photos by David Mulvihill
An area of South Orange County that has long been lacking as a destination for good beer finally has a brewery. GameCraft Brewing, located in Laguna Hills just off of the 5 Freeway along Furniture Row, is now open.
Founder: Scott Cebula
The face and founder of GameCraft Brewing is Scott Cebula. A Laguna Hills resident and avid homebrewer of over twenty years, his desire was to create a destination that would bring the community together, a place to enjoy noteworthy beer, food, conversation and even a game with friends and family. It has quickly become a gathering place for local residents and businesses, beer travelers and even game development companies. GameCraft’s game theme and the many available games available for play during a visit has been a great draw. Well-appointed craft beer and food is definitely the other.
Attention to detail and functionality is apparent wherever you turn within the tasting room and around the brewery. As a catalyst in this effort, Scott likely pulled from his former background on the tech and engineering side of the medical field. Everything has a high level of finish and loads of thought and creativity have resulted in a welcoming, comfortable and functional space.
Brewer: Andrew Moy
Andrew Moy’s professional brewing background has included stints at Bayhawk Ales (Irvine), Belmont Brewing (Long Beach) and Riip Beer Co. (Huntington Beach). While brewing at Riip, he was awarded a 2016 Great American Beer Festival silver medal in the highly contested (312 entries) American-Style India Pale Ale category for his Super Cali IPA.
Equipped with a dedicated vocation toward brewing and his prior focus on ales and IPAs, Moy left Riip to embark on an educational undertaking that would enhance his talents as a brewer and gain him knowledge and expertise in brewing classic styles and lagers. He attended the Siebel Institute of Technology’s Master Brewer Program. This well-respected and coveted program includes intensive modules at Siebel’s campus in Chicago and the Doemens Academy in Munich, Germany.
Cebula’s goal for GameCraft’s beer production was to offer a mix of 50% ales and 50% lagers. He set out to recruit a strong and talented brewer with experience brewing both ales and lagers. Andrew possessed the skills and competencies he was looking for and GameCraft was born.
GameCraft’s 6500 square foot space has been designed for expansion within the existing footprint and eventually to adjacent areas. Target for production has been set at a 1 barrel per year per square foot per year (6500 barrels). The steam-powered semi-automatic 3-vessel brewhouse is impressive, as are the six stacked horizontal lagering tanks (30-barrels each), supplemented by the additional upright fementers (3-30s, 2-60).
Expect an assortment of house brewed lagers and ales, supplemented by a few guest beers. In tasting GameCraft’s product it becomes readily apparent that Moy and team take the time and processes necessary to produce world-class beer. Water chemistry plays a big part in the recipes that are developed for production. Neither ales nor lagers are rushed to the tap. This results in heightened finished flavors, aromas, body and experience.
A recent visit found the following GameCraft beers available:
Early Access, an Amarillo hopped blonde ale, was GameCraft’s first beer. IPAs included Simcoe & Citra versions of SMASH IPAs (single malt, single hop), a Brut IPA and GameCraft’s version of Resilience IPA. On the dark side were a chocolate porter (Porte-Er-Fort) and a high gravity Imperial stout with Portola coffee.
German-style lagers to date have included helles, dunkel, pilsner and Vienna lager.
Broors Light, an adjunct light lager akin to Coors Banquet Beer, was also available.
Andrew and team continue to dial in the system and refine recipes, with focus on progressively improving each batch.
Small bites include Tater Bots (tater tots with choice of regular & Hyper-spice), fried wontons, pretzel bites, pulled pork sliders and chicken wings. There is an assortment of flatbreads to choose from: Queso (cheese & tomato sauce), Cazadore (with added carnitas, serrano chiles and shitake mushrooms), and Carne (with added carnitas, bacon & salame).
Three fried chicken options: Wings (with Hyperbuff, hyper-spice, buffalo or BBQ sauce, or Thai Style with Sweet/spicy sauce), Karaag Chicken with lemon aioli and Sambal and Karaag chicken with hyper-spice (a Nashville hot chicken with lemon aioli, pickles & bread).
Sandwiches: Pulled Pork, Karaag chicken, and beef sliders along with monthly variants of Bahn Mi sandwiches and burgers.
An assortment of empanadas round out the menu, including a couple of dessert empanadas (berry cheesecake and chocolate crème brulee), carrot cake, banana bread and Star Dusted Pretzel bites were also available.
GameCraft Brewing: 23301 Avenida De La Carlota Suite C, Laguna Hills.
California’s most destructive and deadliest wildfire took place last November near Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s brewery in Chico. 9,700 homes and 142,000 acres were burned during the Camp Fire’s devastation. Ken Grossman and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company immediately set up the Sierra Nevada Camp Fire Relief fund and made a request to breweries across the nation to assist in the effort. The brewery announced it would brew Resilience Butte County Proud IPA and raise funds for those impacted by the Camp Fire by donating 100 percent of proceeds from sales to the Camp Fire relief. Grossman asked breweries throughout the country to do the same. Ingredient donations from hop and malt suppliers were also secured.
An amazing response to this request was received. Sierra Nevada’s website verifies that almost 1,500 breweries chose to participate. Well over 300 California breweries are on the list, 140 in Southern California. The SoCal brewers include 44 San Diego County, 33 Los Angeles County, 18 Orange County and 16 Ventura/Santa Barbara County breweries. Links to complete lists of companies brewing the beer and those donating ingredients can be found at https://www.sierranevada.com/resilience-butte-county-proud-ipa.
Sierra Nevada provided its suggested recipe for Resilience, but allowed for flexibility. Each brewery was free to modify the suggested recipe or create its own. Given the substantial amount of crystal malt and C-hops hop bill in the mix, many have described Sierra Nevada’s recipe and the resulting beer as an “old school” IPA, similar to Sierra Nevada’s annual Celebration Ale.
With so many breweries participating, there hasn’t been enough time to get around to all participating Southern California breweries to try every version. Instead, this reporter set out within his home County of Orange to experience as many different variations as time would allow and support the cause in the process. As of press time this scribe had enjoyed 12 of the 18 OC versions of Resilience, and one while in Washington, from local Seattle brewer, Stoup Brewing. Too much time spent out-of-town on business has also hampered my ability to widen my SoCal scope for the beer.
While some versions strayed a good deal from the guiding recipe, many remained true to the original, or only made slight modifications (i.e. stepping back the crystal malt or varying hops or hop addition timing). Compare and contrast the many different versions proved entertaining.
Breweries whose Resilience IPA was ready on December 20 took part in a nationwide Resilience Night on December 20. Releases continued into January, with some into February. It has been great to do a small part in assisting those affected by the fires, but it’s also been an amazing opportunity to experience so many remarkable and uniquely different beers. From my first Resilience at Stereo Brewing on December 20, followed by those at Artifex and Beachwood the days following, crowlers shared at holiday parties and the many others enjoyed with friends at breweries in the weeks that followed (Chapman Crafted, Docent, GameCraft, Golden Road, Green Cheek, Noble, Offshoot, TAPS, Tustin Brewing), it has been a notable experience. I’m hoping to still make it to the other OC breweries that brewed the beer (Barley Forge, Bottle Logic, Cismontane, Good Beer, Hoparazzi, Lost Winds, Towne Park) and still others throughout Southern California.
If you find yourself at your local brewery and see Resilience on the tap list, be sure to order one for the cause. Don’t forget to stick around for another beer or few from the brewery. A hearty thanks to all of the participating breweries that donated time, resources, tank space, ingredients, and beer sales to help the victims of the Camp Fire.
Links to donate directly to the Sierra Nevada Camp Fire Relief Fund can be found on Sierra Nevada Brewing Co’s website.