Some weekends you just need to channel Huell Howser and set off on a California freeway to experience a different slice of California. And it doesn’t hurt that there always seems to be locally crafted beer practically everywhere.
Case in point is the City of Temecula. Before the freeway linked San Diego and Los Angeles, this was a super small city that literally exploded in population in the 1980’s and 1990’s going from under 50,000 in the early ‘90s to close to 115,000 now. That surge is clearly seen in a weekend walking the wooden sidewalks of the Old Town where people crowd into restaurants and browse the Farmers Market.
It extends to the beer as well. Old Town has an outpost of Craft Brewing Company just off of Front Street, as well as the new Stone Church Brewing and most bars and restaurants have something on tap from nearby Wiens Brewing or Refuge Brewery on tap. If you enter from the north, you can see a gleaming Ballast Point location and near that is Relentless Brewing which is in the process of opening up a second storefront in Eagle Rock.
I chose to visit two brewing spots that are south of the Old Town with quite different vibes and beers to explore while in town. First up and getting a thumbs up is Aftershock Brewing. Based in a strip mall, the bright yellow sign is not hard to spot. Once inside the smell of wort was like catnip to me. The temblor themed brewery has a chill vibe and a little decorated special nook that shows that someone put thought into the space. You could get glasses of some of their special anniversary beers as far back as 2016 amidst the nice style selections on tap. The Earthquake Weather Hoppy Pils was more on the Hoppy than Pils side, but had good bitterness as did their flagship Third Degree IPA and their NE Death By Citra hazy. My taster tray favorite was the Jess y James which was a standard Stout that ticked all the malty/roasty boxes.
Garage Brewing was stop two and practically underneath one of the biggest American flags that I have seen. This pizza and brewery location was packed to the rafters and had a really large, three-page beer menu. Unfortunately, minus a couple of exceptions in the Classic Lager and Brut IPA, most of the beers that I sampled seemed overly sweet or unbalanced. Cases in point are the Sweet Orange Wit which had a weird orange candy taste to it and the Apple Pie Pale which was spot on the first two words but had none of the character of a Pale Ale. The beers that really stood out were the Rancho Lager which tasted basically like the regular version and had none of the malty character that you expect in a Vienna lager. The Imperial Oatmeal Stout was also problematic, more suited for pouring over pancakes.
To rebound, on the way out of town in neighboring (and also beer rich) Murrieta, I stopped at 8 Bit Brewing Company and was rewarded with a pair of really well made beers and beer names ripped from video games and movies such as Redpool, a malty and quenching red ale and Oregon Trail Pale a haze-ified beer that had lots of juicy character to it.
Over two days, I only scratched the surface of Temecula beer. Maybe if I had a stagecoach to take me to more taprooms.
We head to the City of Bell for our Non-IPA Beer of the Week. Border X Brewing just opened last weekend and already has a tap list 13 beers strong that celebrates culture and the culinary. I suggest ordering the Biere de Bohrder. This is in the Biere de Garde style which loosely means beer that has been kept. It is related to Saison, but heavier and more malt forward. The Border X version is chock full of agave and makes for a smooth and sweet mouthfeel.
March 9, Dry River Brewing will host a Triple Can Release. No it will not be trio of Hazy IPAs as is the norm because this is Dry River that we are talking about and they do things a little differently. The party starts at 1 p.m. and will be headlined by the Tart Saison Lady Roja in 12-ounce cans. West Coast Double Dry Hopped with Azacca and Mosaic IPA by the name of Bridges is also on offer in 16-ounce cans and then to really throw a curve ball, you can buy their initial Kombucha, called Perfect Weather, with blood orange and hibiscus.
Four-packs are available for pre-purchase on the Dry River website, and if you buy all three of the 4-packs available you’ll be entered to win some new Dry River merch. All pre-purchases will be available for pickup on March 9 and March 10.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.