Greeted by an oasis of Hollyhock, borage and matilija flowers, a pleasant nostalgia of late midnight summer picking flowers washed over me. I was brought back to my childhood recreation of sneaking into the secret garden in my backyard to witness nature. Venturing into the verdant arboretum at the OC brewers guild, a similar feeling overtook me as I witnessed the bouquet of local craft beers in the pleasant retreat of the Fullerton Arboretum. Nature, meet beer.
With plenty of local craft ales (and yes, lagers too) being imbibed, one needs a little nosh from time to time. A select number of Orange County restaurants made an appearance at OCBG to serve savory bites to accompany choice beers. One Costa Mesa brewery (yes, of course it’s Barley Forge!) even brought it’s kitchen-on-wheels to plate up cups of chili alongside pulled pork sandwiches – complete with a assortment of their housemade BBQ sauces. Along with Barley Forge, gourmands that served specialty food offerings included Urban Seoul, who brought creative dishes that disappeared quickly from plate to palate. Their steaming hot chicken tinga, served on a warm tortilla chip, topped with micro cilantro paired perfectly with Tailgater Lager from Tustin Brewing Company. The crisp refreshing nature of the lager marries perfectly with the roastiness in the rich chicken tinga, and balances the whole affair out with a cleansed palate. Even more flavorful was Urban Seoul’s spanish rice, topped with robust black truffle mole and pickled onions.
Good Beer Company – Santa Ana Wildflower – ABV 5.8%
Brandon Fender and Robyn Spevacek never fail to impress with their amazing saisons! Wildflower is another favorite traditional farmhouse saison brewed with a variety of cultures, then dry hopped resulting in an earthy beer that refreshingly tart, sweetness, and a subtle, sexy hoppiness.
Unsung Brewing Company – Tustin/Anaheim
Buzzman with Lemon Verbena – ABV 5.2%
Buzzman is a bright hybrid cream-ale style made made by fermenting at lager temperatures to create a clean, bright mouthfeel. This Mutant American Ale is brought to another level with the infusion of lemon verbena sourced from the Fullerton Arboretum. Smooth, sessionable and light, this beer brings delicious vegetal flavors with grassy vibrance, sweet citrus and herbal panache. A perfect summer beer to pair along some Fleur Verte goat cheese coasted with tarragon and pink peppercorns.
TAPS Fishouse & Brewery – Brea/Irvine/Corona
LZ Grace – ABV 11%
Brewer Jonathan Chiusano did what he does best with this beer – took a great style (American Strong Ale), and pushed it to its limits, adding layer after layer of flavor until you have an everlasting gobbstopper of a beer. Not only is this rich ale brewed with figs and dates – it’s tenderly ages in Woodford Reserve Bourbon Barrels until it hits the pinnacle of flavor. Deep and boozy, this beer brings it all: oak, vanilla, chocolate – you name it, you can probably find the flavor lurking in the murky depths of your glass. This beer was brewed as a benefit for the LZ Grace Veteran’s Retreat, so go grab a glass – it’s for charity.
Tustin Brewing Company
Tailgater Lite Lager – ABV% 4.4%
Jerrod Larsen knows the art of brewing true-to-style lagers like the back of his hand. Tailgter is a highly drinakable, light-bodied lager perfect for scorching hot summer days. Go grab a pint (or mig, or pitcher) at TBC while it’s available.