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Sorry, Mickey, I’m Here for the Beer

It’s funny, when you tell people you are going to Anaheim their first question is always “are you going to Disneyland?”

That question makes sense to me if I said we were taking the kids to Anaheim. But in my case my spouse had a conference there and I decided to make the trek with her and hang out. And, so, no I did not visit Disneyland (although I did get to Downtown Disney to catch the new Star Wars film, but that is a story for another day).

Instead I did what any reasonable adult left on their own in the city all day for multiple days would do. I visited breweries of course!  Oh yeah, and caught some sights and hit a couple beaches but,  you know, I visited some breweries!

The beer scene in Anaheim (more accurately broader Orange County) gets lost a bit, I think, in the buzz about L.A. proper to the north and San Diego to the south. But you would be as mistaken as thinking Mickey and Minnie are actually the same mouse if you thought there was no interesting beer going on there.

Less than five years ago, there actually was very little going, beerwise, on in Orange County, which was odd. San Diego and, to a lesser extent L.A., where hot beds of the California craft beer scene. Anaheim had a couple of breweries (including the crazy-respected The Bruery), but there was a surprising lack of breweries in the area. But the last couple years have seen an explosion of new breweries. Today it is a vibrant, exciting area for craft beer.

Any visit to the Orange County area must start with The Bruery. Craft beer fans require no introduction to this brewery, but allow me to say they have for more than a decade been consistently producing boundary-pushing, high quality beer, mostly in the barrel-aged or Belgian ilk. The fun part of being at Bruery these days is that they are now three different breweries. They have opened up a second location, Bruery Terreux, which only does sours and lambics (you can understand why they wanted a separate facility for that). They also recently set up a third company (located in the original brewery) called Offshoot, which does stuff they promised to never do, including juicy IPAs and the like. I love that they held true, in a way, to their original commitment to not do hoppy beer, but have figured out a way to do it through a new arm. I had too many amazing beer there to even try to relay my tasting notes.

I think the brewery that most intrigued me is one that, for beer geeks, might fly under the radar. Anaheim Brewing is located in the heart of Anaheim’s downtown. In most cities that is where most of the action is, but in Anaheim’s case Disney sucks up all the energy and downtown is rather sleepy. Anaheim Brewing opened six years ago and have since become a key anchor for the revitalization of the downtown. They are intentionally linking themselves to the area’s history – the first Anaheim Brewing opened in 1870.

What I appreciated about Anaheim is both the owners’ down-to-earth approach to their business and their beer’s unquestioned anchoring in classic styles and approaches. You won’t find a Milkshake IPA or Kettle Sour IPA at Anaheim. Classic styles are their thing, including a fine hefeweizen, a solid English-style IPA (which is a revolution in itself in California) and a quality oatmeal stout. The highlight might be their 1888, which is a so-called Steam Beer, but done in a more historical fashion which really makes it stand out.

I also got time to hit a few of the newer breweries. Among my favourite stops included Bottle Logic Brewing, which brings a comic/science fiction ethos to amazing beer (almost a doppelganger for Calgary’s Zero Issue). They have quickly become known for their barrel-aged beer and strong IPAs. And I can see why. Their Darkstar November, a barrel-aged rye stout infused with molasses is scarily drinkable at 14%. My favourite, at least for its name, might be The Upside Down (in honour of Stranger Things), a Berliner Weisse with blackberry and vanilla.

The number of IPAs available at Noble Ale Works was oppressive, to be honest, but in a good way. A quintessential California beer experience. And Asylum Brewing (one of the younger breweries in the area) had some interesting takes on traditional styles.

I also got to try some beer from other local breweries, including Unsung, Chapman, Green Cheek and Golden Road. All demonstrated a region in a rapid growth phase and something not to be overlooked.

It becomes clear to me that Anaheim is an unheralded place for beer. It is not the easiest place to get around and Mickey’s influence can be kind of oppressive, but if you are determined I am certain you will find some amazing craft beer after your requisite visit to Disneyland.

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