Saturday, March 15, 2014

Review: Brewery Tours of Temecula

Tour Buses. Photos from Brewery Tours of Temecula
The other week my wife and I went to wine country for our anniversary and then promptly went on a brewery tour.  We (and by that I mean she) made reservations with the good folks at Brewery Tours of Temecula.  This is a review of that tour of some of Temecula's breweries.

The tour started (and ended) at the Pachenga Resort/Casino/Hotel.  I would recommend either taking a cab to the Casino or staying there after the tour.  Despite carrying a Smart phone all the time, I couldn't put together that we were staying pretty far away, so we enjoyed a couple taxi cab rides.

Our tour group was a small one of three couples all celebrating their wedding anniversaries.  Our tour guide, Toby, was friendly, knowledgeable, and passionate about beer.  He poured everyone some beer from Black Market (a choice of their Hefewizen or their Brown) and away we went with some up tempo rock/party music as everyone started to relax.  I don't think it was the alcohol yet, but everyone seems to be more relaxed when they're holding a beverage.

At Refuge with Kacie.  I'm unintentionally hiding on her left
With each person having slightly different palates, we started with Aftershock Brewing Company who had an amazing variety of beers.  The tour includes four three or four ounce tasters (my memory is a little fuzzy on this which might suggest four) at each stop.

Being someone that likes to try as many beers as possible my wife and I strategized to order different things so we could try more beers.

I thoroughly enjoyed Aftershock, who just moved into a shiny new facility.  For a relatively new brewery, they had an impressive quantity of beers that were also of very good quality.  A couple standouts were the Pinacate (a chili beer), Dunchfast (Belgian Breakfast Stout), and Espresso Stout.  The breakfast stout, was very light for such a full bodied stout.  It also didn't taste like it was close to 9% so be careful with that one.

We then went to Refuge Brewery.  I really enjoyed their Mystique Belgian Strong Ale, their Batch One Anniversary Ale, and Mystourbon.  While I've told friends that they specialize in Belgians, they also had a good red (Rampart Red) and some IPAs (Illusion is their core Belgian-styled IPA and their Shelter 9 was also excellent).  A few of their beers weren't available for tasting as part of the tour package but were available for purchase separately (and were worth the splurge).

By this point, everyone on the tour were best friends.  I'm not sure if we promised to name any future children after anyone.  I might have.  Did I mention that I seem to gravitate towards very strong beers poured into four ounce servings?  Kacie, one of the tasting room bartenders gave us a tour of the brewery and talked us through the brewing process.

Something very cool at Refuge is that the staff can all make their own batches of beer that can be poured in the tasting room.  Someone noticed that one of the barrels said Kacie and she said that was her batch of beer aging.  As you walk in the brewery had what looked like a pretty sweet home brew set up with three Blichmann Boilermakers, Thermonator, and simple control panel.  That's apparently still in use for these smaller batches.

The last stop of the evening was Black Market Brewing Company.  Part of the tour package was pizza, which at this point was needed to help absorb the loads of beer that had been gleefully consumed while continuing to consume more.  While not normally a big fan of Hefeweizens, that was one of their standouts.  I also found their Aftermath Pale Ale very good with it being aggressively hopped like an IPA with the crisp finish of a pale ale.

We then loaded back on to the bus and headed back to the Casino.  At this point, pouring the beer from the growlers into our cups was quite challenging but I'm going to chalk that up to the suspension suddenly falling apart in the parking lot while we were drinking. Or something.

One of the yelp reviews referenced that they had played Slayer during their tour and one of the couples, now quite intoxicated, asked if he could.  So, after a Genesis song, Reign in Blood era Slayer came on the stereo.  That, my friends, is customer service.  And probably scared some of the cars near us.

A few days later we went to Bulldog Brewery for lunch and then to Craft Brewing Company on our way home.  I'm bringing them up since both of these are possibilities on tours.  Craft had the best beer we'd had over the weekend while Bulldog was a little disappointing (though in their defense, they were out of their Brown and another beer we wanted to try).  Both places, like all of the ones mentioned previously, had great staff and each of the five breweries had their own unique style and environment.

Summary: If you want to go beer tasting in Temecula and don't have any friends in AA a designated driver, contact Brewery Tours of Temecula.  They will take care of you and if you're open to trying beer and having a good time, you will.  If you want a second (or third, or hundredth...) opinion, check out their positive reviews on yelp.


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