California Trip - Craft Brew Sampling

>> Monday, October 22, 2012

The 50/50
I haven't had a chance to brew for a couple weeks so this post is a little different than most. We recently went to California for a family vacation, so I figured I'd do a quick little write-up on some of the things we were able to sample on our trip. Vacation is a great time for enjoying good food and good beer.

First up was Slater's 50/50 in Anaheim Hills. It's essentially a gourmet burger joint/craft beer sports bar. My niece waits tables here and we'd heard good things about it, so we decided to give it a try. I'm not positive, but I believe they have about a dozen+ beers on tap with the rest in the bottle.

Slater's 50/50 is known for their flagship burger, The 50/50. What makes it unique is it's made from 50% ground beef and 50% ground bacon. They have a few different designer burgers in addition to The 50/50 and you also have the option of designing your own custom burger. We decided to split a couple so that we could try more than one. If you go, keep in mind these burgers are huge and very filling and could easily be shared unless you're absolutely starving. We ended up splitting a 50/50 and a Peanut Butter and Jellousy between three people.

The 50/50 is topped with an egg (sunny side up), avocado mash, pepper jack cheese, and chipotle mayo served on a white brioche bun. My two younger kids had sliders made with the 50/50 patties and didn't care for them as much as the grown-ups. It has a different texture than a 100% beef patty, and I think that's probably what turned the younger ones off. The 50/50 patty is really good and the combination of beef and bacon definitely add complexity...kind of like peeling back the different layers on a complex beer. The burger was cooked beautifully but the egg was slightly overcooked so it wasn't runny.

The Peanut Butter and Jellousy
Next up was the Peanut Butter and Jellousy burger. This is a 100% beef burger topped with thick cut bacon, creamy peanut butter, and strawberry jelly served on honey wheat bun. We ordered this one because it seemed like it was just weird enough that it had to be really good...and it didn't disappoint. Like the 50/50, the patty, bacon, peanut butter and jelly combined for some really complex flavors.  This one ended up being everybody's favorite. The addition of the crispy bacon added a texture that was missing from the 50/50. I think I may try to recreate this one at home.

I washed the burgers, fries, and dessert down with a Stone Levitation, a Magic Hat #9, an Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, all of which were fantastic. Long story short, the food was good and so was the beer. I'd definitely recommend this place if you're in the area. The only downside is it's in a strip mall and it really feels like you're in a strip mall, so the atmosphere is a little lacking. Service was good, but I could tell our waitress really didn't know a lot about beer; living in Utah I'm kind of used to that, so it wasn't a big deal to me.

Next was a brew pub in Laguna Beach named Ocean Brewing Company. It's located in a touristy area of Laguna Beach. I'd never been here before nor heard of it. I was hoping I'd stumbled across Laguna Beach's best kept brewing secret but I was a little disappointed. After sitting down I cracked open a menu that seemed to focus more on cocktails and wine than on beer...kind of odd for a place with "Brewing Company" in their name. Red Sunshine was one of their "house beers" and they claimed it was award winning but they didn't mention which awards. It arrived and was decent but not great. It had nice lacing and nice body but I suspect it was a little old because it didn't have much hop flavor/aroma (it's described as an Amber Ale). I've definitely had worse beers but I've had much better. We were meeting family later for dinner so we only ordered an appetizer. Food was like the beer, we ate it but it was so-so at best. Long story short, don't make a special trip to go here but if you're in the area it's better than going somewhere that only serves Bud/Miller/Coors.

Our last stop was Newport Beach Brewing Company. This one by far had the best atmosphere of all the places we visited. I'd never been there before but I believe I've sampled their brews at GABF. Speaking of which, several of their beers have won GABF medals. I order a flight of their beers and all were very tasty but my favorite was their Just Peachy Barrel-aged Blonde Ale. It wasn't as tart as some sours I've enjoyed (e.g Russian River Supplication), but it was very nice and the complexity really came out as it warmed up a bit. I'm usually not a fan of Blonde Ales, but the added complexity from the barrel aging was really nice on this.  No single flavor was especially dominant, but they blended well and complimented each other well. Food was great as well. I had the NBBC Patty Melt which was really tasty. It's described as an Angus patty grilled and topped with sauteed, jalapenos, onions, apple wood bacon, swiss cheese on grilled sour dough. Because of the jalapenos, it's best enjoyed by those that like spicy food. Long story short, beer, food, and atmosphere were great.

And now for some beer-porn.  Below is a variety of beers I picked up at Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Newport Beach and Total Wine in Brea.  Both stores have a pretty good craft beer section including tons of beers that aren't available in Utah.

From left to right:

  • The Beast Grand Cru Ale - Avery Brewing
  • Saison du Buff - Collaboration between Victory, Stone, and Dogfish Head Breweries
  • Smoked Porter with Chipolte Peppers - Stone Brewing
  • Duchesse De Bourgogne - Brouwerij Verhaeghe - Flanders Red Ale
  • Punkin Ale - Dogfish Head Brewery
  • Damnation - Russian river Brewing
  • TBA Ale - Collaboration between Bear Republic, Fat Head's, and Stone Breweries
  • Three Philosophers Belgian Style Blend - Brewery Ommegang
  • Farmhouse Summer Ale - Flying Fish Brewing

From left to right:

  • Tartuffe - Herretic Brewing
  • Evil Cousin Heretic Brewing
  • Autumn Maple - The Bruery
  • Grand Cru - Rodenbach
  • Aged Pale Grand Reserve - Petrus
  • Theobroma - Dogfish Head Brewing
  • 11.11.11 Vertical Epic - Stone Brewing
  • Hope Stoopid - Lagunitas Brewing