My Visit to Newport Beach Brewing Company

Newport Beach Brewing Company

Southern California beach communities aren’t exactly known for their craft beer (the most apparent exception being the Pizza Port franchises). Luckily for Newport Beach, an oasis can be found where people are actually doing it right and have been for the last 17 years.

Newport Beach Brewing Company, Brew Co for those “in the know”, opened in 1995 as only the second brewery to open in Orange County at the time. Being only blocks from the beach, this is a local spot. To paint a picture, their most popular beers are their Blonde, IPA, and Red. All great beers, but you get the idea.

Over the course of an hour or so the people around me ranged from a massively bearded mid-seventy year old man who talked about his three day high from Mezcal in Ensenada (think Santa whose had a few too many) to a couple of local surfers sitting down and ordering “some Coronas… bro”. I happily witnessed them get denied.

“But we do have Pacifico”. Ok I’ll forgive them for that one, we are at the beach after all.

This is the kind of place where you can walk in, have quality beer, and not have to have tried 6 different types of Cantillon to be talked to seriously. You don’t even need to know how to pronounce it. Check that pretentious attitude at the door, it’s not welcome here, and thank goodness for that.

Why is any of this important? Well, without knowing what he’s working with, it’s impossible to understand the strides that Derek Bougie has made for this community. Just a few years ago, Derek was a server at Brew Co. and a homebrewer in his spare time. One day, he decided to pull the ultimate passion move and volunteer his non-working hours to learn to brew commercially with their head brewer Kirk Roberts. Like any good apprentice, Derek was handed the reigns when Kirk decided it was time to start his new endeavor with San Diego Beer Co. (Which I also highly recommend).

Taplist at Newport Beach Brewing Company

While the majority of the beers that they sell are the standard offerings, which have remained unchanged since Kirk’s days, over the last year and a half, Derek has worked hard to introduce many of his own specialty recipes into the tap lines and into the glasses of people who have never tried anything like them. Newport Brew Co. tries to have at least one sour on tap at all times, all of which are brewed in-house. That’s a feet in and of itself considering that sour beers can take anywhere from 9 months to a few years to fully ferment and mature.

I had the pleasure of trying a Habenero infused version of Village Idiot IPA, a Sour Oatmeal Stout (sour and tart up front with a lingering roast a few seconds later) and a Chai Tea Stout cleverly named Sweet Chai O’Mine. That was on top of their awesome lineup of year round offerings. The beer was so good I forget I was only two blocks from the beach.

I had a great time hanging out with Derek and the whole crew at Newport Beach Brewing Company. If you’re ever in the area, I highly suggest you stop by, have a pint of Derek’s beer, and maybe even make a few friends with the locals. And remember “be nice or go away”.

Cheers and enjoy craft beer,


Philippe Gagnon is the founder and writer for Craft Beer Culture. Currently residing in Orange County, California, you can find him at the local brewery drinking craft beer or online through FacebookTwitter, and .

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