Spooky Review – Wretched from Ghost Town Brewing

There are a few breweries who have leaned into the realm of spookiness, one of which is Oakland’s Ghost Town Brewing. Time to get Wretched.

Pours a hazy light yellow color. Has the requisite softness on the palate. Getting an interesting combination of Concord grape and an earthy bitterness. Crawled out from underground as it were. There is a bit of a lemon underlaying the proceedings and I get that scratchy fuzzy mouthfeel at the end.

Cali Distro

California is a large state and yet even in this behemoth 7, only 7 cover 90% of the entire state.  And those 7 have now formed an alliance under the California Beverage Solution banner. 

The 7 are: 

• Advance Beverage Company;

• Donaghy Sales;

• Heimark Distributing;

• Markstein Sales Company;

• Matagrano Beverage;

• Pacific Beverage;

• And Stone Distributing.

I will hold judgement but I will say that power eventually always corrupts and whenever mergers and collusion go to far, splintering will occur.  Independent and local distributors are always needed.

Golden State Brewery # 3 – Old Caz Beer

I stumbled upon this Sonoma County brewery at Loyal Legion in Sacramento where I tasted their One Way IPA.

Here are some more Old Caz beers to sample…

Bukovany Pivo – “Tom’s great grandparents used to run a pub out of their house in the small Czech town of Bukovany. There is so much amazing brewing culture in that area that this beer was brewed specifically to pay respects to that. The beer showcases an array of noble hops, and the result is a light, well-rounded, easy to drink pilsner.”

Acreage Hazy IPA – “Named after another incredible road in the wilderness of west Sonoma County is a classic hazy IPA. We’ve used the Mosaic hop extensively in the West Coast IPAs but this was a first for the hazy.  The result is a soft, brightly flavored hazy, full of tropical, dank character!”

Catastrophe Rye IPA – “Rye tends to be an ingredient that is rather polarizing with beer drinkers, and there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground—you either love it or hate it (we are fully of the former). Catastrophe has the bones of a West Coast IPA, and the rye adds just enough spice to set it apart from the crowd.”

Cavedale Porter – “Tom and Bryan used to ride Cavedale Road while studying at Sonoma State University, and it is one of the most wickedly steep and windy paths in Sonoma County. Unlike our stouts, which tend to be bigger bodied and sweet, Cavedale is more restrained and light. This is a great beer to session while still getting in plenty of chocolate, nutty character.”

Golden State Brewery # 2 – Neon Bear Brewery

Stop # 2 is in Pomona where Neon Bear Brewing resides next door to a neon museum storage facility, hence the bright name.

Let’s shed some light on their beers…

….I would start with Honey Laundrin’ a rather hefty honey blonde ale at 7.5% then move on to the Near Dark Schwarzbier before going back a bit to their cream ale, Near Light. Gotta try an IPA so Beach Beer their WC IPA is my choice before finishing with a sour stout, Sweet Sorrow.

Golden State Brewery # 1 – Grains of Virtue Brewing Company

Since it is the month for the California Craft Beer Summit, I thought we needed to go around California even though February was centered in Sacramento.

Our first stop is in Oakdale, Grains of Virtue who probably need to collaborate with Grains of Wrath in Washington State.

Here is a sample sampler tray…

Papi Chulo – “Dark Mexican Lager Our take on a medium bodied lager with slow-roasted caramel malts brewed for a rich, smooth taste.”

Welcome to the Machine – “Triple Hazy IPA with Mosaic, Riwaka, Nectaron and Waimea hops.”

Peanut Butter Solution – “Chocolate peanut butter dry stout perfect for winter nights.”

Death by Cheesecake – “Red Velvet Cheesecake Sour”

CA Brewery Tour # 2 – Farmers Brewing Company

Our next CA stop is in Princeton, or you can go to their Chico taproom, it is Farmers Brewing Company.

Let us see what is farm to tap…

530 Unfiltered Wheat Ale – “A very refreshing, easy drinking beer. Along with U.S. grown barley, the grain bill consists of medium grain sushi rice and soft white winter wheat grown and harvested on the fields of our family farm. 530 is late hopped during the brewing process, producing a slight citrus/floral aroma and flavor. The residual yeast produces a subtle, yet complex flavor.”

Sunup till Sundown Session IPA – “Inspired by and named after a farmer’s work ethic, this session-style IPA is easy drinking, sun up ‘til sun down. Estate grown rice and wheat, a golden sunset color, orange blossom aroma, and fresh lemon zest combine into a burst of tartness, dissipating into a smooth finish.”

Fall Harvest – “Fall is the time of year when we are busy in the fields and an Oktoberfest style beer couldn’t be more fitting for us to celebrate with. By toasting our estate grown rice and using our wheat, we have added an American twist to the traditional German style of beer.”

Stubborn Mule – “This loaded liquid is made from 100% estate grown rice and fermented with sake yeast. Brewed with blueberry, ginger, and lemon, this gluten-free beverage is crisp and delicious.”

CA Brewery Tour # 1 – Narrative Fermentations

Stories in a bottle is how some people describe bourbon but it also holds true for beer, except substitute 16oz can. That is the segue to the first California brewery tour for October, which is Narrative Fermentations.

Here are some taster tray ideas from the San Jose brewery…

Knusprig German-Style Festbier – “a deep yellow German style Festbier coming in at 5.9% alc/vol. It’s malt forward with very minimal hop influence, but still bright and lively. It has a beautifully subtle character of lightly toasted bread dough with the use of Vienna and Munich malts supporting the Pilsner malt base.”

Hippie Couture IPA – “is like eating white gummy bears at a Grateful Dead show. The overwhelming danky aroma is the first thing to hit you….once you get a sip though, big flavors of pineapple, mango, lychee, passionfruit, and light supporting citrus notes fill your mouth while leaving a sticky resinous finish.”

Nectaron 3000 Hazy IPA – “We were able to get our hands on some sweet sweet Nectaron hops and boy oh boy this stuff did not dissapoint! We layered in a little Citra and Nelson for good measure and the result is super rad! Nectaron 3000 is pillowy and pungent! It has big aromas of tropical fruit and dank. On the pallet, expressive flavors of pineapple, passionfruit, peach, and pink grapefruit coat your mouth.”

The Moon Stood Still Blueberry Cheesecake Sour – “This beer is a ton of fun with huge jammy blueberry flavors that’ll make you think you’re drinking a slice of Blueberry Cheesecake! There is a bit of sweetness at an expected level that also tempers the acidity. The elevated ABV also helps those flavors pop in a big way.”

GABF Winners – 2022

Time to re-cap the Los Angeles and LA friends (aka California) winners at the 2022 Great American Beer Festival.

L.A. Gold

Ten Mile – Hooked on Onyx American Black Ale

Ogopogo Brewing Nix International Pale Ale

Highland Park Brewery DDH Pillow Juicy/Hazy Imperial IPA

Beachwood Full Malted Jacket Scotch Ale

L.A. Silver

Lincoln Beer Company Amber/Red Ale

Eureka Brewing Methuselah Imperial Stout

L.A. Bronze

Malibu Brewing Happy Days Honey Ale

Highland Park Brewery DDH Timbo India Pale Lager

Arrow Lodge Chanlaso Cream Ale

other winners include a brace each for Topa Topa, Riip Beer and Figueroa Mountain. Riip bagging Silver with Dankster Squad in the ultra competitive IPA category just ahead of North Park Beer and their Hop-Fu. Colorado’s Comrade Brewing won with More Dodge, Less Ram.

California took home 76 medals overall but Firestone Walker was shut out in the first time that I can remember but stalwarts like Stone, Russian River and Moonlight picked up medals.


September 13th saw a new bottle measure added to California…

According to the Surfrider Foundation, “AB 962 would create a returnable bottle system in California and preserve bottles so that they can be washed and refilled by beverage producers rather than being crushed for recycling. It would also allow for returnable bottles to flow through the state’s Beverage Container Recycling Program (CRV/Bottle Bill). This bill would even the playing field between bottle washers and recyclers by paying the same amount.”

Granted we can do more but every little step helps. I don’t think we will ever hit the heights of growlers back in the early days but maybe we can get a return a bottle, buy a bottle going.

Through Dec. 31

Per the Los Angeles Times, California will continue to allow sidewalk alcohol through the end of 2021.

You can read the full story HERE.

But why is this important?

Because, unfortunately, this may not be the last time a pandemic wreaks havoc. Variants abound as I type this and the US probably won’t ever reach true herd immunity due to laggard states.

Since California is a tourist destination, what are temporary work arounds, will need to be permanent options for visitors and to make safe the restaurant workers that remain.

I do think that more imaginative outdoor dining set-ups can be found but without the certainty that they willbe viable in the future means that many may be slapdash as opposed to creative.