If there's anything that can make this Orange County heat bearable, its Orange County beer. With each passing season, it becomes more and more difficult to narrow down a succinct list, not because of too few options but because there are too many. Alas, I sifted and slurped through the myriad of craft beers in Orange County for you, dear reader. I live to serve. Please take a gander at this curated list of OC brews you should become acquainted with in the near future. There's a little sweet, a little sour and a lot of swigging.
5. Hibisc-This–Artifex Brewing Company (San Clemente)
Cream ales often get a bad rap. Too many times, they're cast aside for stronger, hoppier, and "whalezier" brews. No more, I say. The cream ale deserves to stand tall and Artifex Brewing Co. shall hold their heads high for going above and beyond the humble cream ale line of duty.
Sure, you we expect vanilla and cereal when enjoying a cream ale, but Artifex brings us a fresh take on the style with their use of hibiscus and orange peel in Hibisc-This. Few beers have me searching for a straw quite like Hibisc-This. Great for the sun or, let's face it, an air conditioned room, this beer tastes like a beer cocktail without all the work. Leveling out and a friendly 4.5 percent ABV, this beer could coax a smile out of the carefree 21-one-year-old and the embittered brut alike. I dare you to take one sip without taking another.
919 Calle Amanecer Suite A, San Clemente, CA 92673. (949) 429-7805. http://www.artifexbrewing.com/
4. Kook D.I.P.A.–Pizza Port Brewing Co. (San Clemente)
Last year, Pizza Port gave us their beer in cans; this year, they give us more of their beer in cans. Enter, Kook D.I.P.A., Pizza Port's latest canned brew. This is the brewery's first canned double IPA and as of its recent debut earlier this June, it has done nothing but meet every desire for the hop fiend. It's no surprise that Pizza Port–known for their west coast IPAs–delivers a robust, tasty and still well-balanced beer that fits in any summer setting. Although, if you're not a hophead, this beer 8.7 percent ABV beer may intimidate with its alcohol content and firm bitterness up front but don't worry, it sweetens as you sip. If Kook and the other Pizza Port six-pack beers are any indication, I'm certain we can expect more canned goodness from down south in the years to come.
301 N El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672. (949) 940-0005. http://www.pizzaport.com/.
3. Dan K–Riip Beer Company (Huntington Beach)
An Orange County summer beer list can never go too far without the mention of at least two IPAs. Presenting: Riip Beer Company's IPA, the Dan K (yes, it is just "dank" but sure). Although many of us experience what I like to call "hop fatigue"–a state of boredom due to excessive exposure to hoppy beer–there's something about an explosion of citrus and that enticing bitterness that just feels right when its over 90 degrees out. Dan K fulfills that need and these fellas don't even have a physical taproom yet. How do I try some delicious, thirst-quenching Dan K from Riip Beer if they don't have a taproom yet, you ask? You just call them up and they'll come deliver a growler to you.
That's right, for you lucky residents of Huntington Beach, Riip Beer will personally drive to your house and replenish your fridge/party/empty hands with jugs of their fresh beer. Change of address form, anyone? I can feel my hop fatigue fading.
2. Happy Pilz–Tustin Brewing Co. (Tustin)
If you've followed these seasonal lists for the last year, you may have noticed a hefty appreciation for Pilsners and lagers in general. In addition to churning out super dank IPAs, bro, Orange County also does a smashing job of producing those beautifully dry, crisp Pilsners too. Another case in point: Tustin Brewing Co.'s Happy Pilz. There truly isn't any better time to guzzle down a clean pint of Happy Pilz other than the summer–and maybe the spring when this beer also finds itself in the Tustin taproom. Unlike the sought-after tropical and citrus hops like Citra, El Dorado and Mosaic–commonly used in IPAs–this traditional Czech Pilsner requires Saaz hops, which lend a dry and delicate honey character. At 4.7 percent ABV, this beer will make you wish you had a porch so that you could spend your days sittin' and swiggin'. Find it available on tap or for take-home growlers at their taproom.
1. Tart Oro–The Good Beer Co. (Santa Ana)
Although The Bruery has been Orange County's plug for sour beer for the last seven years, the boys at The Good Beer Co. are beginning to change that. Opening in 2014, The Good Beer Co. began offering delicious barrel-aged and kettle (no aging required) sour beers from the get-go and are continuing the trend with beers like their flagship Tart Oro.
Funky and tart, this beer emulates the summertime backyard brew. If you're not big on sour beer, I implore you to give Good Beer's Tart Oro one, long sip. This beer embraces the summer in its light, effervescent body and makes you pucker with delight. Another perk comes in the form of its soft 3.9 percent ABV, making it a charmingly easy-drinking beer. Because of this beer's even-keeled flavor, it lends itself well to experimentation, which brewer Brandon Fender has already begun to do. In the works are Tart Oro variants like blackberry, cranberry, and plum. Be lucky enough to snag a Tart Oro bottle when they release in the upcoming months or hit up the tasting room for a glass.
309 W 4th St, Santa Ana, CA 92701. http://thegoodbeerco.com/