Beer and Wine Events Guide for August

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Image courtesy of IEShineOn

What else would you do during the dog days of August than find a good event to sample wines, beers or spirits? Okay, there’s probably a lot, but this is the only place to find a comprehensive guide to alcoholic beverage tasting events in the Inland Empire. Check out my Inland Empire Beer and Wine Guide for August at IEShineOn. And check back periodically for updates. If you know of an event I’ve missed, please let me know and we’ll be sure to add it. Better yet, let me know well in advance so it doesn’t get overlooked in the first place. Thanks!

Cheers! 12072825_1085262341491843_5867455890284977700_n

 

Kings Brewery is Their Castle

thumb_IMG_4133_1024There must be something to the idea of selling your house to build a craft brewery.

At least that seems to be the case in Rancho Cucamonga, where the origins of the recently opened Kings Brewing Co. have a remarkably similar storyline to those that led to the launch of Hamilton Family Brewery in 2014.

Founders of both local breweries sold their respective homes to build their new businesses. In the case of Josh and Crysten Hamilton, they sold their house, moved in with Crysten’s parents and raised enough capital to chase Josh’s dream. Now open for more than two years, their investment in Hamilton Family Brewery seems to have paid off.

thumb_IMG_4134_1024The case of brothers Jeremiah and Demetrius Cooper is a bit different. They took ownership of their Pomona childhood home when their parents retired and moved away. That wasn’t enough, so they cashed in their 401ks and took out a sizable loan. They also launched a crowd-funding campaign to help fund the start-up, which unquestionably contributed to a strong opening day crowd on April 30. That, or the fact that the brewery is one of the few places in town that carries Dodger games on Time Warner Cable.

“We wanted to open big – not with just four or six taps like most new breweries when they open,” said Demetrius, who prefers to go simply by “D.”

thumb_IMG_4129_1024Despite operating with a negative financial balance when they opened, the Coopers came charging out of the gates with 10 beers on tap. Two months later, brews were flowing from 20 taps. D says he and his brother hope to have 30 taps in operation soon. That means brewing a lot of different kinds of beer.

“We’re already doing some things that it takes some breweries a long time to do,” says D. Cooper. “Even though they won’t be ready for a while, we’ve already got some beers in bourbon barrels, which most breweries don’t even think about at this stage.”

More taps means more beer styles, but a smaller opportunity for visitors to truly gauge the overall quality with just one visit. That’s not a problem, because going to breweries is certainly not a personal sacrifice (especially when they have Dodger games on TV). Nevertheless, I was impressed with the quality of the products I sampled.

Most craft breweries take months and even years to work out the difficulties of moving from smaller home brewing equipment to much bigger commercial systems. The challenges are even more pronounced when brewing 10, 20 or even 30 different styles of beers.thumb_IMG_4130_1024

The four beers I had were solid. Fans of hoppy West Coast IPAs might not be partial to the Juice Bomb IPA with its fruity aroma and very little bitterness, but it has plenty of flavor for both new and seasoned craft beer fans.

The Draw Bridge Double IPA is somewhat similar to the Juice Bomb, but a bit maltier. Still, a bit light for a DIPA. The Jensen Porter is roasty with hints of coffee, and the Biscocho Lechero Milk Stout was also very good. The list also includes beers brewed with Reese’s Pieces, pineapples, jalapenos and more, but not all in the same beer.

Claremont Craft Ales Celebrates Fourth Anniversary

I don’t know of any craft brewery that does a better job of showcasing its own beers at an annual anniversary celebration than Claremont Craft Ales.CCA 1

While most breweries have great fun-filled events and special new beer releases to commemorate such an occasion, CCA will offer more than 50 of its own brews on tap at its upcoming fourth anniversary festivities, including several brand new releases and barrel-aged beers, along with popular Claremont Craft Ales favorites.

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Photo courtesy of Claremont Craft Ales

This year’s anniversary event will take place at the brewery on Saturday, July 16. There will be two separate sessions from noon-4 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Families bringing children are encouraged to attend the first session.

In addition, no fewer than three food trucks/vendors will be on site, while local Claremont band “Raul” will perform at the second session. A DJ will entertain during the first session. Games for kids, corn hole, a photo booth and other activities are also scheduled.

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Photo courtesy of Claremont Craft Ales

Limited-edition stainless steel insulated growlers will be available for purchase, along with other merchandise, including commemorative shirts and caps.

Of course, the beer is the main attraction. Last year’s event included 10 barrel-aged brews among the offerings.

Admission is $30 per person and includes 16 pours of beers and a souvenir glass. Children and designated drivers are admitted free. Tickets are available to purchase at the brewery or online at www.claremontcraftales.com. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Shoes That Fit in Claremont. Those who donate a new pair of socks at the door will receive an extra pour of beer.

Claremont Craft Ales is located at 1420 N. Claremont Blvd., Suite 204C, in Claremont. For more information, call (909) 625-5350 or email info@claremontcraftales.com.

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Breweries and Ballparks

 
I didn’t really know what to expect of my first visit to Pittsburgh. The recesses of my mind still had visions of steel mills and smoke stacks.thumb_IMG_4127_1024

I wasn’t heading to the steel city for its architectural character or cultural charm, but rather to join Sid the Younger for a late June weekend of ballgames and craft breweries in a stadium and town we’d never visited. What’s better than a toad trip with your son to root for the Dodgers in a faraway land?thumb_IMG_4101_1024

thumb_IMG_4120_1024First off, Pittsburgh is surprisingly beautiful, at least at this time of year in the areas we visited. I should have guessed, having driven through the Amish country of Pennsylvania with Beth many years ago. Rolling green hills covered with lush trees overlooked the three rivers that meet near the downtown area a few hundred yards from PNC Park, just down the block from Heinz Field where the Steelers play.thumb_IMG_4114_1024

My ever-efficient and loving wife Beth booked our hotel literally right across the street from PNC Park, where restaurants and bars line Federal Way and General Robinson Street. On game days (at least on weekends), Federal Way closes to vehicular traffic in favor of a stage outside the stadium as fans cross the Clemente Bridge to enjoy the music and pre-game festivities. I’ve never seen so many fans wearing caps and jerseys; they were everywhere we went, but especially at the stadium.thumb_IMG_4105_1024

The Pirates haven’t played in a World Series since 1979, and they’ve had more bad years than good over the past four decades. Still, the fans are loyal and forgiving. More impressive is how remarkably welcoming they are to out-of-town fans clearly rooting against their team. Unfortunately for us, the Pirate fans had the last word, with the home team winning both games I attended and three of the four weekend games against the Dodgers. No question, Pittsburgh people love their Pirates, Steelers and Penguins.

thumb_IMG_4103_1024The sports were only part of the reason for our journey. After our self-guided tour around the statues of Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski and Honus Wagner that surround PNC Park, Sid and I walked along the Alleghany River toward its union with the Ohio and the Monongahela rivers. After lunch at the Jerome Bettis Grill (he wasn’t in, but our waitress gave us a tour of his private lounge filled with memorabilia), we went to explore the city’s craft breweries.thumb_IMG_4117_1024

Pittsburgh is a great sports town, but it hasn’t yet caught up in the craft beer arena. Understandably, it’s still an Iron City Beer town (I used to have many of the commemorative championship Steelers and Pirates beer cans in my since-sold can collection). Still, they are trying.

Grist House Brewing is set in an old house-turned-brewery in the middle of a neighborhood outside of town in the city of Millvale. The atmosphere there is welcoming and the setting is charming, even if the beer is just average.thumb_IMG_4123_1024

From there we headed to the Lawrenceville area, where there are breweries up and town Butler Street, which runs parallel with the Allegheny. We were able to easily walk from Hop Farm Brewing to the Full Pint taproom and then to Roundabout Brewing.

thumb_IMG_4124_1024Our last stop before game time was back in Pittsburgh at Church Brew Works – easily the most impressive brewery structure I’ve ever visited. The brewery has taken over a restored Roman Catholic church originally built in 1902, but is now filled with large silver brewing tanks and picnic benches in an environment that reminded me of the cavernous Hofbrau Haus in Munich.thumb_IMG_4125_1024

The breweries were great and the people were more than kind, but the beer was mostly watery, unexciting and lacking the big bold flavors that we’ve become so accustomed to at home. Of course, as Sid the Younger reminded me, unless you’re in California, Oregon, Colorado, Michigan or Vermont, you’ll be lucky to come across great craft beers.

Bad baseball and bad beer, but we had a great time and loved Pittsburgh.