‘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!

Notes from the Younger – Sparkling Hop Wine At Its Finest

By now, you know I don’t like to review beers in a blog form. Why? I’m actually not a fan of reading beer reviews. However, when I insert a beer like Pliny the Younger into my supple, furry body, sharing tasting notes is a must. I actually do keep notes on most beers I sample, whether it be on untappd, on a napkin, or scribbled on a bathroom wall and photographed.

I’d like to first start off and say that Selma’s RSM had the best Pliny the Younger roll out. They chose to invite all of their regulars via facebook, create a list, and open it to the public after that. As it was tapped, I merely waved my wrist-band at the bartender and received my pour. No waiting, no lines, no raffle. Rewarding regulars was smart!

8oz was poured into a standard white wine glass at optimal temperature. The insane amount of hops on the nose is euphoric and hypnotic. I found myself sniffing and sniffing, goosebumps on my arms, my excitement: like a tree snake going in for the kill. I picked up on mainly citrus, pine, and floral notes with a hint of malty sweetness.

My first taste: total disbelief how long the hops last. One sip lingers at least ten full Mississippi seconds before leaving quietly. Calling Pliny the Younger a Triple India Pale Ale almost doesn’t do it justice. Younger is a sparkling hop wine! Swirling around the glass, the sticky resinous hops create some nice lingering legs. The head quickly dissipates into a light snow-like dusting. Zero lace is to be expected with this oily hop load. The mouthfeel is very vinous and the 11% ABV is hidden very well with only a slight tinge of burn, similar to wine. The carbonation was adequate, cleansing without stinging.

On the pour, a snow bank of foam clings briefly to the sides of the glass.

Often times you hear the term “malt backbone” in a review. My impression of PtY’s malt backbone? Picture a kilo brick of hops sitting on a box of Hostess Twinkies. The malt is there, much like a picture hanger is to the Mona Lisa. The clarity and color of this brew is surprising as I expected to see some residual cloudiness from the quadruple dry hopping and at least a slight copper tinge. Pliny the Younger has none of that. Its clear honey-golden color reveals nothing of what’s in store for your taste buds.

As there is so much hype surrounding this beer, it’s easy to forget its purpose. Anyone that says “it doesn’t live up to the hype” perhaps built it up too much. Russian River goes above and beyond all with this release, totally perfecting what no one else attempts. In that regard, it is truly outstanding and must be tried.

Great thanks to the team at Selma’s Chicago Pizzeria and Taproom in Rancho Santa Margarita! Last chance in OC to sample the Younger is at their new Ladera Ranch location on 2/27/12. Check their facebook page for details. Also thanks to Joslyn Ellstrom and Justin from Beerventures for sharing their table!

Cismontane Oktoberfest Beer Release and Chicken Dance

I’m a huge fan of new beer releases. Especially when they’re seasonal, interesting and born from a brewery I’ve never been to. Cismontane brewery down in Rancho Santa Margarita has the goods! I stopped in with my Phoenix Club Oktoberfest Stein ($2 for the first fill) and unterhosen to see what was cooking in South County.

Cultivation on the outside, inebriation on the inside!

Cismontane Brewing is situated in an outdoor shopping plaza near the 241 toll road and RSM Parkway. I found the landmark KFC, followed the steeping barley smell, and looked for the live hops plants growing up the building. Colonel Sanders would lick your fingers for a taste of some good local beers for sure…”Finger lickin’ good”! Being a packed joint I joined a booth with none other than Jessica Rice from beerandbaking.com and her crew. Dave, the dude with the stache, Michael, the dude with the shutter snappin’. I love randomly meeting people in my Untappd friends list. I’ve long admired Miss Rice and her extensive  list of rare beers she imbibes. Unfortunately I didn’t realize it was her until they all left. Oh well. I’m sure our paths will cross again.

Locals wetting their whistles. Einz, Zwei, Gsuffah!

Midway through my stein, I must say, is a thoroughly enjoyable Oktoberfest beer. It’s dry, deep copper, wild honeysuckle on a biscuit native Southern California lager. Sitting down with head brewer Evan Weinberg on a brewday of all days is a hoot. I caught him Mid-boil pre-hops pitch, sweat dripping on his black rubber boots.  He’s holding a 1 liter dimpled traditional Oktoberfest Stein filled halfway, shaking it buzzingly side to side as we chat. Evan fills me in on the specifics of this brew. The beer is a collab with Newport Beach Brewing Co. Derek Bougie made with locally sourced wild Buckwheat from the area. This is the first in a series utilizing local natural ingredients. Taps’ Victor Novak provided the proprietary yeast to eat the sugars on this seasonal brew. It doesn’t necessarily have the tell tale noble hop style of an Oktoberfest, but it does have the crisp yet lingering after-finish of the German counterpart. Sometimes when drinking an Oktoberest beer such as a de facto Spaten Oktoberfest, the beer sets up shop in your mouth well after drinking. Subsequent beerless swallows continue to engulf your pallet with sugary malty flavors. Your saliva thickens and pallet aches for German food…a Wurst, a potato pancake, sauerkraut or a pretzel act as an agent to reset your mouth’s atmosphere to zero.

Next I ordered a flight of the other four beers offered: Hafer Weizen (Maybe Nelson hopped wheat beer), The Citizen (California Common/Steam), Casked Oktoberfest (same as above, but dry hopped in cask), and Blacks Dawn (Imperial Stout). All of them were spectacular! I’m a huge fan of hopped wheat beers and the Hafer doesn’t disappoint.  The Citizen had some nice roasted sweet malts that turn nutty/coffee bitter as it warmed up. The casked Oktoberfest was earthier than the keg but had a slight dank hoppy aroma. Blacks Dawn is big time coffee, chocolate, molasses; it’s smooth and very enjoyable. I picked up a growler of The Citizen to enjoy at a BBQ the following day.

On Deck – What to look forward to before years end: 

Future plans: Expansion!

  • CUP: RSM city council approved a conditional use permit to expand into the unit next door. They still need the plans to be approved, but more space for tanks and more space for tasting = good!
  • Bottles, although limited, will be available soonish!

Food: Rancho A Go Go Truck served up brats while I was there. I ordered in German! It’s funny how much German I recall from High School German class over twenty years ago. The Oktoberfest beer worked well drawing some sweetness from the sausage. A couple doors down is a Thai restaurant, and there’s also nasty ass KFC if you want to feel like a greasy shitball.


Overall I think Cismontane’s creativity will keep people interested. The quality is high, the beer is fresh, and the crew running the place bring a chill perverted surfer type vibe. Being a photographer and art hobbyist I love that they showcase artists in the tasting room. There’s also books, magazines, games to mess with if you get bored. Me, being the socialite (haha) shared my table with three groups during my stay and met some interesting and diverse people. Aside from the beerandbanking.com gal above, I met a dude that puts shoes on horses with his gal that tends bar at PF Changs at night and works for lawyers during the day. A dirt bike rider gal with a Kawasaki shirt and her dude, then there was an older lesbian couple, then a phone zombie. Seriously, this dude didn’t stop looking at his phone the entire time. Crazy.

Video of the buckwheat harvest, o’tay?:

Tasting room is open Thur-Sun, check their website for details! www.cismontanebrewing.com