Tuesday, June 8, 2010

An Afternoon of Fates Perfection: Tustin Brewing Co.

Living behind the Orange Curtain often makes it difficult for one to look past the peroxide and silicone, which is why it came to such a surprise to me that there is a brewery in Tustin, CA. At the 14th Annual Boonville Beerfest, situated by Pizza Port's booth, was a sign that read “Tustin”. I looked at the gentlemen running the booth, who happened to be the owner, and said something along the lines of "No way! Tustin?!" Yes, Tustin. So I decided to go seek them out, little did I know I was soon to be standing in the presence of a true artisan and the creator of the one of the most unique beers in the world.

Located in possibly the cutest shopping center I've laid my eyes on, full of towers and cute shops, lies one of Orange County's best kept secrets. You walk in and there is an eating area to your right and to your left is a very long bar facing all the brewing equipment where on any given day you will find Tustin's brewmaster, John Porter, working away at his craft. As usual my husband and I asked what was being brewed and the bar tender told us “6 beers” and brought out a 5 taster board with an extra taster on the side. Included in this taster were the following: Golden Spike Light Ale, Lemon Heights Hefeweizen, American Pale Ale(5.6%), Old Town IPA(6.4%) and Red Hill Red. The extra taster was their Thunder Horse Nitro Stout. I was definitely not prepared for the slow play they were throwing me and the sand bag that came following the taster.

I worked through the taster as planned, starting with the Golden Spike Light Ale. I thought it was like a hayride in August minus the hay fever. It was very wheaty, pleasantly so, with a quick finish.

Lemon Heights Hefe (served with a lemon) was next I didn't feel that this was their strongest beer tasted rather bitter and yeasty but after I squeezed some lemon into it the bitterness turned to a slight citrus rind flavor, again pleasant but not their best.

Third up was the American Pale Ale. It was light with a slight nutty flavor and the bitterness was fair definitely not as bitter as their Old Town IPA which was next in line, that had a burnt malt, crisp hops and I thought a bit of a java flavor to it but Glenn disagreed with me on that point. The thing that I thought most enjoyable about the Pale Ale and the IPA was how pure it tasted, I didn't feel the same way about the Hefe or the Light Ale.

I like the Red Hill Red, very malty brown and sugary, but it finished dry.

Then the Thunder Horse Nitro Stout I felt at this point was my favorite, it tasted like a smoky porter but much more fluid, it wasn't as thick as you would assume by looking at it.

You're probably leaning back in your chair and yawning right now at my review, wondering why I sped through those so quickly- well I'll tell you: Im far from done! I am definitely far too excited about what happened next to delay it any longer.

Glenn and I had our noses stuck in our iPhones typing furiously about the beers when the brewmaster walked by and said “Well aren't you guys the most antisocial couple at the bar! What did you think of the beer?” We discussed the 6 beers that we had tasted and apparently they had more that the bartender hadn't mentioned. So Mr. Porter handed us a couple splashes of the Happy Pillz and Jason Four-Oh and essentially told us to stick that in our pipe and smoke it- and we did.

Happy Pillz was such an awesome mix of Mexican Yeast, Czech Hops and Rice- I was blown away by this fun with a slightly sweet after taste Pils. It was pure early summer joy in a glass! I could see this going well with fish or shrimp (and it went quite nicely with the Tabbouleh that was on the side of my Sausage Sampler).
The Jason Four-Oh blew me right off my stool. Forty different kinds of malts!!!!! It smelled like scotch and tasted like love, pure—yet without any booziness. It had notes of Passion Fruit, Lychee nut and did I say love? Forty different kinds of malts, and no tipping out an ounce for your fallen homies required! I know, you must try it to believe me!!! At this point I hate to say it but I had completely forgotten about the original tasters. Why weren't these on the taster? I was very impressed with these last two highly creative beers.

Jotting down notes about these last two and enjoying them thoroughly, the brewmaster returned with what must have been a 2cc splash of this amber liquid in a shot glass and asked, “Tell me what you think of this?”

I closed my eyes and took the scent in, it smelled of warm honey dripping off the hot buttery comb, or a maple tree bleeding in the dusky sunshine of a primordial forest in June. I slowly took a sip, and I was transported to the top of Mount Olympus drinking ambrosia with the gods. It was akin to a liquid Belgian waffle! It was all the greatest things in the world—liquified in a glass! It was John Porter's personal project, a 3.5 year old Barleywine. Now as I mentioned in the Boonville post, I had heard about their Blizzard of Oz Barleywine, but had not tasted it, I just want you to know that this amber perfection I am raving about is not Blizzard of Oz. Apparently BoO was made by their previous brewmaster. My husband looked at me and said “I think almost every architect in the world has locked away somewhere in their bottom desk drawer plans to the tallest building in the world. It is their master piece. It is their secret desire. It is all their creativity and passion channeled into one vision and joyously unleashed from the restrictions of the mundane world.” That day we tasted a brewers' masterpiece. Mr. Porter then did me and my husband the unequivocal honor of pouring out a half pint of this near religious nectar. As I write this I hope and pray with everything I have that he is able to replicate this wonderful piece of art because there is not enough left to release publicly. I know, shoot me now for building it up and dropping that one on you faster than an Warner Brothers ACME Piano.

Tustin Brewery thus far is my favorite brewery in Orange County. I think they are very lucky to have such a talented and hard working brewer such as John Porter and I can't wait to see what kind of beers he will be creating this year. I truly hope that he will be able to replicate his Barleywine of ambrosial epicness, but until then every one needs to discover their Happy Pillz and Jason Four-Oh. Thank you for giving me a peek into your deepest barrel, and allowing me a sip of such other-worldly perfection!

Tustin Brewing Comany on Urbanspoon


I thought Eminem's new album was so-so.

No but seriously, it sounds absolutely wonderful. If I ever decide to rob someone for booze I might just have to say fuck Total Wine or BevMo, and instead do some cat burglary at Tustin Brewery. Look out John! Oh and if you're reading this, Tatiana also told me in private that it was quite possibly the best beer she ever had, which is saying something since her snobbery only exceeds mine in the beer world. Keep up the writing hon!

Wow, thanks for the great profile! It was nice meeting you guys and sharing some of my "secret stash". Come by soon, you never know what I have up my sleeve...

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