Drink Local, Drink Independent, Drink… Whisky?

OC Brewers Guild Invitational 2017
OC Beer Week (May 19-28) is in full swing, which means there’s no better time to drink local! Kicking things into high gear is today’s marquee event: the second annual Orange County Brewers Guild Invitational, taking place at Center City Anaheim. The brewery lineup isn’t limited to those located in Orange County though—prepare to take your pick from over 140 beers provided by 70+ of California’s best craft breweries!

Asylum BrewingIf you’ll be in attendance, be sure to hunt down Asylum’s booth and get a beer from yours truly! If not, what are you waiting for?! Tickets are still available here. The pours are unlimited, so naturally I recommend you get a tasting of both Monsters We Breed (double IPA) and Casanova Frankenstein (imperial stout). Even if you’ve already had a chance to try them, come say hi!

World Whisky DayFor those not in Southern California this weekend, you’re still in luck! Expanding beyond the reaches of OC Beer Week are two other equally important and much larger libation celebrations: American Craft Beer Week (May 15-21) and World Whisky Day (today, May 20)! So make sure you support an independent craft brewery near you (or two, or three…), or sip on your favorite bourbon, rye or Scotch! If you’re a bourbon fan (like myself) and want to try something different, check out this year’s signature WWD cocktail: The Oak Tea. If beer is still your one-and-only, don’t worry. There are plenty of killer bourbon/whisky barrel-aged beers that I think more than qualify as a celebration of both American Craft Beer Week and World Whisky Day! Check my suggestion list at the bottom of this post!

If you want to earn some extra credit in the good karma department, don’t just drink local and independent beer yourself—save a friend from the perils of terrible, corporation-owned macro beer! And don’t just preach to them about it, buy them a round and prove you care! In 2016, craft breweries composed 99% of all the breweries in the U.S., but held less than 13% volume share! If you’re going to drink those beers regardless, make them count and support small, local businesses! You’ll find greater variety, higher quality and best of all, just better tasting beer.

Wherever you are this weekend, cheers, prost and salud!

Here’s those barrel-aged suggestions:

  • Bottle Logic – Fundamental Summation, BA imperial vanilla coffee stout, 13.8% ABV
  • Prairie Artisan Ales – Barrel Aged Bomb!, BA imperial stout, 11.2% ABV
  • The Bruery – Mash & Vanilla, BA vanilla barleywine, 13.3% ABV
  • Boulevard – Bourbon Barrel Quad, BA Belgian-style quadrupel, 11.8% ABV
  • The Bruery – Black Tuesday, BA imperial stout, 20.3% ABV

A Valiant Farewell and a New Beginning

Valiant glass

It was announced recently that Valiant will be closing its doors on March 31, 2017. If you just found out from reading this post, be sure to read the letter from owner/head brewer Brian (link at bottom).

As you can see, I chose this topic as my very first post on this newly-launched website. You’ll learn more about me, my passion for craft beer and my take on the industry as a whole in posts to come. For now, I’m getting right into the middle of things.

The nicknames “hidden gem” or “diamond in the rough” are phrases I’ve repeatedly heard from first-time visitors and diehard Valiant fans alike. The brewery isn’t intentionally hard to find, but it is. In fact, plenty of fans would argue this quirk was a positive one—it means less customers to wait in line behind! But finding a brewery wedged amongst a plethora of manufacturing, fabrication and other industrial facilities is nothing new to the Southern California craft beer enthusiast. That first cold pint does seem to taste a bit better when you had to work a little harder for it. At Valiant, that definitely holds true. Hearing comments like “this was worth it!” or “why haven’t I come here until now?” truly solidifies the notion of being a hidden gem.

beerPerfectly paired with that notion is the laid-back and communal atmosphere you feel when walking inside. It’s immediately apparent that this is a place to relax, have a beer and simply be yourself. Maybe it’s the garage doors and DIY keg-tables, maybe it’s the good music and today’s game on TV, or maybe it’s the staff being genuinely excited to tell you about the latest creations. Whatever the reason, it just feels right, like that one friend you always visited simply because being at their house was more comforting than being at your own.

Then there’s the beer. Where to begin… Big, barrel-aged Belgians and stouts, (too) easy to drink lagers, IPAs galore, candy sours?! It takes five tasting flights for just one roundtrip across the menu (and a perfect reason to go back)! Plus, the sweeter, low ABV offerings have caused me to lose track of how many friends I’ve turned from non-beer drinkers into craft beer believers.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to actually brew one of the beers currently on tap—California Gloom (you should try it). Having that opportunity is just one example of the camaraderie shared by everyone at Valiant. No one showed up to simply work their shift, collect a paycheck and head home until next time. We collaborate and share ideas, and we care about ensuring the best possible experience for our guests, and each other. Seeing this level of commitment helped solidify my assumption that this is the industry I belong in.

Candy SoursI’m also proud to be a woman in an industry and culture that’s mostly associated with and dominated by men. Yes, brewing, bottling, kegging, storing and serving beer properly—plus all the associated cleaning—are physically demanding, I get it. Surprisingly, makeup and a manicure don’t get in the way of carrying 50-pound bags of grain, or moving pallets of kegs around with a forklift, or wax dipping 500 bottles in a row! You always have to prove your worth when starting a new job, but as a woman and given the type of work involved, the stakes were certainly greater than usual. I was absolutely up for the challenge, and I think I’ve changed a few opinions along the way.

As for the future, I’m 100% committed to continuing my journey in the craft beer industry. The experiences and knowledge I’ve gained from my time at Valiant has set me up for some awesome new prospects. Odds are, you’ll see me at another OC tasting room in the very near future. Until then, enjoy a few final beers in Valiant’s tasting room (including all five candy sours this weekend)! Cheers!

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Bonus read: The Experience: Valiant Brewing Company by Beerface McGilicutty

Read the original letter from Brian Schroepfer.