orange, (714) 221-0680; havengastropub.com.
If what you want is the upscale version of the Mexican working man's special (whiskey and beer), Hopscotch is where you go; switch out the Buchanan's for rye or bourbon and the Tecate for a real beer. 136 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-2222; hopscotchtavern.com.
21. OUT OF THE PARK PIZZA
This looks for all the world like it should have batting cages, skeeball, a prize counter and glassy-eyed kids staring at video screens, but there's no denying the impressive row of taps behind the bar. Little League team post-game meals, upgraded. 5638 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, (714) 777-4992; outoftheparkpizza.co.
So you've only got $5? Head for the Playground. The full-time cicerone (a fancy name for a beer butler) curates the California craft-beer list very closely; everything on it is $5, all the time. Sure, pour sizes vary, but your liver doesn't need a full pint of barleywine anyway—and remember to tip said cicerone. 220 E. Fourth St., Santa Ana, (714) 560-4444; playgrounddtsa.com.
23. RIDERS CLUB
Burgers and beer are what this small San Clemente restaurant pumps out, and it keeps the thirsty surfers hydrated and buzzed enough to do their feats of derring-do on the water; you don't have to own an 11-foot longboard to be served. 1701 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente, (949) 388-3758; ridersclubcafe.com.
24, 25 & 26. SELMA'S CHICAGO PIZZERIA & TAP ROOM
This is a chain, but a homegrown one—a great one at that—with craft beer and Chicago-style pizza for the caloric bomb you'll inevitably crave. Bear in mind the tap lists vary among locations, and the San Clemente one has the fewest taps. 30461 Avenida de Las Flores, Ste. B, Rancho Santa Margarita, (949) 709-8165; also at 27702 Crown Valley Pkwy., Ste. E1, Ladera Ranch, (949) 388-7260; 218 Avenida del Mar, San Clemente, (949) 276-2828; selmaschicagopizzeria.com.
27. SIDE DOOR
Side Door is the little, far-more-popular sibling of Five Crowns; pick from the list of mostly San Diego beers to pair with the addictive (but date-ending, thank you, blue-cheese breath) Stilton potato chips. 3801 E. Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar, (949) 717-4322; sidedoorcdm.com.
28, 29 & 30. SLATER'S 50/50
Each of the Slater's locations has a huge beer list with everything from mass-market craft brews such as Big Sky's Moose Drool to local favorites; the tap list changes often, so check the boards above the bar before you sit down to a Peanut Butter and Jellousy burger. 6362 E. Santa Ana Canyon Rd., Anaheim, (714) 685-1103; also at 8082 Adams Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 594-5730. Opening Feb. 11: 24356 Swartz Ave., Lake Forest, (949) 460-9314; slaters5050.com.
31. ST. ROY CHEF'S PUB AT VINE
St. Roy Chef's Pub isn't named after a saint at all—it's an acronym designed to confuse outsiders—but you won't care after drinking a couple of its continually changing beers. 211 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente, (949) 361-2079; vinesanclemente.com.
32. TAP SHACK
Self-serve beer? Why not? It works for wine, but at Tap Shack, the per-ounce charge is far less and the beers far more local. There's usually a big Ballast Point presence, for those who love hoppy IPAs. 1617 Westcliff Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 645-BEER; tapshacknb.com.
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33. ANAHEIM BREWERY
The oldest brewery in OC has returned, and in memory of those long-ago days when Germans were the force to be reckoned with, its best selection is a California Common called 1888, a malty dark beer that goes down way too quickly. 336 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 780-1888; anaheimbrew.com.
34. BAYHAWK ALES
Even if you haven't been here—there's no tasting room—you've had its beer. Lucille's, O'Shea Brewing and other restaurants have their beers made at Bayhawk, which especially impresses with an amber ale that's better, a little hoppier, a little more interesting than Newcastle. 2000 Main St., Irvine, (949) 442-7565; bayhawkales.com.
35. BEACHWOOD BBQ
The original Seal Beach location has so many taps you'll wonder where it keeps the kegs—but don't worry about it for too long, or you'll lose your place at the tiny bar. 131 1/2 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 493-4500; beachwoodbbq.com.
36. BOOTLEGGER'S BREWERY
Just outside the circle of adolescent poor judgment known as downtown Fullerton, Bootlegger's was one of the first breweries in the county to go big. Look for a move to the other side of the tracks in the very near future. 401 S. Richman Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-BEER; bootleggersbrewery.com.
Want to brew your own beer? Maybe root beer? Or make your own pretzels? All you have to do is go to Brewbakers; the staff will walk you through the steps and call you when your creation is done. 7242 Heil Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 596-5506; brewbakers1.com.
38. THE BRUERY
The first OC brewery to work its way into the heart of beerphiles the country—and world—over is still going strong with Belgian-inspired beers served from a newly revamped tasting room. 717 Dunn Way, Placentia, (714) 996-6258; thebruery.com.
39. CISMONTANE BREWING CO.
Proof there's life east of the 5 and south of the Y—Cismontane (which means "on this side of the mountains" ) has a tiny tasting room, but it's stocked with beers that are worth the trip on the 241. 29851 Aventura, Rancho Santa Margarita, (949) 888-BREW; cismontanebrewing.com.
40. HUNTINGTON BEACH BREWING
Surfing is thirsty work; a block up from the pier is a brewpub for refueling while your board drips dry. You can be a hodad and still enjoy the beer—just leave the groms at the table while you visit the bar. 201 Main St., Huntington Beach, (714) 960-5343; hbbeerco.com.
41. LEFT COAST
Left Coast gets overlooked in lists of breweries, unfortunately—it's still working on a tasting room—but the Hop Juice Double IPA, which is a bitter hop bomb California craft-beer drinkers should love, ought to put it back on the map. 1245 Puerta del Sol, San Clemente, (949) 218-3967; leftcoastbrewing.com.
42. NEWPORT BEACH BREWING CO.
Finding parking on the Balboa Peninsula is the hardest part of drinking here; reward yourself with a nitro-tapped Dead Cowboy Imperial stout. It's alcoholic bread in a glass—sip it slowly, and savor the dark, malty taste and incredibly smooth head. 2920 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, (949) 675-8449; newportbeachbrewingcompany.com.
43. NOBLE ALE WORKS
Give sports-venue management the finger by skipping the expensive scrum at the Grove, the Honda Center and Angel Stadium, and instead park at Noble Ale Works. Have a beer (an ESB—trust me even if you have no idea what an ESB is!), walk to the game, walk back, have a beer. Discounts for people in logo gear, too? Done and done. 1621 S. Sinclair St., Anaheim, (714) 634-2739; noblealeworks.com.
44. OLD ORANGE BREWING CO.
While not actually in Old Orange, the locals pack into the small tasting room on the weekends. Try the Old Dummy, an American strong ale with as much malt as a Newcastle. 1444 N. Batavia St., Orange, (714) 744-8410; oldorangebrewing.com.
45. PIZZA PORT
The OC outpost of this San Diego chain of breweries and pizzerias is right on El Camino Real in San Clemente, with a huge two-story restaurant and an impressive bar that serves guest beers as well as its own brews. 301 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente, (949) 940-0005; pizzaport.com.
46. TAPS FISH HOUSE & BREWERY
The most underrated brewery in Orange County makes beers that regularly bowl over judges at the Great American Beer Festival, and it has the cheapest growlers in OC—it's worth the hassle of downtown Brea's apocalyptic parking situation. 101 E. Imperial Hwy., Brea, (714) 257-0101; tapsfishhouse.com.
47. TUSTIN BREWERY
You can't get close to the bar on a busy night, and you can't hear yourself think. Everyone in Tustin knows about this brewery. Try the sausage platter with your beer. 13011 Newport Blvd., Ste. 100, Tustin, (714) 665-BEER; tustinbrewery.com.
48. VALIANT BREWING
The newest brewery to join OC's burgeoning beer scene opens Feb. 9. While we haven't been to taste its beers yet, we're hoping for a valiant effort. Stay tuned for news! 2294 N. Batavia Ave., Ste. C, Orange, (714) 649-9811; valiantbrewing.com.
 Cismontane is not an Italian word, but rather an obscure English one. Edited Feb. 1, 2013.
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