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
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
e Town e 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
be easy to write off TAPS as just some soulless King's Fish House
knockoff located in Brea (motto: “Beige Is Best”), except it's good. Damn
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
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
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
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
steam beer California common.
336 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 780-1888; anaheimbrew.com.
4. Noble Ale Works
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
1621 S. Sinclair St., Anaheim, (714) 634-2739; noblealeworks.com.
3. Tustin Brewing Co.
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
13011 Newport Ave., Tustin, (714) 665-2337; tustinbrewery.com.
2. Bootlegger's Brewery
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
401 S. Richman Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-2337; bootleggersbrewery.com.
1. The Bruery
anyone outside the local area hears “Orange County craft beer,” they
think of the Bruery, Patrick Rue's Belgian-style
brouwerij 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.