Attempting to shoehorn only 10 stops into a must-see Orange County craft beer itinerary is next to impossible. Especially considering past Los Angeles County lists where everything was broken down into manageable neighborhoods like Downtown and Hollywood.
Here, I break the “10 Best” rule and make it a 10++ Best List. Breweries comprise one-half of the listings and the second half involves bars and restaurants that proudly serve good beers.
Breweries to Visit
The Bruery – There are a multitude of reasons why their Placentia taproom is always crowded and why their wild ale division, Terreux, will probably be as popular. They are consistent and they know how to work a barrel. Plus they have a new year-round table beer too, Jardinier, which shows that they can do low alcohol beers as well.
Bottle Logic Brewing – Take three lefts off the 91 freeway and you will find the warm environs of the hottest brewery with Orange County lineage. Their label design and branding are retro cool with science-y named beer lines like Hoptomotron, Cold Classics, Stasis and Proto. Check out their dark American lager, Lagerithm, a medalist at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival.
Noble Ale Works – Brewmaster Evan Price and crew are fast approaching their latest anniversary landmark. These two-time LA IPA Festival winners keep firing their Double IPA Showers series to Los Angeles, where they are gobbled up. They celebrate a new year on February 21 with 30+ beers flowing on tap.
TAPS Fish House & Brewery – A bastion of Old-World styles done with precision and crispness. The Brea brewery has the beers to match their stellar sandwiches and brunch. Victor Novak has mentored many a good brewer and though his move to Golden Road – Anaheim is tough. If any brewery can continue on strong, it would be TAPS.
Tustin Brewing Co. – What is it with Orange County that they spin-off more breweries? From Tustin came Smog City and that should be all the pedigree you need to visit this Great American Beer Festival winning brewery. Tustin is another brewery that puts the focus back on classic styles from Blimp Hangar Porter to The Lion Rampant Scottish Ale.
Barley Forge – This newcomer to the scene has an impressive tap room, plus a Double IPA that pokes fun at the division between the two large counties. Barley Forge also has a small menu to practice your beer and food pairing technique on. Yes, they have IPA’s but check out the Don Perfecto Wit with Horchata spices or El Paisano with agave extract.
Cismontane Brewing Co. – You have two choices on where to drink Cismontane beer. You can head out to Rancho Santa Margarita (for the bike riders) or the new industrial Santa Ana location (for the car crowd). It is now easier to get your Twilight or Double Rainbow.
Good Beer Co. – Newcomer #2 resides right off of Main Street in Santa Ana. This narrow building has been re-purposed for their humbly named brewery with a mix of hoppy and Belgian styles. February 13 marks the release of their first the bottles to the world, the Bravo series of Brett wheat beers, including versions dry-hopped with Citra, Centennial and Amarillo.
Valiant Brewing – This Anaheim brewery is tucked as far back in an industrial park as you can go. Keep your eyes out for their distinctive blue and gold logo to try some of their strong barleywines and stouts.
Bootlegger’s Brewery – This is another GABF Winner from Orange County, but for Rocco Red and not their ever popular Knuckle Sandwich. Bootlegger’s has a stable of beers to try that is too long to list, but that is okay, since you can order their beers by the half-pint at their tasting room in Fullerton.