Planning Your Next Orange County Beer Tour

Photo: jeffhammett/Flickr/Creative Commons License

While Los Angeles continues to pile on with new breweries now that the L.A. Ale Works team has passed their Kickstarter funding goal, Orange County has already been buzzing for years with award-winning brews and approachable tasting rooms. For anyone looking to spend a Saturday sipping beneath the Orange Curtain, here's a handy guide on where to go and what to order. The hardest part now is finding someone to be your designated driver.

TAPS Fish House & Brewery
Begin your beerventure in Brea, tucked along the northern Orange County boundary near Rowland Heights. That's where you'll find TAPS Fish House & Brewery, a local favorite watering hole for folks who really like to eat while they drink. It's probably best if you tuck into a plate of their fresh oysters or, oddly enough, their very non-fishy Sun Devil Burger. That way you'll have a nice base for all the beer to come. Speaking of which, the pours at TAPS are fresh off the line, thanks to head brewer Victor Novak's rigorous brewing schedule. And it's exactly that level of dedication that has had TAPS taking home Great American Beer Fest awards since 2005. Their farmhouse Biere de Garde is a silver medal winner that finishes smooth and won't kick you too hard this early in the day. Other options, like the lighter Bohemian Pilsner, are smart alternatives for easing into an afternoon of beer sipping.

TAPS Fish House & Brewery
101 E. Imperial Highway
Brea, CA 92821
Open Saturday 11am - 11pm

Bootlegger's Brewery
From TAPS, slide down N. Brea Boulevard until you hit Commonwealth and hook a right. In no time flat you'll spot the brand new Bootlegger's Brewery taproom, which just opened this month in the heart of downtown Fullerton. The bigger drinking space means more room to sip, and that's exactly what head brewer Aaron Barkenhagen would like you to do. There's always something new to try at Bootlegger's, including one-off batches that won't make it past the taproom doors. The Knuckle Sandwich Double IPA is among the brewery's most prized accomplishments, so head straight for a puckering pint if you can find it. Otherwise, their usual stable of year-round beers (including their Palomino Pale Ale and Rustic Rye IPA) will suit you well as a warmer for the remaining day ahead.

Bootlegger's Brewery
130 S. Highland
Fullerton, CA 92832
Open Saturday 11am - Midnight

The Bruery
Here's where things start to get serious. Just east of Bootlegger's is The Bruery, perhaps Orange County's most celebrated brewing operation. There are strong beers to be had here, including the nearly 9% Saison Rue, a fruity, earthy pour that's brewed with rye. For a more straightforward golden ale with a hoppy backbone, ask for a sip of the Mischief, which is still strong enough at 8.5% to leave you smiling. Owners Patrick and Michael Rue are also known for their intense one-off beers, all of which are bottle conditioned and unfiltered, so expect a few surprises once you hit the taproom. That's just the way The Bruery rolls.

The Bruery
717 Dunn Way
Placentia, CA 92780
Open Saturday 12pm - 10pm

Noble Ale Works
Politely (if possible) point your designated driver south on the 57 freeway towards Anaheim, where Noble Ale Works is waiting for you. Be warned: the tasting room at Noble Ale Works may be a bit... rowdy, shall we say? Particularly if there's a Ducks or Angels game on, considering the proximity to Angels Stadium. No to worry, there are fortifying beers behind the brewery's heavy cross and shield logo, including the 3rd Dip, a stop on the ongoing rye whiskey barrel aging series that Noble Ale Works has undertaken. This is a near-13% strong ale, woody and layered with creamy notes after spending six months in the barrel. If you're already starting to feel the effects of the trip, opt instead for the sippable Pistol Whip'd pilsner, which is a dry, pale and seriously refreshing alternative.

Noble Ale Works
1621 S. Sinclair St., Ste B
Anaheim, CA 92806
Open Saturday 12p - 1am

Tustin Brewing Company
Round out your satisfying Saturday with a stop at the idyllic Tustin Brewing Company, a short drive down the 5 freeway. The place has an old-world European feel to it, and their meat-and-bread inspired menu fits that concept perfectly. It's also no surprise that these hefty eats can help to soak up your overindulgence. Then again, you may want to keep the train rolling, and Tustin's Golden Spike Light Ale is just the pint for you. It's a gold-winning ale is crisp and seriously drinkable, with a not-too-staggering 5% ABV. For those intrepid drinkers looking to make it an early night, consider grabbing a tulip of the bourbon barrel-aged Red Hill Red, an already malty and complex beer that's funked up with the help of some barrel aging.

Tustin Brewing Company
13011 Newport Avenue, Suite 100
Tustin, CA 92780
Open Saturday 11am - Midnight

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About the Author

Farley Elliott is a freelance food writer and comedian. He currently writes for KCET.org, SeriousEats.com, LAist.com, and L.A. Weekly. You can catch Farley doing comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Hollywood.
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