Monday, May 13, 2013

Beer Tripping Volume 2: The Bruery

Depending on where you live, it should absolutely be a priority to dedicate a weekend to taking a trek to whatever local brewery might be around. In fact...if you dig around just a little bit, you might discover a hidden treasure that you didn't even know about. Expand your beer horizons - any brewery of a sizable scale will probably offer some sort of a tour. Worst case, there's probably a tasting room where you can get affordable pints and tasters right from the source (or at least nearby - some tasting rooms are at satellite locations that should be fairly close by).

Or, you could do what I did - work at a retail liquor store and convince local breweries that a private tour would absolutely, totally spur sales of their beers. I don't necessarily recommend it. Customer interaction is soul-crushing.

But somewhere between restocking the cold case and picking up the fractured tatters of your spirit there are occasional perks involved, like when your manager comes and mentions that he managed to secure a private tour of The Bruery, one of your favorite breweries.

The Bruery At-A-Glance
Location: Placentia, CA
Founded: 2008 by Patrick Rue
Production: Around 3000 US Barrels

The Bruery, specializing in wonderful beer and soft focus since 2008.

If you haven't procured a bottle of anything from The Bruery, I highly recommend you do - their distribution is actually incredibly impressive given the relative small-scale nature of their operation.

Founded in 2008 (by Patrick Rue - hence Bruery), the young brewery specializes in the sophisticated and elegant, taking the Belgian tradition and running away with it in a wayward but suave manner (picture a symphony orchestra running a marathon, maybe). Fiercely experimental, The Bruery uses a tremendous variety of ingredients - from Thai basil to what is essentially blueberry oatmeal - most would never consider putting near their brew pot. And their entire lineup is available only in 22 oz bottles, where their beer does much of the conditioning. That means no six packs - though they do the occasional keg.

Their year-round staples, including Hummulusan Imperial Pale Lager, and Saison Rue, a Belgian farmhouse ale, are wonderful pairing or special occasion beers, and their seasonal and occasional stuff is the stuff beer nuts totally geek out over (go ahead...mention Black Tuesday to a beer geek and watch their equivalent of a beer O-Face). You might recall 5 Golden Rings from my 12 Beers of Christmas - that was from The Bruery, and was undoubtedly one of my favorite beers of 2012. They've made so many its a challenge to keep track of them all.

The Bruery also features its own "Reserve Society" - a sort of high-class "Beer Club" that allows access to the Provision Series - a collection of "small batch beers that will only be made once." The whole thing might come off as a bit "hoity-toity" but the brewery actually manages to remain very humble and down-to-earth, which is refreshing in an age where beer-snobbery is at all time high. Falling well short of snobby, the exclusive club comes across more as, well, special, and seems to be a celebration of beer and beer sophistication more than themselves.

Featuring more aging barrels than any other craft brewery (excepting Goose Island), The Bruery is fond of aging its collection, meaning its beer does an awful lot of waiting around before it reaches you, allowing the wonderful pallet of robust flavors to fully mature (think of that terrible Cheezit commercial).


Furthermore, you might say they're leading the pack with the American wild and sour beer phenomenon that has been picking up steam as of late - Sour in the Rye, Rueze, Tart of Darkness, Sans Pagaie... if you're a Sour Seeker (and I know there's an increasing number of you out there), Bruery is absolutely one to follow.

The Super Private Awesome Tour 

It was a Tuesday, and I got to go on a field trip. The grown-up kind, where I don't have to wear a name tageand I get to drink samples of awesome beer.

The Bruery tasting room wasn't open yet, and yet three beer enthusiasts were allowed to take a seat at the bar anyway, graciously hosted by Mass Olesh, Bruery's Director of Retail Operations and all-around cool dude. We were poured a small but potent array of the Bruery's new and favorite offerings as he mused about what they were up to these days.

First up was the Saison Tonnellerie, a hoppier, slightly drier Saison with the tiniest touch of sour and brettanoymces disruption. It was positively delicious but will - alas - see only "extremely limited SoCal distribution."

Next was their Loakal Red, a year-round favorite that features well balanced Cascade hops with great oaky, caramel flavors to back it up. We also got the scoop that, while originally only available in Orange County (hence "Loakal"), this tasty beer is going to be seeing CA-wide distribution soon (if not already). After that was its older, burly brother, Imperial Loakal Red, a bully of a beer that featured an definitive "aged" flavor, with mellowed hops and a pleasant burn of alcohol. I picked up a bottle of this for myself before we left.

I was curious about what they were up to, if anything yet, with the next beer in their Christmas-themed lineup, which by lyrical organization would be Six Geese-a-Layin, so I asked what we might expect. Turns out they would, cleverly enough, be using gooseberries, and that they should be doing some test batches pretty soon. I'm excited.

The final tasting we were offered practically had beams of light and angels singing as it was placed in front me - Matt was super awesome enough to let us experience (not merely try, mind you) Chocolate Rain. To put it in perspective, there's only 138 bottles of this stuff, is going for 150 bucks online, and was only available to members of the aforementioned Preservation Society. We felt special. And Great Ninkasi was this beer special.

[Edit: It's special indeed, but as reader Zach has informed me, it's actually relatively easy to nab if you're in Bruery's Reserve Society...for a "normal" price of about 50 bucks. In the "wild" it's considerably more difficult to come by]. 
We are not worthy!

Chalking in at nearly 19% ABV, it drinks very much like a port or sherry, with a decided thickness and a bevy of flavors that hit hard and seemingly in rotation - raisin, chocolate, vanilla. It was syrupy, sweet and was born of a very simple concept - "We thought it sounded good," said Matt. Their vision is flawless. 

From there we descended from our bar stools begrudgingly (and, admittedly, with some difficulty - 19% beers will do that) and were given a taster for the tour - Humulus Rice - a draft only offering that mixed the leftover rice from Tradewinds with Hummlus for a refreshing and coconutty session beer.

From there we got a peak at a few sections that aren't featured on their regular tour - their science lab, where the beer is poked and prodded (with science), looking at all manner of important details, including ABV, yeast strain health and possible taint issues.

...and their barrel aging room (as seen above, in the previous section), where hundreds of barrels lay in wait, their labels dictating what beer is inside and which ingredients have been added. I noticed one Barrel Labeled Smoking Woood (with three o's), and demanded to know if it's a special edition of Smoking Wood. Matt claims that even brewers make typos but I remain suspicious.

From there was the most important part of the tour...the Sticker Room. Spools upon spools of the labels on the Bruery's bottles - even the obnoxiously rare ones- sat there. The design geek that I am (or 25 year old who still plays Pokemon, whichever angle you want to go with here), I simply had to have a sticker. So I giggled joyously and nabbed a Black Tuesday label. It's now on my PC tower. Score.

This was as equally, if not more, tempting as the beer itself

The tour completed at the conditioning room, where the bottled and boxed beer waits for a few extra weeks to finish developing, and one more quick stop at the bar for a taste of Mrs.Stoutfire, a delightfully named rauchbier for those of you who like em' smokey.

I can't recommend The Bruery enough, really. If you live in Southern California, please give them a visit. I can't promise that you'll get the VIP treatment that I, a modest internet beer celebrity (or, you know, retail worker) got, but it's an exceptional tasting room in its own right. And if you're not in SoCal, do yourself a favor and pick up a beer from them anyway. You won't regret it.


  1. Hey Ben,

    I think your numbers for Chocolate rain are a bit off. While there might only be 140 bottles for sale privately, every member of the Reserve Society gets a bottle as part of their membership. I went to the initiation celebration and assuming every member showed up I put membership around 200+ people. Also in the initial sale we were allowed to purchase 4 extra bottles. Finally, this Monday they are putting their last 50 cases up for sale with no bottle limit. So within the Reserve Society Chocolate Rain is flowing rather freely.

    Oh, and one last thing...for anyone that would seriously consider buying a 150 dollar bottle of Chocolate Rain: If you can wait a year and live in So Cal, I STRONGLY suggest you join the Reserve Society. Generally there's quite a few slots open each year and membership is only $300. I did some initial calculations and the bottles you receive as part of your membership add up to close to $200. If you then factor in your 15% discount off of EVERYTHING in their tasting room and online store and some free shwag you get...well it's actually cheaper to join the Reserve Society. My membership has already paid for itself...AND IT'S MAY!


  2. Thanks Zach! That's good intel. I'll update the post to reflect the info. I myself am not in the Reserve Society (a bit rich for my blood..."only 300" is kinda a sticker shock...for now), so it's cool to get an insider's view.

    1. NP. I spend a lot of money on libations...especially at the Bruery so it's a worthwhile investment. Those 50 extra cases sold out in under two minutes while the site crashed as well. Not as easy to get extra bottles as I thought...


Thoughts? Concerns? Pay my loans?! By all means let me know what you think.