Preview: Stone Stochasticity Project – Hibiscusicity

There are beers in the world that can be pronounced no matter how drunk you are. “Bud”, “Coors” or even “Pabst” can be yelled at the noisiest of bars by the sloppiest of drunks and a fizzy yellow beer will slide across the bar in a frosty mug. With Stone’s Stochasticity Hibiscusicity, MIT students might even stumble. Hell, for the last project release of the Quadrotriticale I asked a bartender for a “Stone Quadruple Testicle” and she poured the right beer, smiling.

IMG_7038So anyways, my gargoyled friends in Escondido were inspired by a refreshing hibiscus beer and thought, lets take this bus to Stoke-a-stis-city Hibiscus-city. Instead of a Stone IPA, this beer comes by way of “Belgian Style”, which means it has some fruity/spicy yeast things happening. Knowing Stone and their library of beers, I can sometimes taste the beer before it’s been opened, but not with these Stochasticity Project beers.

On the pour, I’ve never seen a gargoyle blush, but this beer looks like it got caught masturbating on a pile of furbees after playing with mom’s makeup. It’s showy like a a hibiscus plant in Hawaii. If this beer were in a vase, I would probably drink it, then tend to my flower garden, with gloves for safety.


IMG_7032IMG_7033The bouquet is like sticking one’s nose in a box of Krispy Kreme raspberry/strawberry filled donuts. Some caramel malts and a breeze of orange peel adds to the complexity. The first few sips bring out more of the jelly-filled donut notes, balanced with some bitter cranberry and yeast spice. I also caught a metallic note, no doubt part of the hibiscus flower. I seem to recall other hibiscus beers doing something similar to my palate.

Hibiscusicity is a refreshing beer and will be out 9/15, just in time for our never-ending summer. Since I don’t really do Pumpkin Pie beers, this makes a nice alternative. It’s definitely worth checking out, if you can pronounce it! Had it? Let me know what you think below or on facebook/Twitter!


Valiant Goes Big With California Quad IPA

Upon one sip of Valiant Brewing’s Quad IPA Alpha Overdrive, I’m pretty sure I reached a higher level of cosmic consciousness. Incense quickly filled the room, a third eye opened up inside my glass and I’m pretty sure brewer/owner Brian Schroepfer started to charm a cobra out of a mash tun with a pungi flute.

A few more sips and it hits me…this beer is an opium den in a glass.

Alpha Overdrive in the middle compared to the second runnings SIPA on the left and Alpha Drive on the right.

Alpha Overdrive in the middle compared to the second runnings SIPA on the left and Alpha Drive DIPA on the right.

Hovering in the lotus pose at least two inches over a dusty rug, my glass is filled with the potent 14.2% ABV beer. My first thought with such a beverage is disproving it instead of enjoying it. Is it a gimmick? After a few more sips of this chest-warming beer, I keep going back for more.

IMG_6084The first shock is the mouthfeel. It’s full, yet dry. Finishing at a low 1.015 FG, the beastly yeast had to travel through the valley of darkness from 1.137 to reach pure zen. Sure the alcohol is there, but it’s not fusel. Each addictive sip my chakras glowing wildly; Alpha Overdrive is a heating pad for my soul.

It’s not a hop bomb either. Balanced nicely, most of my nose is filled with caramelized malts from a five-hour boil. Some peach, melon, citrus zest and a bit of freshly-licked cherry Tootsie Pop make up its complex flavors. As it warms, layers unfold. The only question my mind after drinking this big beer: how many licks does it take to get to the center of this Tootsie Pop? Stop in to find out!

Official release of Alpha Overdrive is Friday 6/27 at Valiant Brewing’s brewery and taproom. First 30 guests get to fill a 32oz growler! Draft only release. / 

Blind Taste: Easside vs Wesside Saison Shakedown

P1060991When a preview bottle of Stone Brewing Co’s Saison is sitting on my porch while carrying a preview bottle of Allagash Brewing Co’s Saison from the car…I knew what I had to do: dig through my old CD pack and bump some old West Coast Gansta RAP…that’s right, SUCKAS! Ice Cube’s ‘Today Was A Good Day’ bumpin’ and the 40’s craft beers in the fridge, it’s time to do an Easside vs Wesside Saison Shakedown. BLIND STYLE.

Almost identical in name, release dates (now), ABV (~6%), IBU (~43), this Rialto born and bred beer blogger is armed and ready, beers chilled and sweaty; which Saison came to drop bombs? This opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo*.

My old lady pours them into the same glassware, one with a SN logo and one with a FW logo. Both glasses freshly rinsed and beer poured at 43 degrees. My initial suspicion just on looks alone is a dead giveaway on who is who. “Would Allagash release a caramel colored Saison?” I chuckle pointing at beer #1. My wife walks away as I jot down notes on my kid’s doodle pad.


Beer 1: Orange/caramel tint and clear as a bell. Aromas tinge on grassyness, slightly cheesy, peppery, salty, floral, herbal.

lemonheadsBeer 2: Light hay colored and cloudy, this beer smells like a fresh box of Lemonheads, citrus (lemon, orange) and a little hint of soap and cotton candy. Smells like spring.

(Calling it on the color/clearness alone, I think beer 1 is Stone.)


Beer 1: First drink is surprisingly tart, subsequent drinks not so much. Herbal notes poke through with rosemary, jasmine and wet hay. It’s a little bit on the chewy side for a Saison, then WHOA…the tip of my tongue numbs with a stripping bitterness that screams “Saisons are fizzy and yellow, that is why this beer is orange!”. The finish bites the tip of my tongue with bitterness, washing away the potential for flavors to develop. Ouch. There’s also a scoville pepper heat my wife detects, I am heat tolerant to the point of not detecting it, but it’s worth noting.

Beer 2: Flavors of fluffy light grain followed by pleasant yeast esters rule this beer. Fermentation induced fruit, pepper, citrus are blanketed with a kiss of barnyard. It’s a little bit thinner and dryer than beer 1. The finish cleans up nicely, lending itself to a nice refreshing sessionable beer. The hop is different for the style as well; Cascade, Bravo and Tettnang are actually surprisingly good in this beer and round out the bitterness/flavor nicely.

Now, before I go on, I want to state something about Saison’s in general. It’s such a broad term of a beer style that is interpreted thousands of different ways. If we were drinking real Saisons, we’d be working out in a field getting our gallon 3% beer ration to keep from getting dysentery from unpotable farm water. I’m stating the obvious based on my perceived bitterness: Beer 1 is clearly Stone’s Saison. My wife nods.


Beer 1 = Stone, Beer 2 = Allagash. Nailed it.

I can see why arrogant bastards would prefer the Stone interpretation with its unabashed bitter bite and Stone Organic Farms picked goodies tossed in. I just think it’s a little too much for what I prefer of the style. I tend to reach for a dry, grainy, slightly funky beer. In the end, I want my Saison to compliment my food, not be decorated in it. I’d be interested in trying it next to Saison Du Buff and my other fave of 2014, Matt’s Burning Rosids Imperial Saison.

Allagash on the other hand has a handful of Belgian style ales. The addition of Saison to their line up seems like a natural fit. It’s tamed, balanced and sessionable.

Sorry West Side, Biggy Smalls wins this rap battle.

*sucka mc’d some lyrics from emenem’s Lose Yourself

Fresh, Local DIPA Tasting on a Thursday Night


With three fresh local Double IPA’s in the fridge, what better way to spend a Thursday night than to geek out on some beer. Having been to multiple tastings, I decided to start things off blind, having my daughter pour them into random glasses, noting which was which. My previous familiarty is as follows: Bootleggers Brewery Knuckle Sandwich (10% ABV): I’ve tasted every major release with a few bottles each time. Golden Road’s Better Weather IPA (9.4%) is a newer beer, but recently drank 3 of the four cans in the last week, this was my last can in the fridge. Noble’s Tongue Tickles is a brand new beer and have never tasted it. Each beer I believe has been packaged within 1-2 weeks.

IMG_2623Now, my first instinct was to see if I could tell which was which by sight and smell which is fairly obvious for Knuckle Sandwich (KS) being darker. The other two are similar in hue, one slightly clearer than the other. Aroma-wise, I picked out Golden Road (GR) as having a more straight forward “west coast” DIPA aroma, leaving the other guy to be Tongue Tickles…and…I was right!

These glasses suck for actual beer evaluation, so I used my Sierra Nevada IPA glass for further analysis, rinsing and palate cleaning after each. Now, I can honestly say these are all very different aroma/flavor wise and the final outcome is opinion on what I prefer.

Bootleggers Knuckle Sandwich: This release seems much different than previous with an overwhelming burnt sugar, caramel, perfumey character that rides over the hops. The areas where KS win for me is appearance and mouthfeel. KS has a very pleasant foamy body chased by sweet beer and boozy finish. It seems more balanced to the malty side with this release and can taste a lot of residual sugar (edit: my bottle settled out to 1.022 in the hydrometer over night). Overall I prefer a dryer DIPA, but I can see why people love this beer.

Golden Road Better Weather IPA. Funny story about this beer; I associated GR’s IPA with being low ABV and didn’t look at the can. After one, I had a noticeable buzz but thought nothing of it. After my second pint, holy hell! I stumbled to grab the can and saw 9.4%. Very glad I was at home! Anyhow, if you can’t tell by my boring story, this is a very drinkable west coast style DIPA. Lots of citrus, catty pine, some mango on the nose with some booze that lingers the hop oils on the palate for upwards of twenty seconds(!). The bitterness rides a little too long, making the front of my tongue numb after larger sips..but all in all, I like this beer. It’s pretty standard in way of DIPA flavors. It’s very well made and recommend it.

Noble Ale Works Tongue Tickles DIPA: Based on the aroma alone I can tell there’s New Zealand hops in this guy. Being a huge fan of Nelson, Galaxy and Matueka, I feel these hops push IPA’s in a refreshing direction (Think Stone Brewing Enjoy By that’s loaded with NZ and American hops). Tickles has a lot of that west coast still intact, but adds a passion fruit, white grape and pineapple aroma. The body is slightly prickly on the tongue and being the lowest ABV of the three at 8% means there is minimal boozey finish. Of the three, this is the beer I drank in its entirety.

Basically it goes like this: I’m not as much of a fan of Knuckle Sandwich with the overall sweetness being more than I’m used to. Golden Road’s Better Weather IPA is a great west coast hopped beer, but 9.4% for an IPA? It’s almost a triple IPA for fucks sakes. Of the three, I’m really loving Noble’s Tongue Tickles for the unique hop choice, comfy 8% ABV, nice clarity and solid lasting flavor. I’d like to put it next to Enjoy By to see how it stacks up.

Have you done a similar tasting with fresh local beers of the same style? I’d love to hear about it! Saturday November 16th, Valiant Brewing Co is releasing their DIPA for the first time in bottles.


A Little Tuesday Morning Beerporn (and Beerporn Party)

With the wife at work and the kid at school, the two dogs and cat are ushered out of the office. The cat’s proclivity to cock-block the mouse and bite one’s wrist while pulling a mid-morning web sesh is astounding. The computer hums its way alive and I shamefully open an incognito internet window. With the windows drawn and the web page loading, I rifle through my jeans for that ‘special’ credit card…the one my wife knows nothing about.

Just like that, I’m drooling over one of my favorites. She’s thick, bubbly and curvaceous with a round dimply bottom. Having ‘had’ her a few times in the past, I know what she’s all about, and trust me, she’s worth the trouble. As the clock strikes 10, the show is live and I’m ready to rock out.

Feeling charged, my heart pounds with excitement in my creaky wooden office chair. Then…the screen freezes. “Sonofa…” I say while fingering my thin black refresh key over and over in frustration. “No data received” and “webpage not available” error pages fly by. I reboot…twice. Damn Black Tuesday always gotta play hard to get! Sheesh. All this for a beer! What did you think I was talking about? A few hours later I finally got it up (the website) and splurged on a few bottles (for his pleasure).

There’s no Beerporn in the Champagne Tasting Room


Eight hours later, I’m outside The Bruery near their red grain silo for session two of the Reserve Society exclusive Black Tuesday party. Being the last Tuesday of October, the air is surprisingly still and scentless. The Lime Truck sits off to the side, sizzling seasonal fall sprouts; their smoke plume sailing cluelessly over the 57 South.


Spinning pearls with Erin Hill

Inside, I’m always impressed with The Bruery’s Black Tuesday parties. The gals are dolled in pearls and hats; the dudes are dapper in ties and slacks. Even the tasting room is filled with festive balloons and streamers. The enigmatic 18% ABV Russian Imperial Stout sits patiently about to be sprung from bourbon barrel solitary confinement. This year, the addition of Glencairn glassware kicks this party to a whole new classy level. As if sipping plain Black Tuesday isn’t good enough, the Bruery is serving up seven different looks at the base beer like a fashion show. Notes on each:


1) Boysenberry Black Tuesday on Cask – Poured by a lovely debutante with angled eyebrows, this beer is a throwback to post-party IHOP flapjack sessions to absorb   whiskey and beer in our aching college bellies. Boysenberry Black Tuesday should be served in IHOP’s syrup containers…the one where you pull the thumb trigger back as it oozes all over your piping hot butter melting pancakes.


No one ever expects a local Boysenbrue collaboration.

The more you know about the Boysenberry:  The berries were developed by a local Anaheim horticulturist in the 1920’s named Rudolph Boysen. After an accident where he broke his back, he abandoned his vines. Walter Knott of Knotts Berry Farm was able to revive some of the dying vines and named them after the originator. Cheers to local collaborations!

2) Raspberry Black Tuesday on Cask – “What’s your name?” asks Sara while pouring a dose from the cask. “Greg”, I reply. “I like your feather, did you have to earn it?” “Nah” she says walking away to help someone else. Raspberry BT is very similar to Boysenberry with a Sees candy raspberry cream flavor (my favorite). After a few sips, I opt to dump the rest with a shocked “WHAT?, YOU’RE GOING TO DUMP THAT?” screech from an excited pony tailed guy named Kate here with his mom. “It’s not that I didn’t care for it, it’s just waaaay too sweet for my liking” I mention to him while he shakes his head in horror. Note that I rarely finish a >10% beer I’m not in love with. Don’t hate. There’s five more variations to get through, suckas.


Nitro? I couldn’t tell.

3) Nitro Black Tuesday – I had high hopes for Nitro Black Tuesday, like Niagara falls high hopes. Either I got a mis-pour or this beer wasn’t ready. I wanted to watch a cascading nitro waterfall show and lick Black Tuesday froth from my stache. I got neither. If I ever see BT on Nitro again, you bet your ass I’ll stab hobos to get a pour.

P1060833The Glencairn glassware choice blew me away. It’s a standard crystal whiskey glass consisting of a simple bulb and flute. The basic idea is to fill the bulb area halfway (~2oz) allowing aromas to develop in the other half. The flute concentrates the aromas, enhancing the nosing experience. The thick heel of the glass is ideal to slam on the bar to let your server know you’re ready for another hit. The stylish barbacks did a great job rinsing and pouring samples mid-bulb allowing the aromas to parfait beautifully. Although the glass isn’t generally purposed for 38 degree cold liquid, the small girth of the glass ensures your balmy mitts will warm it up to the recommended 55 in a jiff. The waiting is the hardest part!

Re-enacting an awkward wedding moment with Cambria.

Re-enacting an awkward wedding moment with Cambria.

4) Some Mo Black Tuesday is German chocolate cake in liquid form. As my favorite cake, this beer is packed with coconut, caramel and chocolate all up in your face…just like a wedding where the bride and groom smears cake all over each others faces.

Hottenroth – Palate cleanser of the Gods!


the paparuetzi

5) Grey Monday – Holy hell, this is nice. Not just drinking it, but inhaling it…then exhaling it after a sip. Nice Nutella note that rides over the chocolate. This beer makes me want to eat hazelnuts with chocolate and drink bourbon to wash it down. Grey Monday is a food pairing in a glass.

P10608516) Melange #1 – (Basically Black Tuesday blended with Oude Tart) As my palate is basically destroyed from the stock market crash of 1929, this beer is a time machine. Pouring cloudy dark brown with a effervescent body, the fruity tart zing gives me some much needed mouth to mouth resuscitation. I’m kicking myself for not buying a bottle of this!

P10608307) 2013 Black Tuesday – My tongue is like a piece of beef jerky at this point, but I can’t physically leave without sampling the pep pep of them all: The bubbly and curvaceous 2013 Black Tuesday. Expecting nose-hair frying booze, I’m treated with two nostrils full of my favorite things: bourbon, chocolate and some sloppy dark fruits. Black Tuesday’s flavor is decadent, sublime and surprisingly smooth. Perhaps it’s the booze talking, I think 2013 is the smoothest day zero release yet. Normally I don’t like to open Black Tuesday until it’s slept a year in the cellar, but this girl is ready to twerk her dimply round bottom all up in my face, like NOW.


Not a reserve society member? Memberships are on sale now via their website. Know a member? Make sure and have them buy tickets to get you in to their Barrel Aged Beer Party on 11/16! Login to your Bruery account and visit this site for tickets and info: 



Vacation in a Glass | Stone R&R Coconut IPA Collaboration #IPAday

stone r&r coconutIPA

mauiLooking like a Maui sunset, Stone Brewing’s R&R Coconut IPA is a mass of orange incandescent liquid. The carbonation flows like an upside-down tropical rainstorm, flooding the head like a freshly crashed wave. The froth begs to be inhaled and releases all tension upon doing so. This beer is a vacation in a glass. (click here for some relaxing ambient wave crashing noise)


The sun melts away the thick chill haze revealing a crystal clear golden beer. Duck-diving the top wave, I come up with big notes of bit-o-honey candy, some honey graham cracker, pink cotton candy and a touch of sweet herbal tea. Sadly, the coconut is lost on a deserted island. I climb every tree and come up empty, brah! Even as it warms, the hop aroma turns herbal masking any coconut.

P1060224The taste comes in waves; sets of sweet foamy crystal malt, then 90 IBU’s of juicy tropical hops, the next wave carries an ankle slapper of coconut, followed by a ten foot glassy bitter finish. Sip after sip, I go back out for another set looking for the perfect wave. As it warms, the coconut comes out, but by that time, the temp is washed out for the style of beer. The body is notably creamier than the standard “Stone mouthfeel”, making it deceivingly chuggable at 7.7%ABV.

P1060220Overall: This is a damn fine IPA. As a coconut fan, I was hoping to get socked in the nose and gut with coconut, yet walked away unscathed. If you hate coconut (aka you’re a total “Barney”), you’ll probably do just fine with this beer. Stone’s Brewmaster Mitch Steele quotes, “The primary flavor note is coconut, and its intensity was achieved by two additions, one in the whirlpool and the other post dry hop. The selected hop varieties add subtle tropical fruit and berry notes that blend well with the coconut.” I get the tropical thing, but I really have to dig for coconut…only getting a brief flash near the back end of the taste. I don’t necessarily want Malibu Rum in a beer either, just some nice toasted coconut to remind yourself to get outside and enjoy summer. Regardless, I’ll personally be on the lookout for it.


The chill haze burn off was one of the most intense I’ve ever seen with any beer. I actually prefer the chill haze look as it lends a more summery luau cocktail visual. As it clears, it gets boring like your grand-pappy’s IPA. Pictured left, before and after, ten minutes.

Stone R&R Coconut IPA is a homebrew competition winner re-brew collaboration (with Robert Masterson & Ryan Reschen/RIP Current at Stone Brewing Co.) and is well worth picking up. As with all IPA’s, drink it as fresh as possible. Share it with your mom. Shaka!

Food Pairings: Ahi Poke, SPAM musubi, aged gouda, pineapple cottage cheese, jalapeno/pineapple pizza, thai coconut curry, mango shrimp tacos.

UPDATE: I bought a few more bottles, and the later tastings have displayed more coconut aromatics, retronasal olfaction while swallowing, and coconut finish. Perhaps my initial bottle was served too cold.

Disclosure: Initial bottle courtesy Stone Brewing Co. Purchased three more for personal consumption and further review.  

‘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!

Stone Brewing Imperial Russian Stout – Classic and Espresso (released 4/15/13)


“Congratulations, the IRS has accepted your federal tax return.” Getting back around $1,600 this year, it’s time to celebrate with the real IRS; Stone Brewing’s Imperial Russian Stout. 2013, being an odd year, Stone comes hard with their second ‘odd beer’ release. Tossing in a few hundred pounds of espresso coffee beans into IRS is arousing. ‘Coffee’ and ‘Stout’ is something that piques my interest no matter what. Throw in ‘Russian’ and I go all perestroika on my shopping cart.

P1050429Now, this blog post is mostly pointless because A) I hate reading beer reviews and B) You will most likely buy these beers no matter what (which you totally should). The classic release is the same recipe Stone has been making for years on end. It’s a beautiful beer that has tons of character and ages well. Now that your cellar is devoid of Vertical Epic beers, is it worth filling with Stone IRS? Should you go all espresso or classic? That’s my goal in this post.

I line up shots of IRS in my traditional Russian glassware: Russian president shooter glasses! On the pour, both versions are black with a thick bubbly tan head. Aside from that, both drink like two totally different beers.

P1050424The classic release smells like a hot See’s Candy store clerk: dark milk chocolate and notes of cherry cordial and vanilla as she passes by the nose. The taste makes my cheeks rosy; some boozy warming chocolate, cocoa, roastyness and notes of cherry wood and currants.  The creamy bitter finish balances the whole situation and lingers for a while. Such a nice pleasant layered sip; this beer is really done well, but you knew that.

espressoThe espresso release is a totally different beer. The fruity/cherry notes make way for a rich coffee aroma. It’s such a pleasant relaxing smell as well; I’m inhaling this beer for a few minutes and can feel the tension of doing taxes melt away. On the sip, the espresso smooths out the beer and calms the heat. I’m shocked this much flavor can come from water, plants and yeast. I wish I had another one so my wife could say, “Greg never has a second Espresso RIS at home”.

P1050428Overall I prefer the Espresso release by a wide margin. Both are stellar beers, but the classic release needs to lay down for bit to calm the warming. At 10.5% ABV on the classic and 11% on the espresso, I would have thought opposite. The espresso release is great now! One thing to note: most coffee/espresso beers give me a slight dry metallic note, this beer doesn’t do that. Stone Brewing Co. manages to keep my ADHD interest high in this ever expanding craft beer landscape. First Dayman Coffee IPA and now this? 2013 is the year of the coffee bean.

For the cellar: My goal is to pick up a few of each, maybe an extra espresso bottle to sip with some friends.

Suggested Food Pairings:

  • Dessert: cherry cheese cake, bon bons, oreo sundae – anything chocolate
  • Soup: split pea, red clam chowder, spicy african peanut soup at the Gypsy Den in Anaheim
  • Meat: open flame seasoned steak, Las Vegas 3 A.M roast beef, Indian restaurant prepared lamb chops
  • Vegan: Thai coconut curry, tofu pad thai

Thanks Stone Brewing Company for the preview bottles!

Men are from MÄRZEN, Women are from PUMPKIN BEERS

While your grocer, fast food, or coffee joint may be saying “PUT PUMPKIN SPICE IN ALL THE THINGS”, I personally don’t care for pumpkin flavored anything. This time of year, I reach for a nice crisp Märzen style beer, ripe for Oktoberfest, which fuels my inner desire to do the chicken dance with sweaty old people with silly hats.

The Chicken Dance song is proof that German mind control techniques still work! Within seconds of hearing that festively annoying song, my hands pop up making two chicken beaks, then my wings spread, only to shake my ass like I’m in Sir Mix-a-Lot video. Oh, my, God, Becky. After a few fest biers, I switch from clapping my hands to slappin’ drunk Oktoberfest ass! Protip: It’s a great way to wipe the bratwurst juice off your hands…don’t judge! I rock Oktoberfest proper.

Kevin Kidney Designed.

Label art by local artist Kevin Kidney, inpspired by a recent trip to Munich.

For review, I have a fresh Anaheim Brewery Oktoberfest Lager poured from the bottle into an Anaheim Brewery pint glass. Its rosy copper hue is topped with a lasting Alpen snowcap of head that lasts all Winter. Although not as malty sweet as Bavarian-brewed versions, this beer is crisp with a medium body at 6.5% ABV. Hints of Munich malt tingle the nose ever so slightly like a mountain climber stuck in a cave, yodeling until being eaten by the abominable snowman. This snowman loves beer though, and continues on a mad beer-hunt to wash down his epic climber meal. This beer’s flavor is simple, clean and delicious! Notes of blackberry bread are quickly washed away by a very dry finish. It’s such an easy drinking beer, I manage to down it halfway through this paragraph. Damn. I wish I had two, with a pretzel and mustard. Yodelay-he-hoo!

The story behind the beer is equally refreshing. From a Brewery rich with history, so is the beer’s recipe. From Anaheim Brewery’s blog:

We learned our Oktoberfest recipe from Greg’s first boss, Chris, who trained at the Paulaner Brewery, in Munich.  As an apprentice, Chris had to keep a journal and write an entry every work day.  One day, Chris was exploring the tunnels and basements of the Hacker brewery, which Paulaner owned.  He came across a room full of very old wooden beer barrels.  On top of one barrel was a dusty leather notebook full of hand-written recipes.  Chris took the book to the brewery historian, who pronounced the notebook “about 100 years old.”  Chris copied out the recipe for Oktoberfest Märzen from the leather notebook as his journal entry.

Anaheim’s Oktoberfest is a modern brewery adaptation of that 100 year old recipe! Brewed with their super clean house Lager yeast, Owners/Brewers Greg and Barbara Gerovak know it well. This proprietary yeast is used with their recent Pilsner release as well as their flagship 1888 California Common. The Pilsner can still be found at nearby Anaheim Gypsy Den, whereas 1888 is available in the brewery and many accounts around Orange County.

Anaheim Brewery will celebrate their 2nd Oktoberfest in their biergarten located at the brewery on 10/13. Look for details soon!


Haven Brewing debuts in Orange for their 3rd Anniversary!

courtesy Anne Watson Photography www.annewatsonphoto.comUpdate, as of 2014, Haven no longer brews.

It’s 5:00 P.M. on a balmy Monday night, nerves shot from an emotional day sending my kid to Kindergarten. At Haven Gastropub in Orange, I bet brewmaster Dave Larsen is having the same feelings. Debuting his beers for the first time in his native Orange, I’m sure It feels like an artist’s first show or the first time a stripper shows her junk on stage. Making the jump from a homebrewer/sou chef at Haven to brewmaster is astonishing. Tapping ten beers in five months is equally ambitious! Although the beer isn’t brewed in OC, this event is essentially the welcoming of yet another craft brewer to our growing list in Orange County. Are the beers good? We shall see. (Pretty photos courtesy of blog collaborator Anne Watson Photography

courtesy Anne Watson Photography www.annewatsonphoto.comI pull in a bit early, drop anchor on a stool and snap a few shots. At the stroke of six, Haven’s front door looks like the tube of an arriving flight. A constant flow of people attack the tables and bar area like an army of well dressed ants. My goal for the evening? Sample every beer and have fun! Sampling every beer is not an easy task given brewmaster Dave Larsen’s average ABV with ten beers is 8%.

courtesy Anne Watson Photography www.annewatsonphoto.comAlong with ten Haven beers, the special 3rd Anniversary menu is an ode to Haven Gastropub and spinoffs.  Taco Asylum, Burger Haven and special gatropubish offerings are layed out in a proper celebratory fashion. The thing I’m most excited about are menu items in the $5-10 range for small plate foods. I would love to see more of these items in regular rotation! Thirstier than a beerblogger at a bar, I get hit with a paddle of Gross National Happyness (cream ale), Hafen Hef, upRYEsing (rye IPA) and Diana Brown with a side of Taco Asylum Wild Mushroom Taco. My flip flops rhythmically clap my heels to the beat of Fiona Apple’s ‘Fast As You Can’ playing obliviously over the heads of this full house.

courtesy Anne Watson Photography

Brewmaster Dave Larsen gingerly watches like a lifeguard at a pool. No splashing Dammit!

The last time I saw Haven this busy was a month after they opened! The tiny alcove window seats are sealed thick with bodies chomping at the bit for a beer. Jeremy the bartender scans the bar left and right like he’s watching a tennis match with two Russian gals playing. Dave Larsen stands nervously near the bar, scratching his red beard, like he’s about to be married. Lets get down to business!

Diving into the flight:

GNH Cream Ale is a light and herbal beer with low bitterness and a dry finish. Notes of sage, honey and spearmint ring the nose. I’d recommend this for someone that doesn’t like dark beer or the bitterness of an IPA. Fun fact: It’s brewed with some special heirloom red rice. Bitches love heirloom red rice.

courtesy Anne Watson Photography www.annewatsonphoto.comHafen Hef is just that, a traditional Bafarian Hefeweizen. It has some nice bubble gum flafor up front, yet mild banana and clofe. [Geek note – Drinking a hef in a 4oz taster on draft is not ideal. Most of my excitement drinking a trad Hef is how pretty it looks when poured in proper glassware. The bright golden-orange beer topped with a frothy meringue-like head is a necessity!] Bottom line: If you like Hef’s you’ll like Hafen’s version. It is heafenly. Skip the lemon, you heathen. (v’s replaced with f’s on purpose you feluptuous fagina fulture.)

* Fave of the evening! upRYEsing – I loves me some rye malt all up in my beers! Up front this is still a hoppy IPA with some juicy grapefruit and tropical notes chased with a slick pepper spice on the finish. It goes perfectly with my Wild Mushroom Taco! Each bite and sip found heat in the taco and complements the huge umami/parsley/garbonzo flavors going on. If Taco Asylum carries upRYEsing, I highly recommend this pairing. I can only imagine how the Ghost Chili Pork taco would fare with this beer. I’m salivating and clenching thinking about it.

Diana Brown – Sadly, my flight was mis-poured and I didn’t get a chance to sample this beer.  I got two Hef’s on my paddle. Dammit.

courtesy Anne Watson Photography www.annewatsonphoto.comOn to bigger and better things, I sample the oaked and non-oaked versions of Bremasters Breakfast Oatmeal Stout. Whoa there cowboy! This is a monster! Wait… what? This is damn near Old Rasputin Imperial Stout! An Oatmeal Stout shouldn’t be this big, bold, dry and boozy. When I think Oatmeal Stout, I think smooth, creamy roasty-roastyness!. I assume this is a mis-poured 100 Rubles, Haven’s Russian Imperial Stout. The oaked version, assuming it is also the 100 Rubles on Oak, really mellows out the mouthfeel, adding in some pleasant oak tannins and booze while boosting the dark fruit notes.


Sosigenes Double IPA is a huge hit with the crowd around me. The draft board is numbered and people order fast-food style. I overhear, “I’d like a number 6” many times. Haven’s bartenders, despite standing next to the draft board force people to say the name, causing some pretty hilarious mispronunciations.  Winner of the night: “I’D LIKE A SNAUSAGES PLEASE!” Haha! I personally thought it was soh-sih-JUH-knees, but I heard Wil Dee (Haven’s Bev Mgr) say it as soh-sih-jen-nis. Potato, Potato. It’s a damn tasty DIPA with tons of hops sitting on an easy drinking malt backbone. Paired with the Taco Asylum Short Rib Taco doesn’t do the taco any favors. The ‘salsa verdi’ in the taco is reminiscent of Italian salad dressing, perhaps a mis-douse? it was weird, although I still inhaled it.

damn auto correct

Changing my luck, I grab a sure-fire pint of Hello World Pale Ale to cap off the evening. I lift anchor on my bar stool and chat with Dave for a bit. “I need a beer” he says wiping sweat off his brow. “This tastes exactly like my Organic Pale Ale homebrew, which I love” I say. We both stare awkwardly at Greer Wylder nearby. “Welp, have a good night!”. “You too”. I’m like the Ryan Seacrest of beer blog interviewers. I was going to ask about growler fills, kegs, bottles, what’s coming up through the end of the year, why rice in a cream ale, what other fun adjuncts are you brewing with, is the moon made of swiss cheese, who trims your beard, etc. I drew a blank. Sorry readers!

I’m mildly annoyed Kate Upton has a tiger.


Despite the mis-steps, Haven is still Haven. She’s like a beautiful girl that slightly annoys you from time to time, but you keep coming back because she’s super hot, ready for action and delicious. I’d like to see some more session beers to round out the beer repertoire; a 3-4% English Bitter, Porter or Mild might be pub friendly. I’m still impressed with this initial public offering after five short months. If they keep it up, they will surely increase my gross national happiness!


Hours of operation are 11 a.m. – 2 a.m. daily. Walk-ins welcome. For more information, including address and phone number, visit (on Facebook,

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