The hardest part of writing about this particular beer dinner is it’s already happened in the past. By all means, step into my ultra-cool time machine that I just made up and boom, you’ve been transported to TAPS Fish House & Brewery at 6 p.m. on a Thursday night. As you step out of the machine, a smiling server hands you a frosty blonde ale and you grab a shady seat at a circular table. You sip, admiring the picnic-style table setting with sunflowers and a battalion of Lillie’s Q barbecue sauces covering every American sauce tradition.
A few minutes later, the pig is delivered by Chef Kody of Lillie’s Q, and you get up to take a selfie next to it, mimicking the hog’s smile and glistening summer tan. You chuckle at the thought of putting sunglasses on the hog, but greasy shades are no fun.
Four beers are delivered to your table on a descriptive place mat, colors ranging from pale yellow to ruby red. Each beer served for this collaboration dinner has been hand-crafted for the event, served in small mason jars. You pick up the lightest and sniff, perhaps getting some foam on your nose, causing you to giggle. It smells peachy! Peaches & Cream is indeed the beer, and is super refreshing. Paired with heirloom beet popsicles sent out as appetizers, your eyes roll, thinking ‘no doubt chef found this brilliant idea on Pinterest.’
Your tablemates introduce themselves as you stand in choir-like unison to join the quickly-forming food line. A meatstorm of ribs, sausage, and pulled pork rains down on your plate, leaving little doubt you’ll need a bib. After you sit, side dishes fill the table like housing tracts in Brea’s surrounding suburbia. Brussels sprouts are passed to the left, mashed potatoes are passed to the right, and a colorful melon salad is passed across. Who knew side dishes could be so fun like a game of hearts? You get the two of clubs and dig in first. Both the ribs and Brussels sprouts are candy-like, and totally conquer your steaming summer plate.
As the sun sets, beers must be enjoyed quickly before succumbing to the summer heat. A Currant Affair—a Belgian-style Wit infused with black currant tea, a Grapefruit IPA, and an Oaked Hog Tied Red Ale (a Lillie’s exclusive beer brewed by TAPS) all go down too easy. “We have two desserts coming along with one more beer … save room!” bellows Chef Manny of TAPS with a huge smile. Grapefruit IPA seems to be the big hit among the table, although the Oaked Hog Tied marries with the smokey BBQ best.
Your server, looking exactly like Katy Perry with the hair of Annabella Lwin (singer of Bow Wow Wow), delivers Velvet Hog, an imperial porter, and two desserts: peach cobbler and a strawberry-rhubarb shortcake. Your cigar gets clipped and lit as the blues guitarists strum, nibbling away on their guitar strings, and you, on the fresh dessert you thought you were too full to eat.
As cigar smoke fills the air, so does the chatter. You’re so full it’s hard to get up, but convince yourself that one last fill of the Oaked Hog Tied beer would pair well with your delicious petit robusto cigar. The clock strikes nine and the time machine starts beeping. Damn. You hop in, only to be confronted by this boring screen you always seem to stare at. “Next time, I’ll plan ahead,” you think.
Custom beers, stogies, barbecue, and endless sides for $60 (plus tax & tip), TAPS and Lillie’s Q throw one hell of a spread together. My only recommendation? Skip my crummy made-up time machine and sign up for for the TAPS email blast so you never miss another event. TAPS and Lillie’s Q set the bar very high with quality and hospitality, something that should be imitated often.