In early 2008, it would have been farfetched to think that Placentia would one day become the center of the SoCal beer universe. Incredibly, Patrick Rue and Famille Rue already accomplished that feat for one day – May 16 – when The Bruery hosted its first anniversary celebration.
Beer aficionados and industry professionals flocked to the far end of an O.C. business park to join the festivities. Chains of black and yellow balloons signaled our arrival at The Bruery. Gabriel Gordon, the owner of Beachwood BBQ, set up a buffet on the covered patio, but the real action was happening indoors, where Rue and crew were pouring wildly different limited edition brews into commemorative glassware.
The main bar in The Bruery’s tasting room was out of control, with 14 handles in full effect. I visited The Bruery in early April and sampled several beers, freeing me to use my eight tickets on special and seasonal options. Orchard White, Black Orchard, Saison Rue and Hottenroth Berliner Weisse are available year round, so better to focus on limited edition brews like Papier.
Traditionally, a first-anniversary gift is made of paper. Given that, The Bruery previewed their first-anniversary ale, Papier. The June release is a Belgian-style Old Ale that rocks 14.5% ABV. Owner-brewer Patrick Rue describes the beer as having “complex flavors of dark fruit, vanilla, oak, and burnt sugar.” It was interesting to contrast Papier with its un-oaked counterpart, which had slightly less alcohol and a softer body.
It was an agonizing decision to bypass Melange #3, a memorably caramelly blend of imperial stout, wheat beer and old ale, all aged in Bourbon barrels.
Trade Winds Tripel will also be released in June, and we found it on tap at the anniversary party. The summer seasonal is brewed with rice and Thai basil and contains 8.1% ABV but was still exceedingly light and refreshing.
A separate sour bar, surrounded by tanks, was my favorite area in the muggy room. The Bruery showcased Cuvee Jeune at Craft Beer Fest L.A., and it’s a special beer, a young 6.5% Lambic made sour using lactobacillus, pediococcus and brettanomyces and aged in Chardonnay barrels for 10 months. White Zin is a sweeter variation on Cuvee Jeune aged with Zinfandel grapes, with 7.5% ABV, colored pink from grape skins. Rue’s other sours were also complex and rewarding, including Gypsy Tart (pictured), a young Flemish red. Melange #1 combined Russian Imperial Stout and Flemish Red. “Sour” has lip-puckering connotations, but all of The Bruery’s sours were highly drinkable and ideal for warmer weather.
Rue and his team were on duty behind twin barrels, pouring from unlabeled bottles. They poured rich but compelling beers aged in rye and bourbon barrels, plus a unique blend of mead (honey wine) and wheat beer). They switched bottles every hour.
The Bruery displayed an impressive range of flavors, including sour, sweet and bitter options. Rue may have decided to focus on Belgian beers, but he clearly takes a broad view of the definition.
Beachwood BBQ offered a choice of pulled pork or chicken, fried green tomatoes or fried pickles, plus bottomless bins of cole slaw and potato salad. Gordon also brought his full complement of barbecue sauces, including spicy, which added some welcome kick. The food was pretty good, but it’s better in Seal Beach.
For dessert, The Bruery dispensed terrific egg-loaded Belgian waffles studded with caramelized granules of pearl sugar, plus strips of salty bacon coated in dark chocolate.
At around 5:30, when the event was just beginning to wind down, The Bruery crew assembled the masses for a “family” photo. Everybody hoisted their glasses and cheered. It was a fitting reminder of the good will that The Bruery has managed to generate in just a year.