A Craft Beer Movement Abounds Near Angel Stadium
On a warm Sunday afternoon in August, my husband and I ventured inland to Anaheim. In the past, we spent many nights marveling at the nightly firework spectacles at Disneyland and cheered for the Angels at their namesake stadium, but now there’s another reason to visit the heart of Orange County. The beer.
The search for good, locally brewed ales brought us to this fledgling mecca for craft beer snobs. Here, in the shadows of Angel Stadium, a movement is brewing. As curious imbibers, we decided to create our own brewery tour so we could explore this Wild West for beer aficionados.
First, the parameters for this Anaheim pub-crawl: We selected three local breweries that have made great strides to start and elevate the craft beer experience. The rules: each brewery must have a dedicated tasting room. Also the location must be five miles or less from Angel Stadium.
Backstreet Brewing Company
Our first stop is the newly-opened Backstreet Brewing Company. Located just over a mile from the stadium, this small gem is tucked away in an industrial office complex. Plopped on the street out front is a small folded signboard. This is our only indication that the brewery is actually open. But the tiny sign does its job and points the way. As we enter, the brewery is clean with concrete accents. Large metallic tanks hold gallons of liquid that will soon become glorious craft beer. A row of fifteen glistening metal taps spout out Backstreet Brewing Company’s ample selection.
As we saddle up to the bar, we notice two large flat screen TVs, both airing the Angels’ game. I chuckle as I look at the packed stands. Every time the camera pans to the crowd, someone is drinking a beer. But, for sure it’s not going to be as tasty as the beer(s) I’m about to sip. In the next breath, I order a tasting flight, which is a reasonable $7 for four 4 oz. pours. The “taptender,” similar to a bartender, but in this case, someone who specializes in the perfect pour, suggests I taste a couple IPAs. I take her suggestion, but peer at the wall-mounted menu for my other two choices.
When the master brewers ferment their beer, aroma, flavor, appearance and mouth feel are taken into account. I concentrate on harnessing my perceptions, as I taste the Tomahawk double IPA, then the Sixth from the Right IPA. Both beers’ subtle flavors might have been too nuanced for my palate. But, the other two beers–the Back Street Fuel Injected Coffee Oatmeal Stout and the Rita Red–stole the show. The stout reminded me of more flavorful Newcastle Brown Ale loaded with a bold coffee finish. It’s an ideal sipping beer that pairs well with a variety of flavors stemming from dark chocolate to pulled pork. On the other hand, the Rita Red, which is an American Amber red ale, is so crisp and easy to drink that I contemplate chilling a case for later. The Rita Red tastes of toasted bread with a smooth, caramel-like mouth feel and a bright citrus finish.
1884 S. Santa Cruz Street, Anaheim :: BackstreetBrew.com
Located: 1.1 miles from Angel Stadium
Drink: Rita Red Amber Ale
Eat: The brewery hosts a revolving list of food trucks. Check the website for details.
What’s new: The Backstreet Brewery tasting room will soon open its backyard space for alfresco day drinking.
Noble Ale Works
Our next stop is Noble Ale Works, the hipster haunt of the craft brewery scene. Here, the beer names have a kitschy comic flair: Baby Gaga, Pistol Whip’d, Man’s Milk and Princess Peach’s Plumber Party all grace the taps when we visited that afternoon. Similar to Backstreet Brewery, Noble Ale Works is tucked away in an industrial, business park located in the Platinum Triangle. A large tin water tower emblazoned with an oversized knight’s shield stands proudly as we park in the crowded lot.
The medieval decor runs throughout the main tasting room – from the dark tavern-style wooden menu perched above the taps to the pinewood vessels stacked behind the bar.
The Noble Ale Works menu lists a dizzying amount of brews on tap. Just for the tasting flight, which is five 4 oz. pours for $10, there are twenty different options. This constant variety is thanks to Noble Ale Works’ master brewer Evan Price, who began his career by drinking his way through Europe. After tasting different concoctions from England, Ireland, Germany, and Belgium, Price began honing his craft. Stints at BJ’s Brewhouse and TAPS Fish House & Brewery refined his palate. Then in 2012, Evan took the helm as head brewer of Noble Ale Works. Price is credited as the mind behind many of the brewery’s unique beer experiments. One successful concoction is the Grapefruit Shandyland, which features a light-bodied, refreshing mouth feel flavored with hand-juiced citrus. The tart wheat beer goes down easily on a hot afternoon. But, the Princess Peach’s Plumber Party, which was supposed to taste like peach iced tea beer, left us desiring more stone fruit flavor. The SMASH A.L.S., which is brewed from a custom blend of Loftus Ranch hops blended with a German Pilsner Malt, packs an aromatic punch of cool melon, and cedar spiced with pepper. The SMASH A.L.S. proceeds also go directly to the Ales for ALS foundation that funds research for Lou Gehrig’s disease.
1621 S. Sinclair Street, Anaheim, 714.634.2739 :: NobleAleWorks.com
Distance: 1.4 miles from Angels Stadium
Drink: The Grapefruit Shandyland or the SMASH S.L.S., while it’s still available.
Eat: No food served.
Anaheim Brewery blends the city’s history with great craft beer. The tasting room space features a 30-foot-long, vintage wooden bar flanked by a black and white photo capturing turn-of-the century cowboys. Walking into the clean concrete space, the bar appears like it belongs in a saloon from an old western film. This all makes sense once you learn that the bar was in fact salvaged from a nearby watering hole called the Covered Wagon Saloon that shuttered in 2002.
The original Anaheim Brewery opened in 1870 and was expanded in 1888 to include a large brick building that brewed the then-famous Anaheim Beer. When the country’s Prohibition laws closed the taps in 1920, it took more than 90 years for the bar to breathe new life. In 2010, Barbara and Greg Gerovac reopened the brewery at the Anaheim Packing Plant. Located behind Umami Burger, the brewery features a relaxing outdoor space lined with picnic tables. The tasting flight is the best deal for new imbibers – $9 for four 4 oz. pours, plus a souvenir glass.
The go-to brew is the Anaheim 1888, the location’s flagship beer. It’s fashioned after the style of ale brewed at the original Anaheim Brewery. The Beer Tender, as they’re dubbed at Anaheim Brewery, also recommends an Anaheim Pilsner. “The most recent batch is great,” she says. The pilsner’s delicate, slightly floral aroma is crisp and refreshing. While I still preferred the Anaheim 1888, the pilsner will quench the thirst on a balmy OC afternoon. The surprisingly nuanced Peerless Porter is a dark brown ale with rich caramel and roasted coffee notes with a mellow acidic finish. As another nod to history, the brewery named the porter after the Peerless Saloon that operated downtown before Prohibition.
336 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim, 714.780.1888 :: AnaheimBrew.com
Distance: 3.5 miles from Angels Stadium
Drink: Anaheim 1888
Eat: Food trucks, such as the Kala truck that serves artful Mexican food, park out front on Tuesdays. For the rest of the week, try the Anaheim Packing Plant located across Farmer’s Park, which features an artisanal food court that should satisfy your food needs.