It’s fairly uncommon when a brewery makes great beer right out of the gate. It’s even rarer when you find one that gets better with every beer you try. Compound that with a year of solid releases, and you’ve got something truly extraordinary… Who would have thought a brewery with the word “gun” in its name would come guns blazing?
Come to think of it, not a beer was dumped by my hand during Gunwhale Ales’ 30-beer- strong anniversary party this past Sunday. Everything from Flooded Fields Petite Saison with cucumber, lime zest, and black pepper (at 3.2 percent) to Bait Ball unfiltered IPA with Aperol-soaked oak chips and citrusy Buddha’s hand fruit tickled my fancy. Aside from the blonde beers, I got deep into dark beers like Cockrow Breakfast Stout with The Brauhaus coffee to beers that were soft and pink, like freshly-made War Bonnet with hibiscus and raspberry. Just when I thought I was ready to declare my top-10 beers of 2017, War Bonnet easily made a last-minute addition.
Gunwhale is owned by three amigos JT Wallace, Justin Miller, and Bobby Fitzgerald; each bringing their expertise to the table. JT crafted the hipster-chic lumberjack tasting-room vibe, Bobby brings his marketing-branding expertise, and Justin, an ex-chef, lends his palate to production. Keeping things within the ocean vibe isn’t hard considering the guys are rooted in surfing, boating, and offshore fishing.
On the brewing side, Gunwhale recently hired Kevin Hammonds, mostly known for working his way up through The Bruery ranks to brewing manager. Behind his stoic face-forest and Anaheim Ducks tattoos, you’ll find a guy who can not only craft some farmhouse-style beer, he knows production from grain to glass. One of the first things Kevin brought to the table at Gunwhale was a collaboration with friends at Noble Ale Works…a hazy double IPA called “No Shower Happy Hour” which was rated 4.3 on Untappd and sold out on day one. Although I deemed it completely delicious, the Farmhouse IPA they co-released, Hawaiian Sling Farmhouse IPA, was the real star of my show. Not many breweries can pull off a foeder-fermented IPA with Sacc Trois yeast, but the beer for me showed a glimmer of what’s to come: fresh flavors in a sea of same, and full of house character.
For Gunwhale’s year two, I predict more IPA can releases along with their stable of coastal, funky, and dry saisons. Once their wine-barrel-aged beers are ready for blending, we’ll get a true sense of what this young brewery will become.
Check out Gunwhale Ales at 2960 Randolph Ave., Costa Mesa // gunwhaleales.com