“Where should we go next?”
It’s the question you’ll hear at any local brewery on an average night—and more often if a brewery lacks a regular food truck, games to play, TV or a vacuum-like business-park ambiance. In recent years, the following breweries have raised their game, installing proper kitchens to make them worthy of a dinner date, with possibly the option to close the place down.
GameCraft Brewing: After chowing down on the kitchen’s entire menu, I have to say an international flare with seriously bold flavors is on full display. Start with the pretzel bites, which come with a German Obatzda cheese dip, then finish with karaage chicken sliders that are packed with so much umami you’ll cry, “Oh, mommy!” Order them with hyper-spice if you crave the heat. 23301 Avenida de la Carlota, Ste. C, Laguna Hills, (949) 734-0910; www.gamecraftbrewing.com.
TAPS Brewery & Barrel Room: After a recent menu change, dedicated truck chef Roman Jimenez now offers a mild version of a Nashville hot chicken sandwich called the Hot’Lanta that’s crisp, juicy, and padded with a solid bun and house pickles. 15501 Red Hill Ave., Tustin, (657) 247-3920; tapsbrewery.com.
Barley Forge Brewing: Spent grain from the brewery is given to local farmers who raise the animals served in the restaurant. Pulled pork is smoked on-site, shredded, then served in a mound on a hearty pretzel bun. The cycle of life! 2957 Randolph Ave., Ste. D, Costa Mesa, (714) 641-2084; barleyforge.com.
Docent Brewing: Of all the unlikely places to grab a proper Cubano, Docent’s kitchen makes one that’s slender, tight as a joint, with bright mustard and neon-green pickles. 33049 Calle Aviador, Ste. C, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 767-8170; docentbrewing.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!