Almost-local Brewery Spotlight – The Bruery

Even though The Bruery is only 4 years old, this felt like a long overdue visit.  Reed and I, along with some friends, made the drive up to Orange County to check out both the tasting room and Provisions, a fancy bottle shop and cafe run by the same people. The two locations could hardly be more different, and I loved them both.
Our first stop was Provisions in “old town” Orange, a street packed with cutesy shops and boutiques. The storefront reminded me a lot of the bottle shop / restaurant combinations we loved in Australia and I had never really seen closer to home (though 3rd Corner is a delightful wine-only exception). Reed’s first impression was that the place was “pretentious” which I noted but dismissed. Calling anyone pretentious is rich coming from someone who works at Stone and totally buys into their “you’re not worthy” mantra. My first impression was that I loved everything about it except the 90 minute drive from my house.  

A familiar sight – Reed wearing a beer shirt sampling a flight.

On offer are flights and pours of Bruery beers of course, but also a small but excellent selection of wine and cheese plates. One of my frequent complaints about places with extensive alcohol menus is their lack of helpful descriptions. This place is a welcome exception, with the beer menu organized by flavors, much like many wine menus. I found this very helpful in deciding what to order, and it turned out to be necessary here as the people behind the counter seemed uninterested or unable to help us make decisions about what to try. This poor service also carried over to the attached market, where we did some bottle shopping before leaving. The beers are organized by type (again like with wine), which I’d never seen before. I wonder which came first, the customer-empowering organization of the menu and bottle shop – or the poor customer service.

Enough negativity – we really did all enjoy ourselves immensely. Some notes on the beers themselves:
Otiose: a sour brown ale fermented with guava, this reminded me a lot of one of my favorite beers, the Duchesse.
Sans Pagaie: a sour blonde ale barrel aged with cherries, I found this beer to taste like a complete cherry pie with just the right amount of sweet and tart fruit along with a yeasty “crust” flavor even – delicious!
Smoking Wood: an imperial smoked porter aged in whiskey barrels, it is very smoky! The online description lists cherrywood, beachwood and rye malts as ingredients, so now I want to try some other beers with these as I so enjoy the smoky beer trend.
Fruet: brewed for their 4th anniversary celebration, this is really more of an after dinner drink. At 15.5% ABV, it would not feel out of place to don a smoking jacket and drink this from a snifter.

For lunch we walked up the street to Bruxie, a busy place that serves sandwiches on crisp waffles instead of bread, along with sweet waffle sandwiches for dessert. So good! This fantastic find will definitely be a part of every visit to the Bruery from now on.

Strawberry creme brulee for dessert.
Fried chicken for lunch.

A 10 minute drive away is the actually brewery and tasting room, located in an industrial section of Placentia. We arrived right as they opened for the afternoon and within 20 minutes every seat was taken and there was a line out the door.

Brewery and tasting room.

Different beers are on tap here, all more wacky combinations of ingredients like a smoked porter with Vermont maple syrup or a pumpkin milk stout. For what it’s worth, the Burly Gourd is the first time Reed has approved of a pumpkin beer, I think it was the stout base (most are just pale ales); this beer tasted like spicy pumpkin pie with whipped cream on it, just like I make for the holidays.

Reed tried every single thing on the board at the brewery and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves amidst the usual crowd of bros, hipsters and hockey enthusiasts. A food truck parked outside, enticing us to stay as long as we pleased. After a full day, we drove (well, I drove while some dozed) south down the 5 and Reed summed up his feelings on what the Bruery has to offer – it is the Ben and Jerry’s of craft beer, he said. They have decadent combinations of ingredients and clearly aren’t afraid to try out new flavors. They are specialty almost to the point of gimmicky. But sometimes you just want a really good vanilla.

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