This week's best list is dominated by beers we consumed while taking a long weekend vacation to the Orange County, CA area. We drank plenty more than made the list (Portland still wins at beer) but there were definitely some remarkable beers had during the trip as well as some we had before we skipped town to soak up some much needed sun.
Phantom Carriage Broadacres with Passionfruit - We get some Phantom Carriage in the Portland market and knew that they did a great job with sours so finding ourselves in the vicinity (Gardena, CA), we couldn't resist stopping. The brewery is unique, being part café and part haunted cellar (complete with horror movies playing) and overall damn cool. This was the best of the beers consumed there and sour to the max. The passion fruit used in this iteration of Broadacres gives it just enough mouthfeel to take some of the sour bite off.
Barley Forge Wedding Tackle - Somewhat stumbling on this brewery (aka using a "search nearby" map function for breweries), we found ourselves surrounded by really great beer and a hopping taproom on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon. The huckleberries used in this sour blonde ale were present from the start - both in giving it a beautiful color and on the nose - and carried through to the flavor. The lightly, brightly sour flavor was enhanced by the cherry wood it was aged on.
Barley Forge Nom Nom - We'd be hard pressed to pick a favorite between this hefeweizen and the sour, both incredible beers at easy drinking ABVs. A well crafted hefe, its classic characteristics are there and enhanced by the mango that was slightly present on the nose and more prevalent in the flavor. This is a very crushable beer that would be perfect for sunny, summer drinking.
Block 15 Cosmic Cold Brew Double Ristretto - Block 15 does amazing stuff with hops but their coffee game is equally strong. Starting out with an aroma that is all coffee, followed by a smooth mouthfeel and finishes with a lovely lingering milked-coffee flavor.
Firestone Walker Bretta Rose Batch 3 - A beer we'd had a year ago and thoroughly enjoyed, it seemed a great prelude to heading out to celebrate 14 years of wedded bliss. The extra year of age did nothing to diminish, and perhaps even enhanced, the tart, fruity yum that is so delicious.
Honorable mentions go out to Stone for their Tangerine Express, enjoyed with breakfast on the first day of vacation at a sports bar, Tustin Brewing and Gunwhale Ales. If you find yourself in the area with limited time Barley Forge is definitely the place to hit. Gunwhale, a somewhat sterile feeling taproom, and Tustin, a neighborhood hangout filled with TVs for sports fans, are fine and we wouldn't steer you away from either, just keep in mind Barley Forge is where it's at in the Costa Mesa area.