Photos by Amanda Pearce-Smets, Caroline Mulvihill & David Mulvihill

Tom Nickel (l) of Nickel Beer Co and Rick Smets, Stereo Brewing Co, brewed together for the first time since 2007. 

OC Brewers

The 3rd Annual OC Brewers Guild Invitational Festival took place in the alluring coastal setting of Newport Dunes as the closing OC Beer Week event. The late afternoon and early evening of April 28 brought together over 50 breweries (OC member brewers and many brewery friends they invited from surrounding areas) and an ample amount of beer to share with thirsty attendees.

The annual festival has also become a vehicle for OC brewers to team with invited brewers prior to the festival for collaborative brews released during beer week.

One notable reunion between Stereo Brewing Co’s owner-brewer Rick Smets and Tom Nickel of Nickel Beer Co. resulted in Childhood’s End, a collaborative double IPA with loads of Centennial, Cascade and Simcoe hops. Smets’ foray into the professional brewing arena took place at San Clemente’s Left Coast Brewing Company under the tutelage of Nickel, who was heading the brew kettles at the time. Smets took the reins upon Nickel’s exit to run O’Briens Pub in San Diego. Nickel eventually also opened Nickel Beer in Julian (North San Diego County). Rick’s adventure continued up at Firestone Walker before he returned to Orange County to open his brewery in Placentia. The collaboration brought the two together to brew for the first time since they parted ways in 2007. Tom Nickel and Nickel Beer Co were onsite and pouring Nickel Beer alongside Stereo at the Guild Fest in Newport. 

Team Noble accepts its Award for Nobility at the 2018 World Beer Cup. 

While this reporter was unable to attend this year’s event, his multi-talented daughter was available to document in his stead. Thanks, Caroline! The haze craze seems to continue throughout OC and the Southland. Hazy IPAs at the fest included Left Coast’s Hops Of Hazard, Stereo’s Astral Plane, Offshoot’s Anniversary Double Dry Hopped and Beachwood’s Murkish Delight. 

The other end of the spectrum was also well represented with beers such as TAPS Bohemian Tapsody Bohemian-style pilsner, Left Coast’s Blonde Marvel and Agua Santana, a light Mexican-style lager from Figueroa Mountain Brewing.

On the tart and sour side were Beachwood Blendery’s Earthbound Misfit and Fortune Favors the Funk, and Bruery Terreux’s Bouffon, a sour wit brewed with spices and aged in an oak foeder. That beer was brewed in collaboration with Austin’s Jester King Brewery. Berliner Equation, a 5% ABV tart wheat ale with fresh guava was also being offered by Anaheim’s Bottle Logic.

Taking place just days before the Craft Brewers Conference and World Beer Cup in Nashville, a preview of two of the beers that would be awarded that following week were also on hand for tasting. Tustin Brewing Company’s Portola Breakfast Stout was flowing. Its gold award would follow as well as a bronze medal for Jerrod Larsen’s American wheat. And, San Clemente’s Artifex dispensed the coveted bourbon barrel-aged version of its HoliDAVE Imperial Stout. Its Bronze award for the non-barrel-aged version would also come that next Thursday night! Congrats to Johnny and Team Artifex!

At press time, The OC Brewers Guild was still recruiting to fill its open position for Brewers Guild Director.

Noble Expands

Coming off of its World Beer Cup gold for Nobility double IPA, Anaheim’s Noble Ale Works is well into its expansion. Noble’s Brad Kominek, Matt Fantz and David Castro are brewing strong on the new 30-barrel 4-vessel Prospero brewhouse. The much larger multi-vessel system has the team in education-mode as they adjust to brewing larger quantities in successive batches. When this reporter had lunch with co-owner Steve Miles recently, he shared that the team had already progressed to being able to brew 135 barrels in two days. Noble’s newest brewing member David Castro (a San Diego native who began his brewing career Austin), brings much to the table, having previously brewed on a similar system at Florida’s Cigar City. Upon his arrival, the process of stepping up from the old system went much smoother. Massive 90- and 120-barrel fermenters have brought with them additional challenges. A scissor lift replaces the ladder for dry-hopping into the top of the fermenters.

Noble’s sizeable new tasting room is also taking form. Once completed, entry will be at the front of the building facing S. Sinclair and include a bar with five serving stations. 

I asked Steve what he and team Noble Ale Works were feeling when it came time to announce the winning double IPA during this year’s WBC Awards. The Imperial India Pale Ale category was #95 of 101 categories, and the final category Noble had entered. Steve shared that, after going through all of the other categories and the bronze and silver awards for the IIPA, they thought they were out of it. When the gold award was announced they were ecstatic.  

Noble is also in market growth mode. Look to increasingly find its products in more places from Santa Barbara to San Diego.

Beer Bits

L.A. Beer Week

L.A. Beer Week was also kicking off at press-time. Instead of a festival to close its long week of events, the L.A. Brewers Guild sets its fest as an opening event to launch beer week. This year marked 10 years of L.A. Beer Week with an opening festival at L.A. Center Studios that included over 80 breweries and their beer. Watch for a recap in an upcoming column.

Fig Cans

Twelve-ounce cans is the latest format to release for the summer by Figueroa Mountain Brewing. Its new canning line fired up to fill Hoppy Poppy IPA as the brewery’s first release in June. Look forward to cans of Fig Mtn Light, Lizard’s Mouth and FMB 101 Blonde to follow shortly.  

Silva & Paso

If you missed Chuck Silva & Silva Brewing’s initial June release of The Pink Stuff (packaged in beautifully adorned Italian Tosca bottles), look forward to a second release in October. This sparkling Rosé-beer has a slightly pink hue contributed by Grenache juice that came from nearby Denner Vineyards. The juice was fermented in French oak along with a kettle sour ale in white wine barrels using French Saison yeast. It was then blended with a separate fermentation that included Cinsault grapes and black currants. This seems to be a fitting creation to serve as the brewery’s nineteenth release since opening in Paso Robles wine country 18 months ago. This reporter is looking forward to finally making it up to Silva Brewing in late July to try all of Chuck’s available beers. Time will tell if some of his Silva Stout will also still be around.