I’ll never forget my first date with my wife in 1998. Perched high on the pier at the Fisherman’s Restaurant & Bar in San Clemente during one of the biggest El Niño years in history, we sat on the deck under candlelight, waves crashing so high we were glistening from the sea mist that showered us every few waves. I remember it like yesterday, even the bottled Mexican lagers we sipped with lime wedges dipped in salt. Back then, there were no local breweries adding to the vibe, and we were sad.
Five years later, Pizza Port expanded its third location in San Clemente, and Left Coast started building a production brewery nearby. A decade passed before Artifex Brewing opened late 2014, with brewing partner Johnny Johur’s lineage going back to Pizza Port Solana Beach. All three breweries have that San Clemente small-family-business ethos, and all three brew really great West Coast-style India Pale Ales. These three are definitely worth the trip:
Left Coast Galaxy Supernova IPA (6.5 percent) Using a limited amount of Australian Galaxy hops, this hoppy beast, shown, is oozing with dripping peach and nectarine notes, followed by a simple malt backbone that reads like pineapple upside down cake. It’s dry, clear, and a total game-changer for Left Coast, which offers this limited-release beer in draft only. Find it at Left Coast’s tasting room, Hopscotch Tavern, Craftsman Wood Fired Pizza, and Simmzy’s Huntington Beach. Be sure to check out Left Coast’s annual Micro Brew fest on Saturday, April 23, and beg them to make more of this beer!
Artifex Brewing Trigger Finger IPA (7.2 percent) This traditional West Coast IPA is generously kettle hopped with Cascade and Citra hops, offering a firm-yet-clean bitterness that is nicely balanced with a honey-like malt backbone. The nose offers a burst of citrusy, tropical, and fruity notes from the perfect Cascade and Mosaic dry hop blend. The beer is unique, smooth, and crushable. Find it at Artifex Brewing’s tasting room and Pie Dog in Fullerton.
Pizza Port Lono (Mango) IPA (6.9 percent) Adding fruit to IPA’s is all the rage these days, with pineapple and grapefruit IPA appearing on supermarket shelves. Leave it to the small, independent craft brewer to go a step further, adding fresh mango to the mix. The flavor profile reads a lot like modern hop notes: juicy tropical fruit and a touch of pine, depending on the hop variety. Lono IPA is brewed with this in mind, making it hard to distinguish where the fruit starts and where the hops end. A fresh batch goes on tap April 13, and won’t last more than a week, with the next batch coming out early May. Don’t slack!
Left Coast Brewing, 1245 Puerta Del Sol, San Clemente, leftcoastbrewing.co
Pizza Port San Clemente, 301 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente, pizzaport.com
Artifex Brewing, 919 Calle Amanecer, San Clemente, artifexbrewing.com