‘Tane Turns Tree | Cismontane Brewing Co | Rancho Santa Margarita

cisbrewco19Rancho Santa Margarita is an odd city tucked neatly into the hinterlands of south county. Named after the patron saint of homeless people and reformed prostitutes, RSM isn’t that much different today. It’s got baby-filled tank-like SUV’s, a thousand HOA‘s and a serious lack of urban wildlife (ho’s and hobos). Luckily, there’s Cismontane Brewing to bring the area alive with a wild brood of brewers that look like the cast of ‘Lords of Dogtown‘, but with a little less hair.


Walking in the brewery, I’m greeted by a tall wavering man with short hair. “Hey Buuuh-dy! BEEEEER?” asks Evan Weinberg like he’s riding a wave. I pat his back, pull up a stool and grab a flight. Being their 3rd anniversary, every beer they’ve brewed this past year is on tap. Lucky me!

cisbrewco_instagramStyle-wise, Cismontane’s brewing technique is not like any other brewery I’ve been (except maybe the Bruery). Guided more by flavor, aroma and local hand-picked ingredients instead of BJCP styles, their beer takes on unique flavor profiles. Lines are crossed with recipes. Styles are blended. To add extra complexity, their beer likes to fuck around in wine, rye and whiskey barrels. Cismontane’s beer tastes like their philosophy: Natural, earthy, unique and complex. In a nutshell? Delicioso.

Cismontane’s staple-beers such as Holy Jim Falls XPA, The Citizen (CA Common), Coulter IPA and Black’s Dawn (Imperial Stout) are rounded and interesting, but the one-off special releases are what makes a trek to RSM worth while. As most special releases aren’t on the Untapped app, save your time and jot down some notes in your beer spank-bank for next time. Seriously, for a brewery open only three years, this list reads like a RSM housing complex rule sheet. 

cisbrewco5The Mesa, for example, drinks like a winish-beer, or perhaps a beerish-wine. The ‘grapeyness’ of the Nelson Sauvin hops really plays well with 25% Santa Lucia highland Riesling and Pilsner blend. Oso, an Imperial Porter aged in Rye Whiskey barrels transports me to a different era; I can picture myself sipping it in an 1800’s saloon. The barrel quality is dark fruit, smoke and leather. <cracks whip>

cisbrewco7Lets not forget what makes Cismontane truly unique: they open-ferment like crazy people. Like those commercials at 2 A.M. with girls that lift their shirts up for the video camera, Cismontane does this with yeast. Only a few breweries in America use this technique. “It’s a huge pain in the ass with yeast management” says Ross Stewart, co-bro of the brewery. Sierra Nevada employs open-ferm on one of my favorite beers, Kellerweis, but their room is pumped with filtered air and is off limits. Cismontane? Dudes pop ollies on skateboards while thick foamy krauzen dribbles down the tank like Japanese porn.

(Vine Vids complements of Cismontane brewer Dave Larsen.)


Sure Cismontane is off the beaten path, but their beers beat boredom. They taste and smell coastal, mountainy and beachy. One beer is  pleasantly grassy. Another is full of Belgian spice notes. Zippy sours like Marea Roja and boozy barrel beers like Black’s Nocturn display what this brewery is capable of. Some beers are beautifully unbalanced. Some are overwhelming, which is great! American Rye Strong knocked my socks off for a super hopped barleywine. I really could go on and on, but these beers will probably be long forgotten by the time you read this. Cismontane has probably gone off on another tangent, reinventing what beer should taste like.

cisbrewco9Their tasting room is cozy with several tables and a small bar. There’s games and stuff to fart around with. Bottles and growlers are available to go! Food trucks come every so often. Check their website, their facebook, their Untappd, their twitter (@CisBrewCo) and of course Instagram (@CisBrewCo), as well as brewer Dave Larsen on Vine.

OCBeerBlog Sponsor! I won the OC Beer Society chili cookoff with the chili recipe from this book!


Bonus Vid!

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