First Year of Beer: Valiant Turns One

It’s hard to believe it’s been one year since we, at Valiant Brewing Company, first opened our doors to the public. When Brian (head brewer and owner) first started brewing delicious craft beer, he did it as a hobby from a Mr. Beer kit at home. His first priority, at the time, was drag racing and working on hot rods. Well, that’s since changed. In 2007 we started to make the transition from hobby home brewers to commercial brewers. Brian completed the Master Brewers program from the American Brewers Guild in 2010 and on February 9th of last year we officially opened for business as Valiant Brewing Company in Orange, California. Hot rods are now on the back burner and craft beer has become our passion and our priority. It’s been a journey unlike any other and we are so glad we chose to take this ride.

Brian commented on our evolution from home brewers to a commercial brewing operation saying, “It’s been a long road,” but he added, “It’s very rewarding.”

As a brand new brewery, we were so pleased to be named Orange County’s Best Local Brewery in the 2013 Orange County Hotlist. We were also happy to see the list of friends and fans of Valiant Brewing Company continue to grow over the last year. We’re adding “regulars” to the Valiant tasting room everyday.

“Word keeps spreading,” Brian noted. “That’s the direction we need to continue to go.”

As demand for the unique craft beer of Valiant increases, our team is also expanding. While our staff grows, we continue to work to make Valiant Brewing Company a fun place to work, and a brand that each employee believes in and supports as much as we do.

“The biggest thing is making sure the employees are happy,” Brian said. “If they are happy, then we’re a better team and we do better.”

After all the learning and growing we’ve done in the last year, we’re ready kick our feet up and celebrate! We want to celebrate the new craft beer recipes we’ve developed at Valiant Brewing Company, we want to celebrate our amazing and helpful staff, we want to celebrate the fulfilment of our dream to brew great craft beer and most importantly we want to celebrate you – each and every one of you who has supported us and believed in us over the last twelve months. To do that we’re planning a shindig of epic proportions.

“I’m really excited,” Brian bursted.”We have a lot planned.”

Our Valiant Brewing Company One Year Anniversary party is set for Saturday, March 1st from 12 noon until 11:00 p.m. that night. We’ve got so many fun things planned, including a tribute to Brian’s hot rod days with more than 50 hot rods showing up for our very own Valiant Brewing Company car show in the Valiant parking lot. We’re partnering with several local car clubs to make this happen and we couldn’t be more excited. Of course, we could never have too many hot rods in front of the brewery. If you’ve got one to show off, bring it by and add it to our show. We’re expecting cars will be coming in and out all day.

We’ve also got a great photo slideshow planned that visually depicts Brian’s evolution from a home brewer to the head brewer of Valiant Brewing Company. The slideshow will play in the tasting room throughout the event. Catering the event is none other than world-renowned Chef Cody Storts of Hopscotch Tavern in Fullerton. We’re really fortunate that Chef Cody has graciously agreed to supply our anniversary guests with some of the finest food Orange County has to offer.

Most importantly, though, we couldn’t throw a craft beer party without some awesome craft beer. Brian has been brewing non-stop and is going all out for our anniversary festivities! We will have 26 beers on tap during the event. That’s right – 26. These recipes will include several barrel-aged versions of some of your favorites. We’ll have a barrel-aged First Flight on tap. This American Strong Ale has an alcohol content of nearly 14% (it’s a big one) and has a slight herbal aroma that we combined with light coconut, vanilla and mild caramel highlights. Among the list of other barrel-aged goodies you’ll find on tap will be a barrel-aged version of our Axiom Trappist Ale. This 10.5% ABV Ale has a Graham cracker aroma with malty highlights and notes of cherry, raisin and spice! We’ll also have all our regular beers on tap for those who’ve already chosen their favorites, as well as some beers that have disappeared from our list – those beers will be making a comeback for our special event. Brian is also working on some special new recipes he’ll unveil on March 1st. You won’t want to miss out on these rare and exciting concoctions. For those who can’t decide, we’ll have different packages and flights available so you can taste them all!

We just want to thank everyone who has supported us over the last year and who have helped us become Valiant Brewing Company. Without your support we wouldn’t be where we are today. We hope you’ll stop in on March 1st between noon and 11:00 p.m. and celebrate with us at Valiant Brewing Company. We’d love to see you!

Holiday Barrel Aged Porter Pathos: Available Now for a Limited Time

The holidays come with a variety of traditions like decorating the Christmas tree, lighting the menorah and ringing in the New Year with a kiss. However, there’s a new holiday tradition we invite you to take part of before it’s too late! That tradition is coming down to Valiant Brewing Company to sample our newest seasonal release. This year we’ve got one barrel of our Barrel Aged Pathos Porter available for the holidays.

Our Barrel Aged Pathos is an Imperial Chocolate Porter with a forward flavor of chocolate, hints of toffee and caramel and minor burnt, roasty malt characters while also bringing out notes of oak, crème brûlée, vanilla and coconut on the aroma side. At 9.3% alcohol content, Pathos is the perfect beer for the holidays!

“It’s a good holiday beer,” said Owner Brian Schroepfer. “People kind of associate relaxing with a darker beer by the fire, as opposed to having a lager. [Pathos] has a little bit more complexity, a little bit more depth to stay around in your pallet and that’s what people are kind of looking for when they want to relax, they want to have a nice beer that they can sip on.”

But our Pathos Porter is only available as long as we’ve got it. Once the barrel is gone, it’s gone! So grab your jacket and keys and head to Valiant for a taste. You’ll have to hurry though, our holiday hours may limit your ability to get your hands on this tasty little porter.

We’ll be closed Thursday, December 26th but we will reopen on Friday, December 27 6-9pm and Saturday, December 28th from noon to 9 p.m. We will also be open on Monday, December 30th from 6 – 9 p.m. for growler fills only.

We hope to see you soon. Happy Holidays!

Behind the Scenes: Valiant’s Bottling Process for Jericho IIPA

We at Valiant Brewing Company are thrilled to offer one of our flagship beers, our Jericho Imperial IPA, in bottles! We are thrilled because Jericho is a terrific seasonal brew – it’s an Imperial IPA, full of hops with an aroma of orange, tangerine and a citrus flower bouquet that heightens the senses, allowing the sweet malty bitterness to develop slowly and linger for a few minutes. At a 10.8% alcohol content, it’s a great craft brew for the winter months.

But that’s not the only reason we’re so excited to offer this gem in 750ml bottles! We’re also excited because it almost didn’t happen. At least not on schedule. We had a deadline of November 16th to release our Jericho Imperial IPA bottles, but like Murphy’s Law dictates, “What can go wrong, will go wrong.” That was almost the case for Jericho’s bottling process. Luckily, with some help from all of our staff, a few of our neighboring breweries and the support of all of our patrons – our Jericho IPA has been bottled and is currently in distribution!

Brian, Valiant’s owner and founder, said of the whole experience, “It was cutting it really close.”

The mayhem began with a call from the company that manufactures our labeling machine. It turns out our brand new machine, which we were expecting to be shipped to us well in advance of our impending November 16th release date, would be at least two months late to arrive. Brian flew into action, calling around to find any brewery that would let him borrow a labeler. Evan Weinberg, of Cismontane Brewing Company, stepped up to the plate and offered to help out. Evan offered us Cismontane’s labeling machine and before Brian could take it over to Valiant to label our bottles, he spent several hours working with the crew at Cismontane.

“I appreciate their friendship, their openness,” Brian said. “I definitely thank them so much for their hospitality and their time to show us their process, and I could learn from their mistakes.”

Hurdle number one was successfully jumped, but then came the challenge of actually filling the bottles with Valiant’s new Maheen bottling machine, which had been purchased but never used. It was Friday, November 15th, the day before the bottles were going to be released. Brian arrived at Valiant bright and early, around 4:30 in the morning. A small crew of Valiant’s brewery and tasting room staff arrived around 6:30 A.M. to get the bottling underway.

“We were like five of us, we all had our stations,” Brian said. “We didn’t know what we were getting into but I kind of remembered from going back to Cismontane, their set up and how they got in a groove over there. So, I was somewhat prepared for the outcome but what I wasn’t prepared for the learning curve of the Maheen system and bottling machine.”

Right away Brian could tell the parameter settings on the machine were off because the bottles were only being filled halfway, or were coming out half full of foam. Hours of adjusting and readjusting the ratio, dealing with bottles crashing on the ground and making frustrated calls to the manufacturer and other breweries seemed to have gotten them nowhere. Finally, Brian got through to Eagle Rock Brewery and was able to get some help. But it was another call to the manufacturer that triggered the lightbulb in Brian’s head and allowed his engineering background to kick in and save the day.

“Once I started understanding the units, which weren’t published anywhere, then I understood exactly what those functions were doing,” Brian explained. “So, I got off the phone with him and I said, ‘Oh, OK. I understand now. I believe this is our situation.’ I adjusted the parameters, fired the machine up and guess what? We were bottling.”

Once he solved the problem, they were back in business. Unfortunately, by that time it was already 3 O’Clock in the afternoon. We only had two hours until the tasting room opened. Frantically they brainstormed ideas for what to do, because the bottling set up was smack dab in the center of the Valiant tasting room. They didn’t have enough time to alert everyone on social media that the brewery was going to be closed and frankly, we couldn’t afford the losses from a day’s closure. Finally they decided to section the bottling station off from the rest of the tasting room, using chairs. We were able to open at our normal business hours. For those of you who were at Valiant that day, you’ll remember that the staff juggled bottling with taking turns serving behind the bar. In the end, it actually ended up offering everyone who came to Valiant that day a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes of the Valiant Brewing Company.

“It was kind of neat in a way, because we were like the show and people were taking pictures,” Brian laughed. “But it was kind of rewarding because people could see ‘Oh! That’s my product you bottled.’”

The gang stayed late into the night until the job was done. Out of all that, we ended up bottling 320 cases, or nearly 4,000 bottles of Jericho Imperial IPA! These bottles are already in distribution in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. It never would have happened without all the help and support from our new friends at Cismontane Brewing Company, Eagle Rock Brewery and all of you! So yes, we are especially thrilled to offer our Jericho IPA in big bottles. Our next challenge will be getting the Jericho in 22 oz. bottles, which we promise we’ll tackle soon! After that, we plan to bottle four more core beers: Crescendo (our bold 6.5% Blonde Lager), Alpha Drive (an 8.8% Double IPA, great for hop heads), Axiom (a delicious graham cracker and malty Trappist Ale at 10.5%) and our Criterion Belgian Amber Ale (A floral but spicy Honey Rye at 5.6%). Keep checking in for updates on when those will be available in Valiant bottles.

Continuation from CUP day…

No the story wasn’t finished for our CUP day, remember our next task was to head over to the police department to hand them a fat check and according to Orange planning department, fill out some paper work (AMP).

 

All was good, excited that we started the paperwork, talking about what the future holds for VBC, checking out the local street scene as we drive only a couple miles to where I thought the police station was. Located right off Chapman, I turned into the parking lot to the sight of an indoor shooting range and a HUGE sheriff’s badge over hanging an opposing building. That said, however I thought I’d scope out the place before taking the family out of the car because we were noticing that printed on the main doors of the police building that it said “Training Facility”. I really thought nothing of it until I walked inside and it smelled like a gym locker. Needless to say, we were nowhere near the right location. Just as I was figuring this out, my family walked inside. I quickly grabbed a phone number of the local police station from an assistant working there and walking back to our car I asked my wife, give me the keys. She looked at me “you have them”. No sure don’t, there they are in the ignition!

 

So there we are, keys locked in the car, kids are now starting to get a little upset from being taken out of the car so many times, we haven’t made one step closer to getting this AMP thing filled out and it will be 5pm in a couple of minutes. Luckily we had our phones ready and AAA was close by to assist us to slim jim our car open in front of the police station – this shot says it all.

 

 

 

We eventually got back in our car, thank you Mr. AAA dude, and found out that the police department which we wanted to go to was right down the street; yeah we drove past it coming to this place – go figure!

 

The visit to the police station has a humorous twist to it as well since the lady assisting us had no clue of what we needed. She was trying her best as we gave her the City’s instructions on our CUP paperwork. Around and around we tried to get the “paperwork” we needed, finally we figured out all she needed was a copy of our receipt from the city and money. Feeling like we just got taken advantage of, there goes another $1,600; we left with understanding that we’d be contacted from an investigator soon.

So now here we are, waiting for the police department to conduct an investigation on us and local surroundings which should take them a minimum of 3 – 4 months, waiting for our CUP to be approved, what’s next? Time to start getting the brewery ready for action – can someone say floor drains! More to come…

The Submittals are Finally Happening!!

 

 

Now I understand why so many breweries write these blogs. It’s not because we like reading about ourselves, but more along the line that the experiences that we go through are simply meant to be shared. Yesterday we had some ground breaking progress for VBC, we went through with submitting our Conditional Use Permit for the city or Orange. I know that doesn’t sound like much but take the fact that a year ago May we were about to sign a lease in the city of Irvine; we pulled out and 3 months later almost signed a lease for a building in the city of Lake Forest, you can see this day was long in the coming.

There I am taking ownership as we walk into the city of Orange’s planning department to off load our CUP (conditional use permit) packet. I seriously was ready to take on the world. I felt organized, with the help of my wife, confident and so ready to make beer that when those sliding doors open it was like “here I am – Let’s do this thing”. But in reality I pushed my daughter thought the doors in her stroller, signed the login in sheet, answered maybe two questions and that was it! At the end of it all, stood around looking goofy for my children, then got handed back our receipt with our CUP reference number and were told to go now and fill out some AMP (Alcohol Management Plan) paperwork from the police department of Orange along with more $$$ for their service. Simple enough right! Pack up the family and head down the road to the police department.

Backing it up just a little, the time frame for us to open our doors has taken full precedence because of the amount of time needed for approving the use of even operating as a brewery in the city of Orange.  Most adjacent cities allow a brewery to open its doors as a production brewery, yes a permit is needed for a tasting room but a brewery can start producing beer ASAP upon getting their ABC license. City of Orange requires the CUP for all alcohol related businesses. I guess you can say we are lucky, stressed to no end because of the time line but happy the process has started. So the city told us that it usually takes 6 months to approve our use, ok but the police department takes 3-4 months for their investigation work which is needed by the city in order to continue their approval. Do you see that inner loop? Well we’ll do our best to keep the process moving and hope that around September of this year, 2012 that we can open our doors.

Why I like brewing

This is somewhat a complex question for me to answer. Yeah I can say, it’s because I’m passionate about beer, I enjoy the challenges that comes with creating fairy big beers that are drinkable, or I like being part of an industry that is growing at a pace that’s faster than light partials traveling through space (ok that’s a little over exaggerated), waking up at 2am with coffee in hand excited about firing up the kettle knowing that another creation will be taking place today, being around good friends and exploring the cultures of life while pouring grains into the mill. Yes these are all very good reasons why I like brewing but it goes to show that brewing, as a whole, means much more to me then I can talk about if trying to answer this question in one sentence – it simply cannot be done.

It’s interesting given my experiences and background with automotives, more directly drag racing of how the two (brewing and racing) are similar. Drag racing itself is simple, drive a vehicle as fast and safe as you can 1,320 ft while hoping that you can beat your opponent. However prior to going down the track, you have endless amounts of time in building the car, performing maintenance, ensuring all your safety equipment is still up to date, packing for the weekend at the track, setting up the pits, etc… All this so you can drive down the track for a total of 7 seconds! Yes large amounts of time spent for such little in return but we love it. Brewing is very similar to this in that you spend a great deal of time ahead, during and after making beer to ensure that the one perfect moment, when someone takes a sip of our beer, gives them that unique experience that only comes from all that hard work. This moment, quick in time compared to everything leading to that one event is what is so precious to us and why we love brewing!

I’d like bore you with all the technical stuff that comes into play with brewing, remember I’m a gear head and the more knobs, switches and valves I can push/pull the happier I am but that is only interesting to a small number of you but is important to understand about me. However I’ll spare that time for when we get the chance to talk in person or perhaps for a future update.

-Brian

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