The Santa Ana River itself has a rich history. When Santa Ana River Brewing first opened about this time last year, it was obvious the river had a significance. Here in O.C., it is a recognizable landmark, and you will find many historical photos of the Santa Ana River in the tasting room. Although the actual river may have a trickle of water if not run dry most of the time, Santa Ana River Brewing certainly is not.
Founded by two friends, Geoff Brand and Mike Miller, the name Santa Ana River Brewing was agreed upon before they even had a location set. “The name was established easily early on,” Miller said. Both Brand and Miller are O.C. natives.
A first-year celebration for any business is one more checkmark on eventual success and a platform to reach more goals. “We stayed open!” Brand jokingly said about the first-year goal. He later added: “We have many goals for the years to come, including a barrel program and second location.” Considering the current location is indeed quite hidden, a second location with more foot traffic would increase its presence in the O.C. beer landscape.
Talking about the beer, most of the beers have a focus on hops, with Even More Hops Than Brains, a triple IPA, exhibiting some excellent aromatics. Red White and Brew, a wonderful pale ale, has some classic hop flavors of citrus atop a crisp bed of grains. With the tagline “More hops than brains,” it’s no wonder Santa Ana River produces a fair amount of delightful hop-focused beers.
Other styles are available such as Agua del Rio, an enjoyable Mexican lager, and Saigon Stout, a Vietnamese coffee stout on nitro. For the anniversary, be on the lookout for a few special beer releases, including a double hazy IPA.
Currently, the brewing is done by contract out of Backstreet in Anaheim, then trucked over for fermentation and packaging in Santa Ana. Eventually, a brewhouse will be installed, but this is a great way to get beer out there. “We are about as independent as it gets,” proclaimed Ian Maddux, taproom manager.
The tasting room is cozy with some pinball machines and spillover into the production space for added seating. “We want to be known for not taking ourselves too seriously with a good atmosphere,” said Brand as we chatted. Pay them a visit and help them celebrate their first year Feb. 15.
Santa Ana River Brewing
3480 W. Warner Ave.
Editor’s note: Charlie Perez is an Advanced Cicerone® who covers the Orange County beer scene for the Booze Blog.