Saturday morning we were back on Hwy 101 heading southeast. This was our big day of the trip, with several breweries and a sandwich shop on our itinerary. After successfully negotiating the Saturday morning traffic around downtown LA, we got on I-10 east to San Gabriel.
For years, I have seen adverts in the Celebrator for Stuffed Sandwich and thought to myself that we needed to get there. But due to the limited amount of time we have spent in LA, we never managed to get to this Southern California beer institution. Luckily for us, the drive to our first brewery took us right by San Gabriel.
Opened in 1976, and in their current location since 2003, Stuffed Sandwich is not a pub, but rather an old school sandwich shop that has a selection of 700 beers. They also have an off license and a huge collection of beer glasses to purchase.
There are a couple of quirks at Stuffed Sandwich that we didn’t know about prior to our visit. First, we had to buy food to get beer. As Merideth and I perused the beer choices, Marlene, one of the owners, patiently waited for us at the food counter. When we didn’t budge from in front of the beer, she politely said, “Why don’t you come over here and we’ll take care of the food first and then the beer.” Turns out their liquor license requires a food purchase. Nice rookie maneuver.
With our 2-meat, 1-cheese sub and a grilled cheese ordered, we got down to the beer. And what would be more perfect for a 70º day then a flight of Porters and Stouts. With our seven beer flight in hand, we headed outside to enjoy the sun.
Here, we noticed the second quirk. Three people, two guys and a woman, walked in with beer glasses in their hand. At the time, we thought they were extreme beer douches who had to drink out of their own glassware for some reason. We learned later that Stuffed Sandwich encourages customers to bring their own glassware. Otherwise, the beer is served in plastic cups. Or the customer can buy one of the many logo glasses for sale.
Of the seven beers in our flight, two Porters and five Stouts, Avery’s 2008 Out of Bounds Stout was the highlight for me. And Victory’s 2009 Storm King. Merideth thought Bootlegger’s Chocolate Mint Porter was like eating a Junior Mint.
Truly a unique experience, I am actually looking forward to another trip to Southern California so we can go to Stuffed Sandwich again.
Our first brewery of the day, Skyscraper Brewing in El Monte, was a short drive from Stuffed Sandwich. Skyscraper has been on the LA beer scene for three years. Their anniversary party was taking place a week after our visit. Skyscraper brews their own beers, as well as a few contract brews.
We sampled four house and three contract brews. Of the house beers, their Mexican-style lager, Sancha, was quite pleasing. A big seller and soon to one of Skyscraper’s year-round beers, I could see myself downing a few at a Mexican restaurant in the Los Angeles area. Our favorite was Backhoe Brown, which had nice milk chocolate notes. The other star was the contract Requiem Expresso Stout, like drinking an iced espresso.
Believe it or not, I can be quite rigid at times in planning our travels. Here is a prime example. I didn’t want to go to Bootlegger’s Brewery in Fullerton because we would have to deviate from the straight line drive to the Inland Empire. In my world, this is a big problem. It wasn’t until that morning that I decided that it was OK to zig to Fullerton and then zag back to I-10.
Inside the typical industrial park brewery and tasting room, we tried seven brews. Palomino American-Style Pale Ale and Golden Chaos, a Belgian-Style Golden Ale were both really nice. Not a rye beer guy, I loved Rustic Rye, an 85 IBU IPA made with 15% Rye. Not a chili beer guy either, I enjoyed the subtle chipotle flavor of Black Phoenix Chipotle Coffee Stout. However, the stars at Bottlegger’s were the 76 Anniversary Ale and it’s brother Hopinator 76 Anniversary Ale. Both Old Ales, the latter version had an additional dose of English hops. It was a good thing I was able to deal with my issues, as Bootlegger’s is a ‘should not miss’ brewery. Thanks to Patricia for being a great hostess.
From Orange County, our travels took us out to the Inland Empire, which is the Riverside/San Bernadino area of the megalopolis. Our final stop of the day, Hangar 24 Craft Brewery, was in Redlands. And as the name suggests, the brewery is located at Redlands Municipal Airport.
Hangar 24 was one of breweries that inspired the trip. A friend had brought us their Helles and Pale Ale a few months previous. After trying those excellent brews, I immediately said that we needed to visit the brewery.
Walking into the hangar-like brewery and tasting room, we were immediately struck by large crowd mingling about the building. Besides being the first crowd of the day, we were surprised to see so many people out in what we thought was the middle of nowhere. Taking a place at the bar to order a taster set, we marveled at the 10-deep line for growler fills.
There were four Hangar 24 beers we had yet to try. Like the Helles, the Altbier was a spot on example of a German style. The Porter was a chocolate and coffee bomb and Merideth’s favorite. My favorite was, of course, the hopbomb. Hangar 24’s IPA was a single hop brew made with Columbus hops. As for their best seller, the Orange Wheat, Merideth thought it was okay for a “girly beer”. Made with local oranges, most customers seemed to agree with Merideth as we witnessed growler after growler being filled with Orange Wheat. I did get admonished by a staff person for calling it a “girly beer.”
With a beer, we relaxed and talked to some locals. It was a nice way to finish our big day. But it was time to get some sleep because we had another day in the megalopolis ahead.