I attended the annual Orange County Brew Ha Ha with Steph and Mike. The festival was September 10th at the Hidden Valley Private Park in Irvine. In honor of 9/11, firemen from Local 3631 Firefighters union poured beer and a portion of the event proceeds were donated to the Fallen Firefighters Relief Fund.
Kicking-off the festival was legendary Dr. Bill Sysak of Stone Brewing. We received a pour of 15th Anniversary ale and listened while he spoke about the current state of craft beer industry. He ended with a very poignant statement: “there’s never been a better time in the history of the world to be a beer drinker.” We nodded our heads in agreement, snapped a photo, and entered the festival.
A staggering number of craft breweries were represented at the festival! Many local: Noble, Beachwood BBQ, Old OC Brewery, Dale Bros, Tustin Brewing; some regional: Sierra Nevada, Maui, Karl Strauss, Sudwerk, Stone and even a macro: Blue Moon. That was just to name a few. The festival website claimed over 60 breweries were in attendance, and we believed it.
The head brewer/owner/brother from Dale Bros. Brewery was gracious enough to spend some time with us. Curt Dale talked to us about their Oktoberfest beer, Oktober-fiesta. He explained that Dale Bros. takes a traditional approach to brewing. Unlike many modern breweries, they do not treat their brewing water with salts and minerals to achieve a desired pH. Instead he honors the age old tradition of brewing what your water allows. To account for high pH water they brew their Oktoberfest beer with a larger portion of dark malt than most at the festival. The dark rich copper color and smooth flavor really made this beer stand out in the crowd.
The festival was well run and never felt overcrowded. We enjoyed a deep fried pretzel from the Stone catering truck, handmade pizza from a fire truck turned mobile pizza parlor, and attended a lecture on “Effects of Barrel-Aging on a Base Beer” by John Porter of Tustin Brewing Company. I wish this blog had scratch-and-taste ability to share what this flight was like – really eye opening to taste the same beer aged four ways: straight aged 2009, fresh 2011, Bourbon barrel, and Rye barrel. Hard to pick a winner but if our table had to choose I think the Rye was the favorite of the day.
Thanks again to OC Brew Ha Ha for giving us the opportunity to cover this event. We do not get down to sample Orange County beer culture as much as we should – this was a great treat!
– John R.
Los Angeles Ale Works™
Specialist Beer Judge