It’s little mystery why the Bruery has become one of not only Orange County’s, but Southern California’s premier breweries. With a focus on quality, creativity, artisinal method and a solid marketing strategy backing it up, the Bruery’s popularity and influence has exploded over the last five years. Like many breweries, it’s located in a unassuming industrial area located off the freeway. Up until the recent addition of their new grain silo, it looked like any other warehouse. The old tasting room was located directly adjacent to the brewhouse which gave it a very wood-mechanical feel. Last 4th of July that all changed when the Bruery opened an official tasting room complete with a full bar, tables, bottle storage, a full tap line-up, and viewing windows into the brewery itself. The new tasting room makes it even more of a destination than it already was. Patrick added a full nano pilot system where the old tasting room had been, which gives the Bruery even more creative brewing freedom with offerings for both the tap room and their reserve society members. You’ll likely never taste the same beer twice when you visit, and with their 10,000 BBL yearly production, your likely to see new bottles popping up frequently.
Another one of the additions the Bruery has been able to add to its line up is an official tour of the brewing area. Guests can sign up at the bar for hourly tours given by knowledgable Bruery employees. The tours take approximately 30 minutes to get through, but are definitely worth the wait and the free entrance fee. Warning, the Bruery takes safety seriously so be prepared don safety glasses when you enter the brew house.
Various Bruery beers are strategically placed throughout the tour for informal tastings and show & tell. Our tour guide Jeff Sand provided the group with tastings of Loakal Red, Rueuze (I love the cleverness), and 5 Golden Rings during our tour. The official tour starts by highlighting their new grain silo and then moves into the brewery where they store their abnormally large collection of specialty grains. It’s uncommon for a brewery to have a large collection of specialty grains, but because “specialty” is part of the the Bruery’s MO it fits the bill. The tour moves on to show their yeast propagation system, grist mill, and then stops for a time at Patrick’s newest toy, the nano-pilot system. This system is a home brewer’s dream complete with 3 barrel kettle and 5 fermentation tanks. It’s one of the most advanced mini-systems I’ve seen to date, and it’s very slick. The pilot system will allow the brewery to create more creative and limited offerings for their tap room and reserve society members, like the current offering of Portola Rosa. The tour caries through the rest of the brewhouse and culminates at the end with six very large 80 BBL conicals. There was a special Black Tuesday feeding going on during our visit, which was exciting to see.
You can get full pours or flights of your favorite beers, and because of the massive line-up of special projects they always have going, you can usually get a good feel for what they are all about. Part of the new Bruery campaign, post close of their Bruery Provisions store, is to use their new pilot system for tap room and reserve society exclusives. A good example of what they are going for can be found at the tap room right now and it’s called Portola Rosa. Portola Rosa, at its simplest, is a red ale that has been infused with coffee. Where each of the 5 variants differ is with how and what coffee is added. Check out their tasting notes and descriptions below (*note: these descriptions and notes are direct from the tasting room’s tasting sheet):
- Coffee Tasting Notes: Fragrant eucalyptus, dark chocolate, jammy black currant, white flowers in aroma
- Patrick’s Portola Rossa Tasting Notes: Milk Chocolate
- Coffee Tasting Notes: Subtle hints of a variety of fruits, notes of fig, cinnamon and naval orange are present
- Patrick’s Portola Rossa Tasting Notes: Orange, Peach, Lemon, Black Cherry
- Coffee Tasting Notes: Dark chocolate, cherry, oak, night flowers, brandy, dark chocolate carries distinctly into a savory-sweet finish
- Patrick’s Portola Rossa Tasting Notes: Chocolate, Cheery, Oak, Brandy, Vanilla, Coacoa, Chocolate Powder
- Coffee Tasting Notes: Flavors are lush and fruity, “clean” fruity characters throughout
- Patrick’s Portola Rossa Tasting Notes: Bluberries, Blackberries, Rasperries, Bing Cheery, Tropical Fruit, Vanilla, Cocoa
- Coffee Tasting Notes: Deep, dark, syrupy coffee, fruity and chocolate notes, subtle funk but still clean and crisp. Distincly lively acidity with continue sweetly pungeant fruit.
- Patrick’s Portola Rossa Tasting Notes: Cedar, Grapefruit, Tobacco, Bakers Chocolate.
Brewing Techniques Cold Steep Contact: Used on Aceh Gold and Patzun Variations. This method allows the coffee to sit in secondary, in much the same method as ‘dry-hopping’. We’ll call it ‘dry beaning’, for ease of description. Clever Dripper: Used on Gera Yukro variety. A Pour over technique where hot water is poured over ground coffee througha conical device and filtered through a paper filter. This hot brewed coffee was chilled then added to the ‘base’ beer. Hot Full Immersion Concentrate: Used on the ‘Casas de Lamina’ variety. Essentially used in the same manner as a french press, where ground coffee is immersed in hot water until the proper level of extraction is reached. This hot brewed coffee was chiled then added to the ‘base’ beer. Slayer: Used on the Gedeo Worka variety. This refers to the customized and hand-built piece of equipment used to pull espresso. This super concentrated brew was chilled then added to the ‘base’ beer.
A beer flight like this is something that home brewers usually love. It’s an exercise in experimentation. Using a single beer base to make 5 separate varieties shows how versatile beer really is. It also allows breweries to tailor tastes and perfect recipes. The White Labs Tasting Room is also noteworthy for this reason. They use a base beer recipe and ferment it with many different strains of yeast. Treating this generic batch as a control group gives brewers valuable information related to what each different strain adds to the beer.
Portola Rosa is an excellently crafted beer and a successful beer experiment that both coffee and beer enthusiast alike will be able to appreciate.
If you haven’t made it down to the Bruery yet to see their new tasting room or take their tour, make sure you carve out some time in your busy schedule. You’ll find that it’s definitely worth it.
*Special thanks to our great tour guide, Jeff Sand, for showing us around.