O.C. gets new brewery, familiar brewmaster



novakLos Angeles’ Golden Road Brewing will open an Anaheim tasting room this Saturday, November 14 at 2210 East Orangewood Ave., directly across from Angel Stadium. Opening day will include free tacos from Soho Taco for the first 200 guests.

This opening marks the company’s first major expansion project outside of its hometown.

In the fall of 2016,  Golden Road’s Anaheim tasting room will be joined by a 56,000-square-foot complex that will includes a brewery, a beer garden and a restaurant.

And a familiar face will be returning to O.C.: Victor Novak, who joined Golden Road over one year ago after 15 years with TAPS Fish House & Brewery in nearby Brea. Novak will lead Golden Road’s Anaheim-based brewing team, making specialty beers on Golden Road’s 15-barrel system for the onsite pub and providing limited distribution to local Golden Road retailers.

“I’ve been looking forward to returning to Orange County and brewing a variety of classic styles and new specialty beers that complement our current lineup,” said Novak. “The community of beer drinkers here is so savvy and I’m excited to share the vision of Golden Road on the smaller scale this pilot facility will provide.”

There’s another good reason for Victor to come back to O.C.: He’s a big Angels fan. We can’t imagine a better location for him.

O.C. gets another craft beer festival


Local breweries serve samples of their beer at the Brew Hee Haw craft beer tasting event during the OC Fair. ///ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: 7/18/16 - ocfair.0720.brew - SHELBY WOLFE, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER - More than 80 craft beer selections will be available from local brewers like Newport Beach Brewing Co. The 21-and-older event will feature unlimited 2-ounce tastings, music, craft beer education and contests. Sessions are 1-4 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. Saturday, and 2-5 p.m. Sunday

Craft beer continues to take over the world, despite the best efforts of AB InBev. Latest evidence: another new beer festival, this one on the beautiful if crowded Balboa Peninsula. Here are the details of the Balboa Island Craft Beer Festival:

Unlimited tastings from a dozen breweries
Coachella Valley Brewery
Lightning Brewery
Absolution Brewery
Stone Brewing Company
Saint Archer
Pizza Port Brewery
Stay tuned for more

Food tastings from local restaurants
Balboa Bar-B-Que
Cruisers Pizza Bar Grill

Live rock ‘n roll by The Strangers
Hot Wing eating contest
Cornhole, Giant Jenga, carnival games, photo booth and raffle prizes

$55 Per Person ($20 for designated drivers)

Nov. 14
1:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Balboa Village
600 E Balboa Blvd.
Newport Beach

Purchase tickets here.

Email them at drink@balboabeerfest.com

Will Pacific City bring some class to the Surf City bar scene?


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The new Pacific City shopping center in Huntington Beach on PCH near the Huntington Beach Pier is in the final phase of construction and will have it's grand opening in November. ///ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: pacificcity.1025 Ð 10/19/15 Ð LEONARD ORTIZ, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER - _DSC8872.NEF - A story on the architecture and landscaping of Huntington Beach's newest shopping center, Pacific City.

Leonard Ortiz, for the Register

The bar and restaurant scene in downtown Huntington Beach is about to get classier. I hope.

Actually, there’s no way of telling yet. But Pacific City is opening next week — that gigondo development just south of the HB pier — and, when it’s finally full sometime early next year, there will be more than a dozen places with ABC licenses. (That’s not counting the adjacent new hotel.)

Rumor has it they’ll be selling local craft beer in the food court, Lot 579, when it launches in February.

Some of the restos and bars coming in will undoubtedly be classy. I’m looking forward to a seafooder called Ways & Means (it was one of my favorite haunts in downtown Orange during its brief life there).

During a hard-hat tour I took last week, I checked out the two most eye-popping spots in the new mall: a couple of top-level spaces with spectacular views of the pier and ocean. I’m told they will be occupied by high-end restaurant-bars.

Say what you will about Pacific City (and I’m not totally thrilled myself with its odd architecture and its potentially disruptive influence on downtown traffic), it’s a welcome addition to the dreary H.B. bar scene.

While it’s been slowly improving over the last couple of years (I love the bar at Hyatt’s Watertable and Dann Bean’s wonderful Main Street Wine Company), downtown H.B. still has way, way too many low-end watering holes for rowdy millennials. Pacific City will give those who are serious about wine, beer and cocktails some viable alternatives — I hope.

Check out my analysis of Pacific City in today’s Register.

Is an epic Battle of the Beers brewing?



explode bottleThe world’s two biggest beer companies are joining forces. Could this be the first salvo in an epic battle against craft breweries, whose meteoric rise is capturing a growing chunk of the market?

Earlier this month, 3G Capital’s Anheuser-Busch InBev reached a tentative deal to purchase SABMiller for $104.6 billion.The new behemoth could control 80 percent of the American beer market if the DoJ doesn’t force it to spin off a label or two.

I’m working on a story about the big guy-small guy Battle of the Brews for this Sunday’s Business section. I interviewed several local craft brewers about the topic.

Here’s what brewery operations manager Kyle Manns at TAPS in Brea had to say.

Q. Do you think the mega-brewers have it in for the craft beer makers?

A. I have an email in front of me saying that one of the largest breweries is buying up most of the aluminum cans. It’s now harder for craft breweries to buy cans.  I have a big concern with that. My worry is that (the big companies) will be buying the resources on the back end of things.

Q. What else could they control?

A. Hops as well. They’re buying these breweries that make a lot of IPAs. They are gonna possibly make them in mass quantities, and that will take a lot of hops. With global warming the crop reports get worse and worse each year for hops. They could easily corner the market.

Q. What else are the big boys doing to make life harder for craft breweries like yours?

A. They are now buying distributors. They bought two or three in Colorado and are making it harder generally for them to sell craft beer.

Q. A lot of the big companies are selling faux-craft beer like Blue Moon now. What do you think of that?

A. I think there is some danger. If McDonald’s started selling charcuterie sandwiches, would we think McDonald’s was okay? It’s a slippery slope in my eyes. While it helps newcomers get into craft beer, they’re gonna put all this money into marketing and getting the word out; it is misleading.

Q. What about the mega-breweries buying up craft beer makers? If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right?

A. But are the recipes the same? They’re letting the genie out of the bottle. I don’t know what’s going to happen going forward.

Here’s the latest on the health benefits of wine

red wine grapes

I know, I know, you’re probably skeptical about all those news stories about the health benefits of red wine.
But the good news keeps piling up. Here’s some of the latest:

Researchers at Oregon State’s College of Agricultural Studies recently announced that wine drinking could lead to weight loss. Woo hoo!

The team spent 10 weeks gorging mice on a high-fat diet. Once the little Mickeys were nice and porky, half of them were given extracts from Pinot noir grapes; the other half got regular old mouse chow. The wined-and-dined mice stored less liver fat and had lower blood sugar. How come? Certain grapes stunt the growth of fat cells and nearly stop new ones in their tracks. Cool. (Sure, you could get the same effect by eating a few red grapes. But how fun would that be?)

Here are some additional red wine benefits that have recently become more accepted:

– Resveratrol minimizes cell damage and prevents age-related mental decline.

Resveratrol also improves physical performance and muscle strength. (But don’t turn into a wine-swilling couch spud – real exercise is still better.)

– An antioxidant in red wine called quercetin helps kill certain types of cancer cells, especially colon cancer.

– Red wine drinkers have a 34 percent lower mortality rate than beer or vodka drinkers. (Bad news for craft-beer freaks and Russians.)

– Red wine tannins, which are what give red wine its color, protect against heart disease. Resveratrol also helps prevent blood clots. A daily dose of red wine cuts blood clot-related stroke rates by 50 percent.

More winemakers are now avoiding sulfites (the common term for sulfur dioxide). This is great news for those who suffer from sulfite allergies, although there’s a lot of debate about the chemical’s other harmful effects.

Sulfur dioxide is a preservative that’s widely used in winemaking because it prevents oxidation and other kinds of deterioration. It helps preserve a wine’s freshness. But careful storage can do the same thing. So by all means buy the sulfite-free wine – but treat it like your frail grandma.

Finally, there’s a lot more attention being paid to organic and biodynamic farming, especially among smaller growers and vintners. And technical innovations such as optical scanners and phenolic analysis mean wine is getting cleaner and more carefully made than ever. So drink up – just check the label first!

Flavored vodka trends: the full story


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Various flavored vodkas including brands like TRU, Hanson of Somona, Ketel One, Stoli and Seagrams. ///ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: food.FlavoredVodkas.0924 Ð 9/16/15 Ð NICK AGRO, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER-BACKGROUND: Posted at 2pm to setup studio. Should setup for big soft lighting but alos switch to harder backlighting too. See Kyle in the newsroom for his thoughts on Weds. Begin shoot at 3pm. Work with Kyle on a design concept.  Shoot fruit with vodka. This is probably best with big, softbox lighting but your call. Paul Hodgins will also be there and bringing some (hopefully) cool looking bottles. I might recommend shooting this with some softish front lighting but strong backlight to bring out the (hopefully) colors of the fruit drinks. Flavored vodkas: Bo has spoken to Greenbar LA, St. George and Ketel One. Story by Paul Hodgins and Bo McMillan.

As I mentioned last month, I was working with a talented intern name Bo McMillan to produce a story on the current state of flavored vodkas. (Actually, Bo did all of the heavy lifting. I tasted a lot of interesting vodkas, added my two cents and talked to Carl Nolet Jr.)

Here’s the full story, in case you missed it in the Register:

Remember the bar scene a decade or so ago? We liked our cocktails sweet and wacky. (Names like the Boom Shaka Laka, Sex on the Beach and the Fuzzy Navel didn’t exactly suggest restraint, did they?)

Even our spirits were crazily flavored. Chief among them was vodka. Once prized for its neutral taste, Russia’s national booze was hijacked by a clown posse and infused with apple, cherry, chocolate, coconut, coffee, marshmallow, melon, peach, pumpkin pie, raspberry, vanilla and countless other flavors. (Does anyone remember Berri Acai? Was that just a bad dream?)

Now vodka, bless the bartending gods, has come back to earth. After years of growth, flavored vodka sales slid 4 percent in 2014, according to Euromonitor, a market research firm.

But vodka has learned something from its ill-advised escapade. Its flavors make intrinsic sense now. Thanks to the artisanal movement, many flavored vodkas are more subtle, natural and sensible, and they give the noble spirit the respect it deserves.

“There are two sides to flavored vodka,” said Forrest Cokely, an Orange County spirits enthusiast and blogger who worked for years at Costa Mesa’s Hi-Time Wine Cellars. “One is downward-spiraling very quickly, and one has upward momentum with tenuous respect.”

Read the full story here.

How the drought will affect California’s wine industry


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A sign on Tustin Ranch Road at Heritage Park announces the City of Tustin uses reclaimed water to irrigate their public roadways and parks to reduce water usage during a drought in southern California. ////ADDITIONAL INFO: - 04.drought.0922.ks - Day: Tuesday - Date: 9/22/15 - Time: 9:26:17 AM - Original file name: _KSA2461.NEF - KEN STEINHARDT, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER -- DroughtAt last weekend’s Wine & Food Festival in Newport Beach, some sommeliers and other professionals in the wine industry said that the drought had brought unexpected benefits to California’s wine regions.

One common opinion is that with the right varietals, dry (or nearly dry) farming is possible. Jerry Lohr, Justin Smith and other Central Coast winemakers are famously stingy with water. The general consensus about the 2013 and ’14 has been that wise water management, coupled with perfect weather for grapes, have resulted in excellent vintages for many California winemakers, with grapes of remarkable concentration.

But make no mistake — the drought, if it continues, will profoundly affect the wine industry (and, of course, other forms of agriculture, not to mention future development). The situation is especially dire on the Central Coast, where agriculture east of Paso Robles depends on the area’s natural aquifer. Consider this sobering news in the San Luis Obispo Tribune:

A new analysis of the Paso Robles groundwater basin shows that aquifer levels near Paso Robles will drop an additional 70 feet if pumping continues unabated over the next 30 years.

The new hydrological analysis commissioned by the San Luis Obispo County Department of Public Works updates the calculations of how much water was pumped from the basin from 1981 to 2011 and estimates how much will be pumped from 2012 to 2040 under growth and no-growth scenarios.

The no-growth scenario assumes no new pumping from the basin. The growth scenario assumes a 1 percent increase in vineyard, municipal, rural domestic and small commercial pumping.

County supervisors disagree on the severity of the problem but said this week that management of the basin to prevent over-pumping is needed.

“It suggests that if we don’t do something significantly different, there will be very serious problems going forward,” said Supervisor Bruce Gibson, chairman of the board. “Right now we have to deal with the stark reality that we have a basin that is in serious decline.”

TAPS wins big at Great American Beer Festival


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tapsTAPS Fish House & Brewery has won several top honors at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival.

The restaurant and craft brewery, with locations in Brea, Irvine and Corona, was awarded Mid-Size Brewpub and Mid-Size Brewer of the Year. (This is the third time TAPS has won the honor in six years.) Four of its beers also received medallions: The Velvet Hog, a chocolate beer category, and TAPS Irish Red both were given golds; they’re produced at TAPS’ Corona facility. TAPS Kellerbier and a pilsner called Amend This! won silver and bronze, respectively. They are made at the TAPS in Brea.

The awards are the first received by TAPS’ new brewing team, David Huls of Barley Forge Brewing Co. and Kyle Manns of Anaheim’s Bottle Logic Brewing, who replaced TAPS veteran brewmaster Victor Novak earlier this year. (The boys strike a typical TAPS pose, above.)

Several other local breweries did well at this year’s festival, held annually in Denver.

Bottle Logic won golds for its Lagerithm, an American-style dark lager, and its Cobaltic Porter. Karl Strauss’ Costa Mesa location was awarded a silver medal for its Singularity, an American-style black ale. And Noble Ale Works of Anaheim snagged a bronze for its Nose Candy, a session India pale ale.

What, no great student bars in O.C.? Puh-leeze!


07.cu.goathilltavern.0624.ccThe Daily Meal, a popular food and drink lifestyle site, has just unveiled its 2015 list of the 50 Best College Bars in America, and guess what? As usual with national “best of” lists, Orange County got stiffed. Oh, the ignorance! Despite a wealth of college campuses and our famously leisure-oriented lifestyle, the Mealsters couldn’t find a single student-friendly dive, beer hall, boite or watering hole to single out for praise in our fair county. Here’s a list of 10 places they missed. (I could have picked 50.) They all have loads of atmosphere and a stimulating crowd, and you can order a drink there without dipping into your Pell Grant (although I threw in a couple of classy places for date-night purposes). Many aren’t within walking distance of a campus, but that’s what Uber is for.

320 Main

Owners Jason and Rebecca Schiffer transformed this downtown Seal Beach haunt into O.C.’s first bona fide cocktail Mecca, and it’s still in a league of its own for artfully made classic cocktails and inventive variations on age-old themes. The room feels timeless; Hemingway would have felt right at home here. Get a seat at the bar – watching the bartenders work is an integral part of the experience.

320 Main St., Seal Beach



The Anthill Pub & Grill

Great prices on brewskis are the draw at UCI’s beloved pub (especially during Happy Hour — $1 off pints, $3 off pitchers), and the selection is impressive, too. They manage to find and serve Pliny the Younger, which is about as challenging as getting J.D. Salinger to do a reading in your dorm room.

215-C Student Center, Irvine


Barley Forge

This new Costa Mesa brewery isn’t as much of a secret as when it first opened – it gets crowded quickly despite its commodious size. Bonus: unlike most craft breweries, it has its own kitchen. The food truck industry must be heartbroken.

2957-B Randolph Ave., Costa Mesa



Beach Ball

Who doesn’t love a dive-y, rowdy beach bar on a sunny Saturday? Even Bartleby the Scrivener would have ended up yakking his fool head off at this friendly place, where the beer is cheap, strangers will pull you into their orbit, and the people-watching is world-class. (Hmmm, Hemingway would have felt right at home here, too.)

2116 W. Oceanfront, Newport Beach



Bootlegger’s Brewery

This is craft beer drinking in its most elemental form, with a bare-bones outdoor seating area that could pass for a prison yard. But don’t let that be a turn-off – Bootlegger’s makes some primo IPAs. Try the Knuckle Sandwich DIPA if you dare, hop heads.

130 S. Highland Ave., Fullerton


The Bruery

Still the gold standard for artisanal beer in the O.C. Everything is worth trying here, from porters and stouts to some of the puckeriest sours you’ll encounter south of Firestone’s Buellton tasting room. Go for the flights – they’re always cleverly put together and illuminating, even to jaded beer snobs.

715 Dunn Way, Placentia



Goat Hill Tavern

Want that feeling that you’re at a blue-collar townie bar near some big ol’ state school in a godforsaken Texas town the night before a crucial football game? That would be the Goat Hill Tavern on any random night. It’s a rowdy, dog-eared mess, but there are 140 taps staring at you when you walk in the door. And throwing peanut shells on the floor appeals to the inner Pigpen in all of us.

1830 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa



Lola Gaspar

I always feel like I’m in a back-alley bistro in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter when I’m at this tiny restaurant-bar in the same plaza as CSUF’s Grand Central Arts Center. It’s got a fascinating bar menu with seasonal cocktails and, for the plebes, cheap Happy Hour beer. You’re smack dab in the middle of DTSA, with its plethora of possibilities, but if you want to get into a serious discussion about Marcuse, Mapplethorpe or “Moby-Dick,” this is the place.

211 W. Second St., Santa Ana



Pizzeria Ortica

The handiwork of whiz-bang bar manager Joel Caruso is the reason to seek out this place in the shadow of South Coast Plaza. A dizzying array of sweet vermouths, barrel-aged cocktails, intelligent reconstructions of classics like the Negroni – the possibilities will keep you glued to the bar all night long. Oh, and the pizzas are terrific, too. Don’t forget to validate your parking – otherwise that fancy parking spot in the garage will cost you more than your drink.

650 Anton Boulevard, Unit J

Costa Mesa




Who wouldn’t want to hang out in a dive bar where Douglas Fairbanks is rumored to have whiled away some idle hours? Yes, it’s been around that long, and the décor looks like it hasn’t been freshened up since the Eisenhower era, but that’s part of the charm. Turc’s is the kind of place where you could nurse a $6 whiskey all night long, as long as you don’t cause a ruckus. Just check out the dusty nautical décor and the local color – it’s a novel waiting to happen.

16321 Pacific Coast Hwy, Sunset Beach, CA 90742