Well, it’s over. OC Beer Week has come and gone and my liver couldn’t be happier. (Ha!)
The Invitational was so much fun!! Although the OC Brewers Guild might not have been able to get out of the red on this one, the outcome was some short lines, ample amount of space to walk around, plenty of food, and of course, plenty of beer for everyone! The lack thereof are the biggest complaints or some of the most recent beer festivals and I don’t blame those that voice concerns when a festival becomes a test in patience and disappointment. Not at all the case for this year’s Invitational. There are reasons for the intimate attendance number, but that is something I will not get into at this time, especially because, as an attendee, I feel that was the perfect number of fest-goers.
But what about the beer? Oh, yes. There was beer and there was some outstanding stuff. Worth mentioning are: Table Beer by Benchmark Brewing (San Diego), American Craft Lager by Mike Hess Brewing (San Diego), What Gose Round by Boomtown (Los Angeles), and Murk IPA by Pure Project (San Diego). But my favorite beer of the Invitational was Kona Espress by Hoparazzi. What a mix of flavors and balance! Coffee and tartness sounds off-putting, but the contrast works like magic in this beer. Well done!
Tustin Brewing Company’s (TBC) Beer Dinner was my absolute highlight of the week. The food was amazing, the beers are already tasty, and together was nothing short of incredible! Jerrod Larsen, TBC’s Head Brewer, and General Manager/Head Chef Robert Sentina (with Lead Chef Ivan Perez) put together this impressive dinner in a relatively short order. With the wonderful help of TBC’s hard-working bartenders, dedicated wait staff, and talented kitchen crew, Robert and Jerrod showcased their brilliance at the dinner table.
The cheese and salad pairings were my personal favorites. With three cheeses to choose from and two beers to accompany them, the guests were encouraged to explore and experiment with flavor interactions. I preferred the bitterness of Old Town IPA cutting through the rich, mouthcoating triple cream French cheese and providing a sharp contrast to the pungent blue cheese. Old Town also brought out the spice from the peppercorn cheese with its assertive hop bite and lively carbonation.
For the salad, Jerrod surprised us all by bringing out and aged version of his award-winning sour ale, Jon Flanders. What a treat this was! The salad was crisp and refreshing with a nutty element to provide some contrast. Jon Flanders provided some dark fruit while it balanced the acidity of the champagne vinaigrette and pickled onions and provided a pleasing complement to the bitter greens. Spectacular!
It was a fun week and I thoroughly enjoy seeing so many of us beer lovers out supporting our local breweries in our backyard. Here’s to hopping next year will be just as awesome as this year.
-Gilbert “Charlie” Perez, Certified Cicerone®