It’s official, we’re applying for dual citizenship into Anaheim. We came to this decision after experiencing the OC Fest of Ales that took place there recently.  Not only did we have a belcher of a good time, but we met some of the coolest people from their community in between beer swigs and hearty morsels. Quite the revelation that there’s an entirely different faction of the city, albeit so close in proximity, that does not rely on and is happily devoid of the “Disney Magic”.

Our buddy Greg Nagel of OC Beer Blog — just voted Best Blog of 2013 in the OC Weekly Readers’ Choice poll — was hospitable enough to extend us an invite to climb over the picket fence into his hometown backyard. Not one to be un-neighborly, we accepted graciously and did so with such expediency that we nearly got an e-sliver.

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In contrast to last year’s high 90s temps, the unusually overcast morning was a boon for the participants of the Beer Run 5k that kicked off the event that Saturday. It commenced at 9am, which was somewhat of a heinous hour to have to hit the asphalt on a weekend. We took advantage of the snooze button rather excessively before proceeding to the check-in table fronting the Anaheim Duck’s practice rink. Much to our chagrin, we didn’t arrive promptly in time to snap the spectacle of runners frolicking through the billowy, beer foam finish line. Maybe next year. At least for the photo op.

Claiming our Home Depot Orange-colored utility pack, we spied an abundance of them on attendees’ backs weaving in and around the Center Street convergence. Pretty nifty swag bag, if you ask us. Inside was tucked an issue of The Westcoaster So Cal; OC Fest of Ales souvenir dog tag/bottle opener (a definite keeper); a lone Cabbage Patch doll shoe-shaped beer cozy to shield our frostbite-prone hands; and a commemorative half-pint glass from which to imbibe the unlimited pours.

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Organized by the Downtown Anaheim Association, we entered into an arena of lively musical acts; a veritable smorgasbord of gourmet food trucks; a home-brew competition; and of course, an illustrious showcase of California’s new liquid gold. With over 80 samples to choose from, it was pretty darn overwhelming to determine how to christen our virgin glassware as we approached the 30+ brewery stands plotted out on the stretch of promenade. There was Ace Cider, Alcatraz Brewing Co., Anaheim Brewery, Ballast Point, Black Market Brewery, Bottle Logic, Bootlegger’s, Bravery Brewing, The Bruery, Coronado, Craft Brewing, Firestone Walker, Golden Road, Hangar 24, Karl Strauss, Lagunitas Brewing, Manzanita Brewing, Mission Brewing, Monkish, New Belgium, Noble Ale Works, Packinghouse, Pizza Port San Clemente, Rough Draft, Sierra Nevada, Stone Brewing Co., Tap It Brewing Co.,Tustin Brewery and Valiant Brewing. What an impressive line-up.

We were steered towards New Belgium and introduced to the fruity Pluot from their Lips of Faith line, a mildly sweet and warming ale. A rep from Ballast Point mixed us a Bloody Mary cocktail, known more widely as a Michelada, that possessed the characteristic citrus-y spice and bold flavor, but infused with their award-winning Calico Amber. Although local favorites like Bootlegger’s and Noble Ale Works had several of their popular suds on tap, they quickly ran out of half of them. Not to fret, for oddly enough, our pick for most quaffable item that day was non-alcoholic, courtesy of Bottle Logic (slated to open next month in Anaheim off of the 91 and Kraemer). It was a coffee blend on nitro and, as the sun made more of its presence known, it was refreshingly reminiscent of an icy mocha float hopped up on caffeine. There were so many more sips and gulps that we partook in, but for the sake of brevity need not be made a litany of here.

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Helping to soak up all the alcohol, our wristband afforded us access into the VIP Experience where paired tastings were to be had (thank you, Greg). The baker’s dozen of restaurants included Slater’s 50/50 portioning a quarter-slice of their decadent bacon-y burger topped with a sunny egg; Jägerhaus serving up a creamy, traditional turkey schnitzel; and our beloved HopScotch doling out addictive, sweet and spicy, short rib jerky. Future tenants of the Anaheim Packing House such as Adya, The Kroft and ECCO stood out with great representation. They showed off a crunchy Indian street snack called Sev Puri topped with curried chutney; warm and gooey, braised pork double cheese melts; and zesty, Levantine-inspired baba ganoush phyllo cups, respectively.

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With the grandaddy of them all, the 31st Annual Great American Beer Festival taking place this weekend in Denver, Colorado, Anaheim’s OC Fest of Ales was a tantalizing tickler of a precursor on the tastebuds of craft aficionados and novices alike. Results of the event’s fierce competitions is as follows:

  • The Mayor’s Trophy for the best craft brewery went to Noble Ale Works.
  •  The overall winner of the Brew My Brew Challenge was Darren Shelton with his Strong Scotch Ale entry. He will work with the brewers at Noble Ale Works to brew his winning beer.
  • The overall winner of the Beer Run 5k was Matthew Klein.

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It bears mentioning that beer people are the friendliest, fraternizing lot. They’re easy to engage and they’re eager to impart some serious knowledge on you without being snooty or pontificating — unlike most oenophiles. Yes, they have a certain brand of nerdspeak, but it’s sans the sniveling speech cadence. With that said, we were regaled with wonderful camaraderie and can’t wait to clink steins at next year’s event, slated tentatively for September 20, 2014. We’re anticipating that by then, Downtown Anaheim, further enhanced with all its new and exciting developments, will be like a second home to us.



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