Chatting with Philippe Gagnon Editor / Founder of www.CraftBeerCulture.com

In the course of my research and flagship article for Edible OC, I spoke with Philippe Gagnon, Editor and Founder of CraftBeerCulture.com. I could only use bits and pieces of his answers in the article and enjoyed them so much, that I wanted to post the interview in its entirety.

What are the current trends in Orange County local breweries?

Craft beer is definitely growing quickly in Orange County. More beer fans means more sales and that’s starting to translate into better and better selections in local bottle shops. Not only are new, smaller breweries popping up in the aisles but their limited selections are as well. The negative side of that is that prices are also increasing due to more interest and hype. Not everywhere but I have seen some outrageous prices lately that are definitely taking advantage of those who are less aware.

I hear the craft beer industry is a friendly bunch that shares equipment and often brew together. What can you tell me about this?

I like to go to Old Orange on Fridays since it’s a stone’s throw from the office where I work but on numerous occasions I’ve seen and talked to Noble Ale Works brewers who were just hanging out and supporting local beer. I spoke with one of them and he talked about how they send everyone over to Old Orange on Sunday nights when they close early and on Fridays the favor is reciprocated for the same reason. There’s a real mutual respect between brewers across the whole industry. At the end of the day they’re all just beer lovers too and that kind of respect turns into everyone helping each other out.

What is someone missing who may not know much about crafted beer or microbreweries?

First and foremost, flavor, but the thing that makes craft beer special is the community. Go to any of the bottle shares that happen every few weekends and you’ll see it in action. The same people who hunt obsessively for these rare and expensive beers are the same people that open a half dozen of them at once so that everyone at the event can experience them too. Sure there’s a touch of ego involved, but this isn’t the wine world (nor do we want it to be).

How would you describe the “beer geek?” (a term I heard in the tasting rooms)

The beer geek in my eyes is someone who actively seeks out new and interesting beers that they haven’t had before for the enjoyment of trying something new and finding a gem. There are many levels of involvement from the person trying Arrogant Bastard for the first time to the people tasting three different years of Black Tuesday. But at it’s all about passion and that comes in many different ways. Also, in my eyes, it’s important to keep the snobbery out of it otherwise you might get labeled something else.

Is there beer tasting etiquette?

There is definitely a “proper” way to drink beer but it doesn’t involve holding out your pinky out or knowing any fancy terms. When I write beer reviews I look at four distinct “experiences” which to me are the beer’s look, smell, taste, and feel. Tasting quality beer should be appreciated and done slowly and if tasting a lot of beers in one session, less is always more. You only make that mistake once (well, maybe more than once).

Please name the breweries that brew in OC and have a tasting room. I’ve got The Bruery, Anaheim Brewery, Bootlegger Brewery.

Newport Beach and Huntington Beach both brew on site and serve their own beer and I came up with a list of a few more. Orange County has a surprising number of breweries and an even more surprising amount of excellent breweries. Aside from the ones you mentioned, you should take a look at these:

Tustin Brewing Company (smog city brewery)
TAPS which win a lot of awards and are always talked about
Old Orange
Noble Ale Works
Pizza Port San Clemente
Cismontane

If you were to choose only 3 breweries to highlight, which would they be and why?

No question, The Bruery has to be on that list. Not only are they one of the best in the area, they are straight up world-class. Their beers are unlike any others that you’ll find and they’re always releasing small batch beers and seasonal variations which makes each trip exciting.

Old Orange is a great one too. They’re the new kid on the block but have been putting out some killer beer and they’re located in a business park warehouse so the vibe is very craft beer. Pair that with cool brewers who pour your beer and it’s a spot that you’ll want to check out. The new smudge pot Imperial Russian Stout is to die for as are both of their IPAs.

In the 3rd spot I’d go with either Bootleggers, TAPS, or Anaheim. I’ve only been to Anaheim of the three but I hear TAPS is amazing and I’m a sucker for Bootleggers Knuckle Sandwich. Anaheim Brewery had some great beer though and it’s in an exciting developing area. Umami burger is opening next door so it’s definitely an up and coming neighborhood.

Notable mention: Newport Beach Brewing Co – this article speaks for itself. I had a great time when I was there last http://www.craftbeerculture.com/my-visit-to-newport-beach-brewing-company-with-head-brewer-derek-bougie/

Thanks, Philippe!! Brost!Cheers! Salud! Bottoms Up!

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