Craft beer continues to grow in popularity and sales, despite big corporations trying to snuff out the local mom & pop shops. The big guys can do all they want to ensure that they hold a monopoly over the world, but true capitalism means that new breweries will pop up all the time. So many new breweries pop up that I cannot even keep track of them all, so I took it upon myself to explore one of the many clusters of new breweries to see what they have to offer. This past weekend, I ventured out to Rancho Cucamonga and Ontario to see just how far they have come in the local craft beer industry.
My day started at No Clue Craft Brewery in Rancho Cucamonga, where they had celebrated their second anniversary with an Oktoberfest-themed party. No Clue Brew had made their presence well-known in a lot of the local beer festivals, as well as many of Southern California’s craft beer establishments. Visiting for the first time, their menu looks like they brew a handful of Belgian beers in addition to the standard lineup of beer styles typical of most Southern California breweries. For their second anniversary event, they had beers pouring inside and outside, as well as a few food vendors for the day. As a result, they could not serve flights on this day, so I simply settled to sip on their second anniversary India Pale Saison. I could not accurately describe this in words, as I have never tasted a flavor like this. You combine an IPA with a Saison, and you basically have this brew.
Up next, I went around the corner to Hamilton Family Brewery, where they had released their Oktoberfest brew starting this weekend. Now normally when I visit a brewery for the first time, I start with a flight to sample as many of their beers as I can. However, with a special release, I thought I would give their new release a try. True to the style, I got an Oktoberfest beer, and it did remind me of attending an Oktoberfest party, albeit I have never gone to the real thing in Germany. I had known about Hamilton Family Brewery for the longest time when I first heard about their story. While I do not have all the specific details on hand, I do recall that a family sold their home and a lot of their assets in order to open this brewery. That takes guts, and I respect the folks at Hamilton Family Brewery for doing that, as it looks like this risk and investment has paid off.
Next, I went to a brewery that I had searched online for, but did not know anything about. My search brought me to Chino Valley Brewery. This small brewery appears as a place for the locals by the locals. I do not recall seeing them at beer festivals, nor do I recall seeing their brews at any restaurant or bar that I have visited. As such, Chino Valley Brewery represents small-town charm with friendly folks that choose quality over quantity. In fact, the folks here even tipped me off to a handful of other breweries in the area that my initial search did not yield. Thanks to their information, I adjusted my brewery tour from this point, and that brought me to the following locations.
When I receive a brewery suggestion that I never heard of, I make it a priority to visit them, which brought me over to Strum Brewing. Upon arrival, the place looked like a garage or tool shed. Indeed, walking in, I felt like I had entered a place where a bunch of dudes hang out. Still, they had adorned the place with the necessities of any small brewery. They had plenty of furniture out, a water dispenser, music, and games to play. Strum names their beers after generic music terms, since they cannot legally use proper names. They have a decent-sized back area that can house a food truck too. Despite the shoddy outside appearance, Strum actually manages to do a great job on the small brewery vibe.
Following up on another suggestion received at Chino Valley Brewery, I circled back towards No Clue Brew to find that I had just drove right past Kings Brewing Company earlier. Despite not appearing in my brewery search, Kings Brewing appears quite fancy when you walk in. They have a spacious, well-lit interior that looks very pristine and clean. All the monitors around the room help to create a family-friendly vibe, as well as the little bit of outdoor seating that they have. While they have a small brewing system, Kings Brewing has over 25 different beers on tap. For such a new and small brewery to have so many beers already, one would think they brew off-site. However, I got a chance to see their brewing equipment, and it turns out that they simply have multiple small fermenters. Kings looks like one of the top up & coming breweries in the area, and I highly recommend any craft beer fan to check out Kings.
My day in the Inland Empire ended with I & I Brewing in Chino. Named after Bob Marley, I & I has existed for quite some time by now, but I never had a chance to head out to Chino to check them out. After all, as a brewery, they kind of exist out in the middle of nowhere, with no other brewery near them for miles. Regardless, for them to remain in the industry for this long stands as a testament that they know their constituents, and understand the local craft beer market.