Beer Up – South Orange County Coming Up with Microbreweries

Posted: October 9, 2015 in Beer, Orange County
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Craft beer sales have never looked more solid today than ever. The popularity of craft beer has risen exponentially over the past few decades, as the trend moves from mass-produced items to locally crafted & curated items. Sometimes a little dedication and hard work can make something better than machines can produce. While this notion runs popularly in the food industry and arts business, that practice has stretched to brewing beer. Microbreweries tend to represent the bar or pub that locals can go to unwind after a long day or week of work, or to hang out with friends and family. Large metropolitan areas lend well to the establishment of microbreweries or craft beer bars in general, but the demographics make a huge impact on the popularity of craft beer in the area too. Last month, I visited Seattle and discovered that the Ballard neighborhood had over a dozen microbreweries because the locals love it and the various industrial buildings and warehouses makes for perfect microbrewery locations. This time, we shift focus towards South Orange County, smack dab in the middle of North OC and San Diego County.

While North Orange County and San Diego County have tons of established microbreweries, South Orange County has only come up in the craft beer scene in the past few years. It appears that the young generation, or “millennials” as we go by now, prefer craft beer compared to the more traditional baby boomers who prefer their traditional beers like PBR and Budweiser. The majority of South Orange County’s population falls under the baby boomer category, which partially explains the lack of craft beer in South Orange County. However, as more and more millennials move into the area, the demand for craft beer rises, paving the way for microbreweries and craft beer bars to surface. In this post, we take a look at some of the places that people can go to wet their whistle with craft beer.

One of the first microbreweries to open up in South Orange County, Left Coast Brewing has a decade of experience out of their facility in San Clemente. All that time has allowed them to build up a solid portfolio of brews and extend retail distribution all the way to the east coast. First-time visitors may have some difficulty locating the tasting room, which lies behind the Oggi’s Brewing building. The tasting room features bar seating, over a dozen tables, two televisions, and a food truck occasionally.

Another one of the first microbreweries to open up in South Orange County, Cismontane Brewing recently celebrated their fifth year in the industry and shows no signs of fading away. Located all the way up in the city of Rancho Santa Margarita, Cismontane truly represents your friendly neighborhood bar with their various local events, which usually involves a bide ride or other hike through the nearby hills. Their rising popularity has paved the way for Cismontane to open a second tasting room in South Santa Ana this past year. If the Rancho Santa Margarita location feels like too much of a drive to get to, consider visiting their Santa Ana tasting room.

Artifex Brewing represents one of the newer microbreweries to join the South Orange County craft beer family. Located in San Clemente down the street from Left Coast, Artifex came about from brewers that had experience from larger breweries such as Stone Brewing and Pizza Port. While the locals love Artifex very much, they still have some distance to cover to garner a presence in the Southern California craft beer market. Craft beer fans already know about Artifex from beer festivals and craft beer bars, but many restaurants and retail outlets do not yet carry Artifex beers. Perhaps this next year will see a rise in the spread of Artifex beers.

This past December, South Orange County received their first major business dedicated to craft beer in the form of The BrewHouse. Tucked away in the back of a shopping center in San Juan Capistrano, this tap room & bottle shop has up to 40 different beers on tap, plus dozens of different bottles available for immediate consumption or takeout. Since they do not produce beer on the premises, The BrewHouse often obtains beers from places around the world that do not normally distribute to California. Craft beer fans will want to stay in the loop about The BrewHouse in case they ever receive a very rare beer that no one else in Southern California will carry.

Other breweries in South Orange County that I have yet to visit include the San Clemente location of Pizza Port, Laguna Beach Beer Company, and Stadium Brewing. With all this craft beer available in South Orange County, perhaps the time has come for more microbreweries to open up there? North OC and Central OC already have dozens of microbreweries, so why not fill the gap between there and San Diego County with more beer?

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