Karl Strauss Brewery is the OG of SoCal breweries. Founded in 1989 by Chris Cramer and Matt Rattner in San Diego, they enlisted Chris's cousin, Master Brewer Karl Strauss (real name!), to help with the recipes, the design of the brewery and the training of the brewers. Strauss had already spent over 40 years in the beer industry, mostly for Pabst's Blue Ribbon, but his Bavarian know-how ensured that Cramer and Rattner's vision of craft beers for Southern California put San Diego in front of the microbrewery scene long before anyone else.
The Orange County ouptost opened in 2002, and still doesn't get the respect it deserves. Karl Strauss isn't located in an industrial complex, and don't expect any food trucks—this is resolutely old school, with great tasting beers , good grub and valet parking. The Red Trolley Ale 5.8% ABV an Irish Style Ale , copper in color , rich in its maltiness with strong hints of toffee, is perfect with a medium-rare rib-eye. The Pintail Pail Ale 5.3% ABV is very smooth, easy drinking, and hoppy with a slight taste of citrus—dos tacos de carnitas, please. One of the smoothest IPA's you'll ever drink is their Aurora Hoppyalis 7.0%ABV, a bronze-medal winner at the 2015 GABF—perfect with their carne asada fries. Don't leave without trying the Wreck Alley Imperial Stout 9.5% ABV, a complex and rich combination of chocolate and coffee and barley. It's on point like Phife—BOOM!
One final point: Every Thursday is Cask Night. $4 pints till it's gone!
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Karl Strauss Brewery, 901A South Coast Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 546-2739