Grapefruit, White tea, coffee, guava, ginger, raisins, rum-soaked oak chips, milk sugar, watermelon, fennel, cranberry, clove. That list gets you partway through all of the different ingredients that were on creative display at the Gunwhale Coastal Ales 1st Anniversary party.
The best part was that you could easily compare and contrast the base beer with the ingredient-laden variant. For example, the first beer on the menu board was a table beer, Chickabiddy. A rare, but welcome beer style. Chickabiddy was also available with some of the ingredients from the aforementioned list. It was a great way to check out if, say, jasmine tea and milk sugar made a marked improvement on its analog counterpart or not.
I should back up and let people know that Gunwhale is in Costa Mesa and this was my first visit to their facility. Though I have had a couple of their beers in the past at festivals and events, neither experience prepared me for the culinary meets brewing worlds that was on tap. The name refers to the upper edge of a boat’s side though a more colloquial usage “loaded to the gunwhales” meant overflowing.
Brewery co-founders Justin Miller, JT Wallace and Bobby Fitzgerald have created a hybrid brewery that does an even mix of the hoppy with IPAs such as Bait Ball and Pau Brah! and the farmhouse-like Majordomo, a Citrus Farmhouse ale; and Old Rackatee, a saison made with Farro. That dual nature is also on display in the taproom which evokes both boats, Americana and farmhouse, the latter most notably in a mural showing three farmers standing around a field, each with a beer in hand.
I came away from Gunwhale thinking more about the farmers who grew the grain crop and all the different ingredients that could be added to beer in 2017 and beyond than I did before my visit.
The BEER OF THE WEEK is the winter ale from Barley Forge Brewing, which just so happens to be literally across the street from Gunwhale. I jaywalked over and ordered up Fusty Puckett which is a dark and muddy brown color and is bursting with what I recall as the “holiday spices.” A good choice for before or after Christmas shopping.
Your HOMEWORK is to meet new beer friends. Tomorrow night, December 8, Sunset Beer Co. hosts breweries in town for the Beer Advocate Extreme Beer Festival. Get your (possibly) first taste of beers from J. Wakefield, Burley Oak, Civil Society, and Finback. I don’t normally recommend chasing whales, but if the beer is right there in our backyard, well…
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.