2015 was the year for O.C. beer. Slipping more and more into mainstream, the “beer-curious” have ventured beyond the less-than-Stella euro lagers and dipped their toes into the craft beer pool. With a grip of O.C. breweries winning Great American Beer Festival medals and the formation of the O.C. brewers guild, it’s never been a better time to go out and do some beer tasting. One thing is for sure, 2016 will be even better!
I polled my social media followers this month on what their favorites are, and added my own picks for 2015. Drum roll …
Best Production Brewery:
My pick: Noble Ale Works. Hoppy IPAs are all the rage and nobody in Southern California does it better. Noble doesn’t relax on their efforts and is always trying to improve their already-great recipes. I’m also fond of their non-hoppy beers like Naughty Sauce, their always-on cask ale, and bright, clean, lower alcohol options like Pilsnear Beer (it also doesn’t hurt they’re on my way home from work). I can’t argue with my readers choices, they’re also my top three, but in different order.
My pick: I love both #1’s for different reasons, but ultimately TAPS get my vote because their kitchen is a few levels above mind blowing.
Best New Brewery: (16 months or less)
My pick: Agreed with #1. Downtown Santa Ana’s Good Beer Company has been a beer magnet for my car for some time. Their lower alcohol funky beers are like catnip for beer bloggers. Pairing the trip with a crawl that starts at C4 Deli, Good Beer Company, down 4th Street to Native Son Alehouse, then finish with dessert at The Playground … instant date night!
- Noble Ale Works
- Tie! Bottle Logic and RIIP Beer Co.
My Pick: Noble Ale Works I Love It! IPA and single hop Showers series beers are total dank hop sauce.
Best Tap Takeover:
The Iron Press by a landslide. With DJ LexaKhan spinning and an always packed house, the crew at Iron Press knows how to get the party going. Costa Mesa and Anaheim locations switch duties every other Tuesday, and the breweries they bring in always bring their A game. Two events that stood out: The Portola Coffee Infused beer night at Costa Mesa and the crazy night Pizza Port brought twenty beers up from San Clemente. I walked home.
Best Beer and…
Best Beer and Pizza: Pizza Port San Clemente by a landslide. Not only are their house beers incredible, the guest taps are also worth a trip.
Best Beer and Burger Joint: Slater’s 50/50 got the majority of the people’s choice votes, but I’m excited to see what Hopdoddy is doing with all O.C. Beer taps.
Best Beer and BBQ: Beachwood BBQ in a landslide. Meatup BBQ, Lillie’s Q and BT’s Southern BBQ get strong nods from my way.
Best Gastropub: Haven Gastropub, without any arguments.
Best Beer Bar: Native Son Alehouse, Downtown Santa Ana.
Best Bottle Shop:
My pick: Hi-Time Wine Cellars has my vote because of their awesome WYSIWYG walk-in cooler and knowledgeable staff.
Most Looking Forward to in 2016:
- Tie! Gunwhale Coastal Ales (Costa Mesa) and Hoparazzi Brewing (Anaheim)
- Golden Road Anaheim
- KARL Anaheim
My pick: KARL, Socal’s oldest craft brewery, has been making strides improving their beer and I can’t wait to see what they’ll bring to the Anaheim Stadium area.
Best Homebrew Shop:
- Windsor Homebrew Supply <- My pick as well.
- Phantom Ales
- O’Shea Brewing Co.
Best Beer Festival:
What were your favorites? Let us know in the comments or facebook!
*Disclosure Firkfest is my beer festival, and I swear I didn’t alter the votes. All of the readers chose great festivals that I highly recommend.