Our first day out beer tasting in California serendipitously landed us at two very different breweries in Southern California celebrating their 4th years in business. Though we missed their actual anniversary parties, drinking taster trays from each spot made it clear to us that Hangar 24 and The Bruery have plenty to be proud of as they near their half-decade milestones.
Hangar 24, as its name might lead you to believe, calls an old airplane hangar at the Redlands Airport, home. Never heard of Redlands? It exists in the Inland Valley of Southern California, beautifully perched beneath towering mountains and an unfortunate amount of Los Angeles smog. I called it home for more than seven years as I went to school at the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies at the University of Redlands (an idyllic undergraduate experience).
And though Redlands might not be on the top of your destination list during a visit to California, it should be. As a late 19th-century citrus hub (orange production here is a rare site as of late, but local heritage groves still produce some of the finest Navels in the world), Redlands offers a small-town California charm with historic Victorian houses, and now a brewery making massive headway in the local craft beer scene.
We grabbed some local burritos made with homemade tortillas at El Burrito (a nostalgic college favorite burrito stand, not to be missed), and jumped right into Hangar 24’s selection of year-round production brews that will delight any palette, and a collection of seasonal and specialty beers that tap into the terroir of the region. Their Belgian Summer Ale is perfect for hot Redlands’ summers, and their Palmero (Belgian double brewed with dates) and Essence (Double IPA brewed with blood orange and grapefruit) from their Local Fields Series are unique and delicious. Our final take on Hangar 24, if you’ll really please by all means under the circumstances excuse the corny pun, they’re in full-flight and deserve a lowered tray table.
After visiting some family in the area, we made our way across a half dozen freeways (an unfamiliar road navigation feat to folks coming from two-freeway Colorado), to downtown Orange (yes, another citrus town with a liberal arts college that boasts a name I can’t mention because they’re long-time rivals of our previously mentioned alma mater). We wandered into the Bruery’s Provision location, complete with a full bottle shop and a delicatessen of fine meats and cheeses (order a plate to accompany your beer tasting).
The staff here is extremely knowledgeable as they humbly offer friendly insights into their beer and into Southern California beer culture. I specifically mention their humility because this is a craft brewery that could be extremely arrogant about what they’ve brewed and achieved. We thought we’d order just one of their two five-beer tasting trays. But after exploring a collection of sours and their 4-year anniversary beer, we were hooked and immediately ordered their “milder” tasting tray, also consisting of all Belgian-style beers.
At this point, my mom joined in the fun and helped us finish the last tastes before we all ordered a full glass of our favorites. None of us have ever really liked Belgian beers, but as my mom almost gulped down her guava sour, I started to realize that our palettes have quickly begun to change. Four years ago, Lindsay and I would only order stouts and porters. Two years ago, we began seeking out IPAs. And now, we find ourselves completely indecisive about what to order: darks, lights, ambers, malty, hoppy, yeasty, American, German, and yes, now Belgian, we love them all. Our final take on The Bruery? Thank you for confirming our newly-acquired Belgian-style palette with a stunning selection of craft beer.