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Sep 02, 2014

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City of Orange

June, 1999

By Bobby Bush

Let’s get geography out of the way. Orange County, California is a white collar enclave nestled, spoon-like, below infamous Los Angeles County. Within this onetime citrus growing parcel resides a city of the same name. Just east of Anaheim and I-57, the City of Orange, as it is called to avoid confusion, plays host to two brewpubs.

The newest of the pair is part of the growing ten year old chain of fancy Gordon Biersch Brewing Company brewpubs. This Gordon Biersch fits the typical Gordon Biersch mold. Open in June, 1998 in the Stadium Promenade shopping/entertainment complex, just half mile east of The Pond and Anaheim’s J.T. Schmidt’s Brewhouse, one mile from Anaheim Stadium, this brewpub is a pre-game and post-game hangout. It offers a classy, well-appointed restaurant with an appealing, somewhat trendy menu (love those garlic fries), prepared in an open kitchen.

Behind the L-shaped bar, staffed by a cute, friendly bartendress, is the brewery where GB’s Reinheitsgebot-complying lagers are produced. Served in half-liter glasses, these German-style beers are true to their ancestral heritage. You’ll never find funky fruit or spiced beers at Gordon Biersch. Sticking mostly to tried and true, there’s always a seasonal offering. This time it was Wiesenhelles, a light winey brew. Pilsner, with its soft texture and stinging hops ping, is always a pleaser, as is the stronger Blonde Bock. Brilliant red-gold, Marzen revels with heavy malt presence, suffering from an astringent, dry aftertaste. Dunkles, brown-red with big bubbled tan foam, features malty taste with a tart undercoating. With a full bar and wine selection, the only other fermented beverage sold at Gordon Biersch is bottled cider.

If well-made, flavorful, traditional German-style lagers are what you’re looking for, any Gordon Biersch- from the original in Palo Alto, CA to Honolulu to Pasadena to Las Vegas -will do the trick. Visit GB’s website at www.gordonbiersch.com.

Just a mile or so south in Orange, the city, in the old Santa Fe Railroad depot, resides Old Towne Brewing Company. I stepped through the portal just as last call was announced, but, after pleading my case, was served a complete sampler of Old Towne’s five brews. Starting business in June ‘97, the beers, with one exception, were well made and tasty. Hefeweizen wafted a citrusy nose, its body full of estery yeast character. Harvester American Wheat Ale was, just that, an uneventful American wheat ale. A big seller and the first lager brewed at Old Towne, Vienna was thin but extremely flavorful with agreeable aftertaste. Bavarian Dunkleweizen left a chocolate/charcoal aftertaste garnished with a chocolate nose, revealing little of the expected banana/clove aroma. Made with two-row, dark British crystal, black patent and chocolate malts, the “middle of the road” Preservation Porter had seen one too many miles. Its winey, sour flavor suggested that this brew was past its prime. All in all, head brewer Tucker Fleming’s beers were above average and intriguingly good.

Perusing Old Towne’s menu, even though the kitchen had been closed for hours, revealed an enticing selection of appetizers (Tumbleweed onion straws), brew pub pizzas (spicy-on-the-border), burgers (California veggieburger), sandwiches (grilled portbello hero), specialty items (achiote rubbed halibut) and desserts (caramel covered banana burrito). I only wished I had arrived early enough for dinner and was able to spend more time with Old Towne’s helpful, friendly staff. And now we turn toward Downtown Los Angeles.

This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush

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