Straub Experience

Orange County beer distributor Straub recently held its Retail Expo at its headquarters in Anaheim. This was an opportunity for retailers, pub owners and restaurateurs to see and experience the brands and services Straub offers its customers. The most popular part of the expo was the craft beer center, where beer from most of the crafts Straub distributes were flowing and representatives from member breweries were available to inform about their brand.

Ed Heethuis and his team were also on hand to conduct a number of accelerated beer-paired dinners. His purpose was to provide information and educate restaurant/pub owners and managers on the value and relative ease of incorporating beer and food pairing events into their businesses. He expressed that these dinners provide opportunities to showcase the chef, kitchen staff, and food to current as well as new customers. They provide an opportunity to educate guests and provide a vehicle for bringing more people in during an otherwise slower time of the week, the ideal time for a beer dinner. Heethuis, who also happens to be a Certified Cicerone the beer equivalent of a sommelier, offered his assistance gratis with planning and conducting beer dinners for their restaurants.

First was a succession of three different cheeses paired with three separate beers. Burrata cheese was paired with Franziskaner Hefeweizen, producing a peaches & cream-like experience. Camembert combined with Golden Road’s Get Up Offa That Brown, a brown ale that was fittingly described by Ed as a liquid grilled cheese sandwich. And an Amish blue cheese aged for 18 months was paired with Rough Draft’s Freudian Sip strong old ale. At 9.5% alcohol by volume ABV, its solid and malty flavors were able to stand up against the strong flavors in the cheese.

Heethuis recommended matching intensities when pairing food and beer, matching the intensity of the flavor with the intensity of the beer. For instance, if pairing the aforementioned wheat beer with the blue cheese, the cheese would overpower the flavors of the lighter, fruity beer.

Next up, was salmon three ways. Traditional smoked salmon, a peppered salmon, and salmon with dill were presented with Ninkasi’s Oatis oatmeal stout. Three different flavor experiences followed.

For the dessert course a tasty cream cheese frosting-topped carrot cake was ideally complemented by a snifter of Bootlegger’s 10% ABV hoppy-malty monster Knuckle Sandwich double IPA.

Ed recommended Tasting Beer, by Randy Mosher, as a reference book for those looking to incorporate beer tasting into their customer experience mix.

Ventura Bound

There is definitely no shortage of craft breweries today, wherever your destination may be. It seems another new-ish brewery has gone under this reporter’s radar. About to celebrate its 1st anniversary, Ventura’s Topa Topa Brewing Company has now been added to the itinerary.

Located downtown at 104 E. Thompson St., the brewery houses a 15-barrel brewhouse, 15 & 30-barrel fermenters, and a tasting room. The ownership team of Jack Dyer and Kyle Thompson teamed with head brewer Casey Harris formerly of Stone Brewing Co. to open Topa Topa last June.

Other breweries in the area include Barelhouse 101, a brewpub about four blocks west; longstanding Anacapa Brewing on Main Street; and MadeWest Brewing, Surf Brewery and Poseidon Brewing, 5-7 miles southeast.


Competition season is upon us. In April, judging for both the Los Angeles International Commercial Beer Competition, as well as the same for San Diego took place. Judging and awards for World Beer Cup will take place early May at the Craft Brewers Conference, held this year in Philadelphia. If results of the LA competition are any indication, a windfall of awards will be going to Southern California brewers. With 97 categories in the LA contest, 202 medals including Best of Show were possible. Southern California brewers earned almost 40% of these awards, including the coveted Best of Show award. San Diego’s Council Brewing Company earned BOS for its Gaderian, an English-style old ale aged in oak barrels for a year with Brettanomyces. This reporter tasted the beer just before it went to the BOS round. Its packed and concentrated flavors included hints of dried fruit with port-like edges. Council also received medals for Les Saisons, Nicene, and Beatitude Tart Cherry Saison. Results for the San Diego competition were due out in late April. Detailed results for these competitions can be found at,, and at

Unsung Update

Last issue I covered the new Unsung Brewing Company Tustin & Anaheim and wanted to provide an update and correction. I incorrectly stated that the Anaheim tasting room’s mural would be of Buzzman the hero behind Buzzman cream ale battling the yard bees. It seems his foe is quite a bit larger. He actually battles the “Yard Beast.” Also, Ryan Hunt has been promoted to the position of Brewer.