Orange County is well on its way to being home to 40 breweries, but the place that was once considered mere overflow from San Diego’s historic beer scene is showing no signs of oversaturation.
The year so far has brought a whirlwind of new beer-makers, including some that replaced a few of the county’s oldest brands and even more that are starting from scratch to bring their unique perspectives on beer to the region.
From Anaheim (aka Ale-heim) to San Clemente, IPAs to sours, the geographic and flavor range of O.C. beer is impressive — and has the brewing talent to match.
Here are five new brewery tasting rooms to check it all out at this fall:
Green Cheek Beer Co.
Former Noble Ale Works brewmaster Evan Price left his post last year after winning the title of Best Brewery in the World. He was mum about his next move until Valiant Brewing in Orange closed and it was revealed that he and former Noble CEO Brian Rauso would be turning the brewhouse into Green Cheek Beer Co., a place where Price can spread his wings (har-har) and make more of the hoppy, tart and experimental beers for which he is known. On tap this summer were a flurry of IPAs (hazy, West Coast, double) and a few Berliner weisses and hoppy lagers too — all designed to be sipped for hours at the tasting room or from to-go crowlers at home.
Green Cheek Beer Co. is at 2294 N. Batavia, C, Orange. More information: (714) 998-8172 or greencheekbeer.com.
It's about time that San Juan Capistrano gets a brewery and taproom to call its own. Thankfully, the city’s first brewery is Docent, a well-designed brand with even better beers that takes its theme of guidance and education (get it, Docent?) very seriously. “Field guides” to the current draft selection sit on every table, gently explaining to you the nuances between the half dozen very different drinkable saisons, pale ales and IPAs on draft, which include a beach-blanket-ready session IPA called Tiny Umbrellas and the bone-dry West Coast hop bomb, Headliner.
Docent Brewing is at 33049 Calle Aviador, Suite C, San Juan Capistrano. More information: docentbrewing.com
All-American Ale Works
One of the newest breweries in a city of 13 (and counting!), All-American Ale Works in Anaheim opened during a year when words like “patriot” and “liberty” could be coded political statements. But fortunately, beer is the last bipartisan thing around, and the homebrewing trio that started All-American earlier this year merely wants to pay homage to the time-honored American tradition of making quality beer and using it to bring people together. Two of the three founders are also veterans, meaning that fellow vets and first responders get discounts on pints of beers like the Storm the Beach red ale, Mermaid Bubbles pineapple cream ale and Bearded Eagle milk stout.
All-American Ale Works is at 5120 E. La Palma Av. No. 103, Anaheim. More information: (657) 549-2140 or all-americanaleworks.com.
Lost Winds Brewing
With four breweries and the county’s second distillery since Prohibition (Drift!), San Clemente is most definitely becoming the Anaheim of South O.C. Around the corner from both Left Coast Brewing and Artifex in the city’s inland light industrial neighborhood, Lost Winds Brewing was founded by three locals (including one award-winning homebrewer) with a passion for Belgian-style beers. Named after the surf break off Calle Lasuen (pronounce it with the tongue in the back of your mouth for full effect), Lost Winds brews Belgian-style blondes, strongs and traditional dubbels, plus more elusive styles like a toasty black IPA.
Lost Winds Brewing is at 924 Calle Negocio, Ste. C, San Clemente. More information: (949) 361-5922 or lostwindsbrewing.com.
Evans Public House
This one technically isn't a tasting room but it's the first and only place where you can try the Irvine-based brewery’s expansive new lineup of hoppy, house-made beers. Until last year, Evans Brew Co. was a contract brewery with only two beer releases under its brand — one light and one dark. Then, it bought the oldest brewery in O.C., Bayhawk Ales, and made it their own. With a full bar, a huge rotating taplist of Evans’ now-diverse beers and a slender kitchen anchored by a stone pizza oven, Evans Public House opened in the spot where famous O.C. jazz club Steamers once lived, making it doubly on hallowed ground.
Evans Public House is at 138 W Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton. More information: (714) 870-0039 or evansbrewco.com.
SARAH BENNETT is a freelance journalist covering food, drink, music, culture and more. She is the former food editor at L.A. Weekly and a founding editor of Beer Paper L.A. Follow her on Twitter @thesarahbennett.