The Bruery, Orange County California

The Bruery has been open for a few years now but I hadn’t heard of it until I went to the Beer Bloggers Conference this year in San Diego. Though they have a few year round beers, when you visit the brewery you can tell that they are really focusing on sour beers and barrel aged imperial stouts. Many of the sours and barrel aged stouts are limited releases and the bottles are a bit more expensive than usual.

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Though I did taste a few barrel aged beers while I was there, I mostly focused on the core brews that sounded interesting. I was heading to Noble Ale Works (only 7 miles away) next so I couldn’t try more than a full five taster flight. A number of the interesting sounding beers were described as hoppy so I hoped that I would find something that would satisfy my hop cravings.

In total, I tried the double dry-hopped red, hoppy belgian golden, india pale lager (IPL), dubel with cacao nibs and vanilla, and a bourbon barrel aged stout with cherry and vanilla.

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The double dry-hopped red ale was interesting for two reasons. First, it didn’t really have much malt flavor to speak of. Second, it was mostly light bodied and taken over by floral hops. Thus, it really tasted more like a floral session IPA than anything else. It was a solid beer but I found the floral hops to be a little too overpowering leaving just a light citrus background.

The hoppy Belgian golden was a solid Belgian gold though the hops were very light, mostly serving to balance out the typical spice flavors a Belgian beer makes. The IPL was pretty disappointing overall although I have a hard time pinpointing the specific flavor that I didn’t like. Based on the description on the website, it seems the herbal flavors were a bit overpowering in this one.

The dubel was a very tasty chocolate beer and totally different than what I usually get. Rather than a thick full-bodied stout, this was a lighter bodied Belgian beer that displayed the chocolate flavors quite prominently. Finally, the bourbon barrel aged stout with cherry and vanilla was quite nice. The bourbon flavor came through nice and was balanced with a light amount of tart flavor from the cherry.

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I was generally disappointed by the lack of lower alcohol dark ale offerings. Though they have a bunch of imperial stouts, there is no porter or stout anywhere near the 5% alcohol range. They also didn’t have an IPA, which it seems they were purposefully avoiding. Though many of the beers I tried were described as hoppy, they didn’t really satisfy my cravings. An IPL when done right would take the place of a solid IPA but the IPL here was purposefully avoiding the West Coast style of IPA. By contrast, Ballast Point makes a delicious IPL that I am a huge fan of.

If you like sours, there are a lot of options to try at The Bruery. They also seem to be doing a great job with the barrel aged imperial stouts and special limited release bottles. What they weren’t able to do is satisfy this hop-head’s cravings for the West Coast hop flavors. If you really like floral and herbal hops then you might enjoy their hoppier options a little bit. Otherwise, I suggest you head over to Noble nearby for your hop fix.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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