Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Redlands Rumble; Part Two of the Inland Empire Road Trip

The local brewery’s participating in Taste of Brews represent a diverse and eclectic group of new and existing, each with its own unique identity and presentation.  On this leg of our journey through the Inland Empire, we visit two breweries in Redlands; one establish and one brand new.  Both will be at White Park in Riverside on Saturday, May 25.

Donkey Punch first hit our radar at the Inland Empire Brewery’s recent anniversary bash.  Some of the younger members of the Taste of Brews’ crew really liked all the IPA’s and double IPA’s at that soiree, but yours truly (the author of this blog) sometimes prefers something lighter.  My quest that day led me to uncover Donkey Punch’s Vanilla Blonde, a refreshing 5% golden/blonde ale. This light orange-colored delight smelled of malt and vanilla beans, and did not disappoint with its strong vanilla taste.  We tried this again at the brewery and found the same delightful appeal, and learned that they use a Madagascar vanilla extract. The Orange Punch was also delicious; a crisp and juicy American Hefeweizen that owes its citrusy zest to locally produced, organic orange blossom honey. The tasting room is simple yet classy and seems to have a strong, local following. The brewery opened late last year and has a small distribution to date including Big Cheese Pizza, the Mentone Beach Bar & Grill and the Upper Deck Sports Lounge. We can’t wait to sample whatever amazing concoctions that they pour at Taste of Brews; we’re sure that they will be a welcome and refreshing addition to our summer launch festival.

Hangar 24 operates out of an old Norton Air Force Base building that has been relocated across the street from Redlands Municipal Airport.  The founders obviously loved flying and their brew is flying off the shelves.  Hangar 24 is now distributing into Northern California and recently completed a physical expansion at its brewery that increased its annual production capacity and added a canning line, making it the first Southern California craft brewery to both can and bottle its beer.  But what really matters is the beer…starting with the Orange Wheat which is crisp, tangy, and refreshing.  The citrus aroma and tangy finish are this unfiltered beer’s trademarks.  What’s really cool is that the oranges are purchased through the Old Grove Company whose goal is to save the local trees from disappearing.  Switching gears, we then sampled the chocolate porter which was rich and decadent, as promised.  This strong porter (8.0 percent alcohol) features an intense, roasty flavor that comes from two types of chocolate malt and raw cocoa nibs.  Hangar 24 is doing very well, but the brewery and tasting room retain that local community appeal that craft beers drinkers appreciate.

The entire Taste of Brews team is excited about our upcoming event and hop (pun intended) that you join us for an amazing day of craft beer, classic rock and great food.  Check back soon for another segment for the 2013 IE Road Trip.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Taste of Brews IE Road Trip Part I

The Taste of Brews crew headed out to the Inland Empire recently in order to visit several of our outstanding participating breweries.  Ostensibly, the intent was to deliver posters, counter cards and other promo materials in order to hype our upcoming event on May 25 at White Park, but what red-blooded American could pass up the opportunity to sample amazing craft beer along the way?

Our first stop was at I & I Brewing in Chino.  Closing in on their one year anniversary, I & I has already outgrown their current space and is moving across the street into a much larger location.  I & I draws its name from Rasta and homages to Bob Marley are apparent in posters and on T-Shirts.  We ponied up to the bar right at 4pm sharp and were joined by a construction worker who proclaimed that he’d been working next door all week and was glad he didn’t find out about the brewery until the job was over!  We sampled their Peach Wheat Ale and Honey Cream Ale (both were tremendous) before discovering something called “Ginger Small Ale”, a 5.1% alcoholic version of ginger ale.  Legend has it that Ginger Beer heals the soul and cures your ailments.  We loved it, and since we there is so much soul healing needed among our team, we ordered up a Growler from Eric and hit the road.

Next was Main Street Brewing in Corona.  Tucked inside of a Lamppost Pizza, Main Street Brewing was the first micro-brewery in Corona.  The brewery is fully stocked with at least eight hand-crafted "custom" brews served up chilled on tap. These exciting brews vary from the lightest of tastes to those of robust English creations. The brewery itself is tastefully appointed with a "Cheers" style wraparound oak bar, elegant wood paneling and filled with great conversation, games, and sports on several television monitors.  We sampled their famous Hop Daddy IPA and a delicious Honey Blonde.  The smell of the freshly oven-baked pizza was hard to overcome and we finally succumbed and ordered the “Linebacker” which featured every type of meat under the sun.  After polishing off that beast, we hung a few posters, handed out some rave cards and waddled to the car to prep for the next leg of our journey.

With all the new breweries opening up and expansion taking place among the existing group, it that took us almost 20 hours over two full days to visit more than a dozen breweries and several of our “sampling” restaurants.  Check back soon for our next chapter in this amazing saga!