Last weekend the craft division of my company was flown up to Chico by the awesome crew of Sierra Nevada!
We were flown via Southwest – lucky for me, I got to score some extra points from this trip for all my future Colorado trips!
Random airport artwork in Sacramento.
After a ridiculously speedy flight, we all hopped into a huge shuttle van and drove 90 minutes up to Chico.
After a quick unpacking session, cans of Old Chico (not available in SoCal) were grabbed from the hotel lobby and consumed, followed by a trek to downtown Chico for dinner and some more brews.
We somehow ended up at this dance club/billiard hall/restaurant that was obviously hoppin’. At this point, I hailed a cab for myself and headed back to the safety of the hotel.
Many of my coworkers had a rough start the next morning, but thanks to my quick escape at the early hour of midnight, I felt somewhat alive. Our first stop was the brewery gift shop where we were given gift cards and set loose. I’m now the proud owner of a few shirts and an awesome lip balm that has hop oil in it.
We perused the grounds and found these awesome bike racks…
And a bike pump! Every brewery should have one of these!
Lunch was up next. We sat on the patio enjoying the beautiful warm weather and scanned the extensive beer list.
French Saison for me! Hair of the dog for everyone else!
I ordered the Sierra Nevada salad – fresh greens picked from the garden out behind the brewery, goat cheese and candied walnuts.
We were given some amazing samples of experimentals and beers that haven’t been or will not be released to the public. Barrel-Aged Narwhal Imperial Stout. Out of this world.
The brewery tour was next!
Sierra Nevada uses only whole leaf hops in their brews. The floor and tanks were littered with beautiful cones.
Hop room! Freezing cold and smelling of joy. Oh, how I love the hops.
Wonderful artwork for Life and Limb that for some reason didn’t make the cut??? Gotta love the fig leaf action.
The bases of the huge fermentors that stick out atop the brewery.
Everyone jumped aboard the awesome pub-bike and we pedaled out to the hop fields.
They’re a little more barren than the last time I was here…
The remains of the garden from where my lunch was cultivated.
HotRot – this composting machine is loaded with all the remains from meals in the pub and takes twelve days to turn all of that into what looks like sawdust. The smell is horrendous, the outcome is awesome.
After biking back, we toured the nanobrewery and got to sample some of the Beer Camp brew that Roger from The LAB participated in – milk stout with almonds. Divine.
The tour ended with a sample of Ovila with mandarin oranges straight from the conditioning tank.
Up next – dinner!
Cheese plate appetizer.
Filet mignon with lobster butter. Yes, please.
This rocked my world. I’m drooling as I recall…
The next morning we were up bright and early and back to Sacramento for our flight. This may be the best airport fare I’ve ever had – it’s a toss-up when it comes to burritos. I got lucky.
We had an even faster flight back.
Descending through the thick marine layer.
It was a wonderful, fast-paced and delicious trip. With all these brewery trips, I’m seriously loving my job!
During the San Diego trip, we hit up Coronado Brewing Company on Coronado Island before heading to an outdoor concert.
We were lucky enough to snag a parking spot directly out front and emerged into air heavily scented with the delicious aroma of hops that had just been added to the boil. It permeated the atmosphere. I melted with happiness.
The building is only a block away from the water and shrouded in lush greenery and aromatic flowers.
Not a terrible view to have to deal with. I could probably live there and be happy. Completely broke, but happy.
After perusing the shores, we headed inside and got down to business.
I ordered my typical choice at any brewery – the taster flight. Out of the five I walked away with a mini growler of the Idiot IPA – extremely citrusy on the nose, sweet grapefruit flavor ending with a brutal kick of hop bitterness that almost immediately fades into a whisper. Dangerously drinkable at 8.5% ABV!
Absorption was also necessary. Nachos covered in spicy filet mignon chili, real cheese and generous towers of guacamole and sour cream. I barely finished a quarter of this monster.
I poked my head into the brewery to have a look around and saw what looked like the same system as Wolf Creek! I asked the assistant brewer who was in the middle of the boil if it was a 10bbl system and was immediately invited in to take some pictures and got a small tour of the place. Using key phrases like barrel and parts per million will get you invited into any brewery, I’ve found.Coronado is in the midst of setting up their 30bbl system over on the mainland, so the brewpub functions as a small batch experimental system on the side of regular production. They brew in a separate building and then transfer the multiple brews all the way into the fermentation area about 200 feet away.
I also checked out their bottling system to get some ideas for Wolf Creek’s upcoming expansion. I think we’ll need more than a six-up bottler, however…
After the tour I grabbed my growler and headed out with the family to the outdoor concert in the middle of the island. People started arriving four hours early in order to get good seats! Luckily, we had a team of people who’d set up in advance so we could fully enjoy the brewery beforehand.
We spent the night drinking craft brews, eating an assortment of random deliciousness procured by each individual who chipped in a dish for the picnic and danced the night away.
A good time was had by all.And then more beer was consumed, as is tradition in my life.
After my midday visit to Dave’s Electric Brewpub, I was all warmed up for Four Peaks Brewery. You can’t make reservations, it was a Saturday night, we were in a college town and we were prepared to wait.
And wait, we did! We waited for about an hour before we were seated outside, and it was worth it.
First and most importantly, we ordered two taster flights. I was with Katrina – a wine drinker who was willing to learn beer. I showed her how to swirl, sniff and sip, and was more than thrilled to see Katrina’s eyes light up as she realized that all these beers had different flavors, aromas and mouthfeel. It makes me so happy to watch an avid wine drinker reach for a super hoppy IPA and cradle it delicately in her hands, eyes closed, enjoying the floral aroma before diving in.
Now to my flight! The Hefeweizen was delicious – full of banana and cloves, a musty/earthy flavor that I absolutely adore and a clean finish. My ultimate favorite was the Hop Knot IPA – intense grapefruit and a strong pine aroma, but rounded out with a good dose of caramel and hints of toffee. As always, I also adored the Kilt Lifter – a sweet Scottish style ale with a sweet, bready aroma followed by a similar flavor and a thick, rich finish. This one seems to be on tap everywhere I go in Arizona!
The food here was good, but not my purpose for going. The waitress recommended the chicken enchiladas. I received. I consumed. I reached for more beer tasters.
We did have to order the “stoutamisu” – tiramisu (duh) made with the oatmeal stout (duh again). Not quite a tiramisu, but delicious nonetheless.
Now on to my favorite part – the brewery! I walked inside, camera in hand, and asked a security guy and waitress how many barrels the system was. Neither had any idea what I was talking about and pointed me in the direction of an awesome, well-educated-on-beer manager on duty, Trevor, who kindly showed me around the brewery even though the restaurant was packed with people.
This is their bottling line, received from an old German brewery years ago. I haven’t come across any of their bottled beers in stores, however. I’ve only seen them in cans.
Delicious canning line! If I’d had more time, I could’ve spent an hour staring at this machine.
They’ve been barrel aging for years now. Unfortunately, there were no barrel aged beers in the taster flight. I guess I’ll just have to return to try one of these another time!
I got a nice sniff of this one though! I love when cherries are added to any dark, malty beer. Hmmm, upcoming homebrew ideas are racing through my head…
Serving tanks are kept in the walk-in cooler so the bartenders don’t have to run back every ten minutes to change a keg. They go through a LOT of beer here!
They also serve real cask ale! These are tapped only on Wednesdays, and are usually gone within a few hours.
Four Peaks currently has a 40bbl brew system, but are expanding to a new location (56,000 square feet) where they’ll have a 60bbl system and 240bbl fermentors! Four brews a day to fill those bad boys!
In case you weren’t sure, that gigantic tank on the left is a 240bbl bright tank. GIGANTIC. BEAUTIFUL. TANK.
Currently the brewery is stuffed with dozens of 40bbl fermentors that you can gaze longingly at as you enjoy your pint, eyes glazed over with desire. No? Just me?
Just picture yourself at that table there with a cask ale in hand, the rumble of happy voices and burbling fermentors in the background and the smell of mash and hops floating across the warm breeze of an Arizona evening. Pure ecstasy.
After my tour, I was sitting at the table and noticed THIS guy in a green shirt. I saw “Keep Calm” and shouted out, “Is that a Chive shirt???” Indeed, it was! I need to get my own Chive shirt to rep!
Loyal Chiver and Chivette running into each other at a craft brewery – completely awesome.
Yes, I realize that I have, indeed, done a post on this place before. However, that was the restaurant in Calabasas. Today I got an invite to the original Wolf Creek in Santa Clarita – where the brewery is!
The brewery is hidden away in a little strip mall between Starbucks and Rite Aid. You’d never know that beer genius was being conducted in this building.
I got straight to work and grabbed a taster of the Midnight Howl Black IPA before my tour.
As of now, this is my favorite of their beers. Deliciously hoppy with an overtone of bitter coffee rounding out the end.
When sitting at the bar, you gaze through the glass windows and doors directly into the ten barrel brewery, watching the entire process from start to finish (if you are patient enough to sit there for quite a few hours)…
They currently have a copper system, but are looking to upgrade to a larger system, and building, within the next few months to keep up with demand.
The brewery contains the 10 bbl mash tun, lauter tank, a few fermenters and four serving tanks that are full with the high demand brews like Golden Eagle Ale and their Howlin’ Hefeweizen. While it looks like a tight space, Rob, the brewmaster, and his brother have no issue turning out consistent beer with the equipment that has been with them from the beginning of Wolf Creek – 15 years!
Allie and I decided that it was extremely important to taste test all of the beers, and a lot of food, to make sure that our first visit wasn’t a fluke. Quality control.
These. Are. Awesome. “Rings and Thorns” – Ale-battered onions and jalapeno slices, served with a spicy chipotle ketchup and a cooling ranch in case it gets too hot for you. We devoured almost the entire bag.
The Vaquero sammich – sliced steak with grilled asparagus, fried onion strings, cilantro pesto, sliced tomatoes and goat cheese on top of fresh ciabatta. I’ve had this before and needed to do more quality control. It’s still as heavenly as I recall.
Unfortunately we were too stuffed to take advantage of their two-for-one dessert special of the day. I am ashamed of missing out on that.
Thanks to Rob for giving us the tour and letting us try your amazing brews and foods! I’ll be back for that dessert special. And the beer. And the onion rings. And the sammich. And probably to try every other item on the menu…
I’ve been to the LAB Brewing Company (which stands for Live Art Brewing – beer, food, music and art) many, many times with the EBC crew, but never had a chance to take pictures (mainly because we’d go for dinner and drinks after EBC closed). When I received an invite from Alan and Roger the brewmaster for a personal tour and beer tasting (during DAYLIGHT hours), I agreed immediately.
The LAB Brewing Company opened in Agoura Hills November 1st of last year.
The bar area of the LAB looks directly into the brewery which is encased behind glass doors, allowing patrons to watch the brewing process as they sip the outcome.
The beer selection here is incredible! Thirty-two taps, heavy on the IPAs (yay!), and rounded out with nothing but craft beer.
The main dining room features a stage where musicians and deejays play on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
The covered patio is quaint and cozy, with a fireplace in the corner and heaters placed throughout to keep the Californians warm when the temperature dips below seventy degrees on a winter’s eve.
Now to the important stuff – beer and foods! I grabbed a sampler of all the beers they make – Bad Influence IPA, Take Her Home Tripel, Cold Fusion Java, Big Ass Red and LAB XPA. Bad Influence IPA was my favorite of their available beers – a zesty citrus and floral aroma with an extreme bite (93 IBUs and 7.5% ABV). HOWEVER, I was given a sneak preview of the After Midnight Moo Milk Stout straight from the fermentor and fell head over heels! Hints of sweetness, smooth and creamy – I believe they said it was going on the nitro tap? I should probably go back and check, just to make sure, right?
Alan, Roger and I split an order of the house fries with bleu cheese and garlic. These shoestring fries came out sizzling hot, with potent bleu cheese melting into every crevice. They were perfectly crispy with a light dusting of fresh garlic that melded harmoniously with the cheese.
The polenta came out next – crispy on the outside, delicate and moist on the inside, and drizzled with fresh pesto and marinara sauce. I’m not well-versed on polenta, but from what I tasted, this one’s a winner! If you want more, I consider that a good thing. I wanted more.
BACON IN A CUP!!! This was actually a little disappointing – candied bacon. There was barely a hint of sugar to any of the bacon strips, and it needed to be baked a little longer to crisp up. Didn’t matter though – it was still bacon, therefore I still ate it.
After feasting, I got a tour of the brewery. It’s incredibly tight quarters, especially considering that these are 15 barrel tanks, but they’ve made great use of the small space provided.
Three of the fermentation tanks are out in full view in the center of the dining room, while the milk stout was relaxing in this one in the middle of the brewery.
These fermentors lead straight to the taps, delivering the freshest beer possible.
There are murals across the entire restaurant – this is an artist’s rendition of Roger Bott, the brewmaster. Let’s compare, shall we?
THE RESEMBLANCE IS UNCANNY!!! Time to go blonde, Roger?
I think a separate post detailing the epicness that is the LAB burger will be coming up shortly… I’m feeling hungry again…
The LAB Brewing Company
30105 Agoura Road
Agoura Hills, CA 91301
Open 7 days a week, 11am-close
After Ballast Point, it was time for fooding! We headed over to Stone Brewing for lunch. Once Matt dragged me away from gazing adoringly at the brewery, we walked around the beer gardens while we waited for an outdoor table.
This place is absolutely stunning!
Buddha – a preview of how I was going to look and feel after consuming foods.
I ordered the Vertical Epic 11.11.11. I am absolutely in love with this beer. The beautiful deep maroon beer is topped with a creamy, lacy head that emanates the slight aroma of cinnamon, a hint of chiles and clove. This tastes like heaven – honestly. Wonderfully malty with a hint of cinnamon and a slight kiss of chiles – not enough to be bitter or spicy, but just enough to give a warm essence of happiness and the aura of a cool autumn evening. The tail end features a slight bite of hops, rounding out what might be my favorite beer to date. It’s that good.
We perused the menu, placed our orders and were treated to a personal tour while we waited for our food thanks to Commander Matt’s friend from high school who’s currently employed there.
The regular tour had already taken off, as you can see in the bottom right, but we got to walk straight up the stairs and get a closer look.
We stared into the line of never-ending fermentors.
A look inside the mash tun. Glorious.
The view looking into the bistro area. As you can imagine, the view into the brewery is a million times as magnificent.
After walking around in a dazed, happy stupor, we returned to the table and were immediately greeted by one of the most amazing meals I’ve ever had at a brewpub.We split the prime rib melt – thin slices of tender beef covered in a smoky mayo, studded with bits of Anaheim chiles and topped with a slice of jalapeño havarti…
…and the Mac ‘n Beer Cheese – drenched in Stone Smoked Porter and garlic beer cheese with generous slices of Stone Smoked Porter sausage hidden throughout. Both dishes were demolished.
After the meal, this Buddha was rolled out to the car and we headed to our final destination – Iron Fist Brewing – Coming soon!
I’ve featured Island Brewing Company a few times on my blog, and even used their growlers to bottle condition my very first brew – Dos Beckis. Today, for the very first time, I got a tour of the facilities on a brew day!
Of course, first we had to get a flight of a few of their brews to get in the spirit of Island Brewing.
Well, we had to get a few tasters and then a full pint of their Island Pale Ale…
Okay, fine! We had to get a flight, a Island Pale Ale, a Jubilee and a Blackbird Porter! Happy now?
Brewer Shaun was kind enough to give us a full tour and suffer through some blurry pictures as well.
This little brewery is tucked away on a side street next to the train tracks. Seriously, RIGHT ON the tracks! If you’re not an avid craft beer drinker and don’t know how to use Google correctly, you’d probably pass right by this gem.
They keep about 8-10 different beers on their menu, with the majority of their beers being served year round. The Belgian Ambre, Anniversary Ale and Tropical Lager are the only ones I haven’t seen before.
Beautiful copper mash tun. They were brewing the Island Pale Ale today and had just finished cleaning out.
Well, almost. Ryan was in there double checking…
Island Brewing Company gives their spent grain to local farmers, and also to Carpinteria High School for their organic garden which was recently featured on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. How’s that for community interaction?
The beautiful, golden extract travels from the mash tun…
to the boil kettle.
The IPA at a rolling boil. I can never get over how WONDERFUL breweries smell on brew days! I need to bottle the smell of the mash and use it as perfume. Drool.
They have ten fermentation tanks that are full of malty, hoppy deliciousness.
And the chiller is stocked with kegs and boxes of bottled beers. Prior to today, they hadn’t brewed in eleven days. I find this to be completely understandable since they spent all day yesterday bottling 720 bottles of beer!
On a random note, I was working a show in Indio *shudder* back in January, proudly wearing my Island Brewing Company sweatshirt. The photographer for the local newspaper came up to me to tell me she liked my sweatshirt.
“Are you an Island fan, too?” I asked.
Turns out Lani is the daughter of the OWNER of Island Brewing Company, Paul Wright. It’s a small world!
She took some cleverly located photos to document the occasion.
A big thanks to Shaun and Ryan for letting me saunter around the brewery and soak up the delicious aromas and beer, and to Alma for serving up said delicious beer! I can’t wait to come back… again.. for the 27th time…