If the food truck movement of yesteryear taught us anything it’s that tacos pair well with craft beer. Case in point, I’ll never forget the days when the Dos Chinos truck would park outside Noble Ale Works and how I’d pair Thai coconut curry Hollywood tacos with a Big Whig IPA. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with a dollar taco and a cheap industrial lager, but after snacking on a finely crafted heirloom nixtamal tortilla with braised Jidori chicken while sipping a small-batch Brett Trois-fermented IPA, well, this sacred marriage of liquid and solid shall never be divorced. Here are my picks for optimal pairings:
I had my doubts when Puesto opened, but just one bite of the filet mignon taco and I felt as if my life had changed in a significant way. The blue-corn tortilla is like the beat in New Order’s “Blue Monday,” and the fried-Oaxacan-cheese-wrapped beef is like, “How does it feel/to treat me like you do/when you lay your hands upon me . . .” Enjoy it with Unsung Brewing’s Puesto pale ale. 3311 Michelson Dr., Irvine, (949) 608-7272; also at 8577 Irvine Center Dr., Irvine, (949) 608-9990; eatpuesto.com.
POUR VIDA LATIN FLAVOR
The fact that chef Jimmy Martinez lives a few doors down from me and I can often smell meat cooking from his back yard didn’t secure his placement on this list. It’s more because his beer taps are curated by his lovely wife, Christina, who confesses her love for the modern hoppy pilsner (same, omg), and that Jimmy’s ultra-modern Brussels sprout taco with soy-ginger glaze pairs so well with Gunwhale Ales’ Kölsch-style brew on tap. 185 W Center Street Promenade, Anaheim, (657) 208-3889; pourvidalatinflavor.com.
EL INDIO BOTANAS Y CERVEZA
Taco Tuesdays here offer some of the best people-watching in the county, with bartenders singing along with Latin hip-hop and stylish dads stopping in for an adult happy meal: five tacos and an imported Mexican craft beer. Just $1 each, the tacos act as a perfect salsa-delivery system, and the lager from Cervecería de Colima is the antidote for whatever is sizzling in your mouth well after you’ve finished eating. 309 W. Third St., Santa Ana, (714) 547-7868.
TAPS BREWERY & BARREL ROOM
Chef Roman Jimenez’s Electric Taco starts with a heap of griddle-melted Oaxacan-Cotija cheese on a truck-made tortilla. It’s then built up with carmelized rajas, beer-marinated carne asada and chorizo pork belly. If I were on death row, this would be my last taco. Pair it with a pilsner. 15501 Red Hill Ave., Tustin, (657) 247-3920; www.tapsbrewery.com.
LA SIRENA GRILL
My first time at the South Laguna location, I sat at the bar and asked what should I get. “Dudebro, you should totally get the calamari taco,” was the response. “It’s freakishly incredible edible.” The lightly breaded, steak-cut calamari (not rings!) is topped with cabbage and a heaping ice cream scoop of fresh, limey guacamole. The beer list is definitely one of South County’s hidden gems, displaying the best of Escondido-based Stone Distributing’s portfolio. Do Stone reps make it to North County these days? My guess is they stop here, get tacos, then forget to travel the rest of Orange County. 30862 Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 499-2301; www.lasirenagrill.com.
Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, level 1 WSET in Wine, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest happening this June!