What could be better than a tall, cold glass of beer on a hot day? How about cooling off with a tall, cold glass of beer brewed 20 feet from the tap.
Nowadays, there's almost nowhere in the county more than 20 minutes from a brewery. The most famous is The Bruery (715 Dunn Way, Placentia, 714-996-6258; thebruery.com), Orange County's home of Belgian-style beer. Saison Rue is an easy-drinking farmhouse ale, and Mischief is a strong ale that has a hoppy kick and an alcohol by volume that will set you on your ass. The Placentia tasting room is so popular with thirsty Orange Countians the company has since opened a bottle store called The Bruery Provisions (143 N. Glassell, Orange, 714-997-BEER; brueryprovisions.com), which features flights of beer, both Bruery-brewed and not, with cheese and cured meats for snacks.
Bootlegger's Brewery (401 S. Richman, Fullerton, 714-871-BEER; bootleggersbrewery.com) opened around the same time, serving thirsty commuters from its location near the Fullerton Transportation Center (a.k.a. the city's Metrolink/Amtrak station). While Bootlegger's is most famous for brewer Aaron Barkenhagen's Knuckle Sandwich Double IPA and Rustic Rye IPA, the board usually features at least a dozen taps, including experimental batches sold cheaply by the half-pint. While there's no food served there, most days, at least one of OC's luxe loncheras pulls up.
Luxe loncheras also make regular stops at Noble Ale Works (1621 S. Sinclair, Ste. B, Anaheim, 714-634-BREW; noblealeworks.com), the county's most recent addition to the craft scene, located withing walking distance of both Angel Stadium and the Honda Center. There are just four taps, but it features an excellent hoppy red beer. Check Twitter—Noble owner Jerry Kolbly is fond of giving out discounts for people dressed in Angels or Ducks gear.
If the Bruery is going for saisons and Belgian beers and Noble is chasing the IPA market, Tustin Brewing Co. (13011 Newport Ave., Ste. 100, Tustin, 714-665-BEER; tustinbrewery.com) is the home of stouts. Besides the dark stuff, it has an award-winning Golden Spike ale. There are also several guest taps, the happy hour offers a great deal, and the bar snacks are unrivaled in OC.
TAPS Fish House (101 E. Imperial Hwy., Brea, 714-257-0101; tapsfishhouse.com) may look like a seafood restaurant, but it makes a couple of dozen great beers. Portola Porter is a dark beer brewed with coffee beans from OC's Portola Coffee Roasters, while the hefeweizen and the brown ale are both unusual, excellent brews. TAPS also has the cheapest growler fills in the county.
South County isn't left out, either. Cismontane Brewing (29851 Aventura, Ste. D, Rancho Santa Margarita, 949-888-BREW; cismontanebrewing.com) is reviving the California Common, a golden beer that's a cousin to Anchor Steam and dates back to the Gold Rush. It has started putting experimental batches on tap at its tasting room, located just off the 241 toll road.
Pizza Port (301 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente, 949-940-0005; pizzaport.com) is the only OC brewery to tackle the fizzy Mexican lagers with Amigo Lager—a growler of that, and Corona, Tecate and Pacífico will be distant memories. It also offers a roasty brown ale that's a great local replacement for Newcastle.
With all these choices and California's embrace of the concept of the half-gallon growler, there's no reason to stay sober during the coming sweltering months.