A Beer is Born

I’ve written glowingly in the past about my friend, Greg, and his home brewing set up.

The soft opening at Barley Forge

The soft opening at Barley Forge

Greg is a lawyer who, I guess, got tired of lawyering and wanted to make beer instead. I’ve been drinking his delicious beers for several years, and listening to his plans to open his own brewery — first in Topanga, and that having proven an impossible-to-navigate labyrinth of permits and regulations, Culver City. When the latter also failed to pan out, he set his sights further south — to Costa Mesa in Orange County — and a brewery was born.

Our disappointment in eventually losing Greg and his wife Mary Ann to the O.C. (they’re planning on moving back to Greg’s hometown of Irvine sometime in the next couple years) is Costa Mesa’s gain.


Barley Forge Brewing Co. occupies a large semi-industrial space to the rear of a strip of such spaces also home to art galleries and the like. Across the street in this up-and-coming bit of suburbia is one of those hip carefully planned expensive outdoor artsy anti-mall malls meant to look like they sprung up spontaneously.

This past Saturday, my pal, Vic, and I drove the hour or so to Costa Mesa on a bro-date for the Barley Forge soft opening. We were sad for ourselves but happy for Greg and Mary Ann when we saw the line for a beer snaking out the door into the parking lot. They’ve done a hot-mash job of branding — from the fun loteria-inspired beer labels to the industrial-hip signage to the groovy merchandise. The space retains an industrial vibe, with contemporary colors and wood tables and bar adding some warmth.

Vic captures the moment

Vic captures the moment

Vic and I each ordered a “flight” — five samplers of the various beers on tap, served in a heavy hunk of steer girder that looked as if it had been pulled from the building’s very foundations.

Greg has always been a great brewer. I’ve tasted many of these beers before, in their home-brewed versions. While not usually a fan of hefeweizens, the “Das Biersal” is crisp and complex, not overly sweet. The “Grandpa Tractor” Dortmunder-style export lager has far more depth and character than your standard German lager, and the “Orange Curtain” IPA is a big, ballsy mouthful of beer. Being a hoplover, my favorite will undoubtedly be the “One Louder” double IPA, though they were not pouring it that day.

Our friend, Jeff Kramer of Topanga Catering, helped put together a simple menu — a charcuterie platter with house-pickled vegetables, a beer-boiled bratwurst, slider platters featuring pulled pork or lamb patties with tzatziki. There are plans to introduce panini and other sandwiches. Vic and I split a brat and a couple sliders. We were still hungry, so we ordered a second round.

“What do you think of the brat?” Jeff asked, still fine tuning. “Do you think it needs a little less sweet and a little more tart?” And he and I huddled to discuss a bratwurst flavor profile worthy of Greg’s towering brews.

I think a good burger would be a winner.

Jeff and Vic raise a glass to our friends

Jeff and Vic raise a glass to our friends

Vic tapered toward the end of his flight. But I wasn’t driving and didn’t need to stay fresh for anything… so I had a pint of the “El Paisano” amber ale. If I was alone and there had been an empty bar stool, I may have just played the day out working my way through the beer.

If you live in Orange County and are looking for a fun afternoon or evening of good beer and delicious food, head to Barley Forge — tell ‘em Skinny Girls & Mayo sent you! If you live in Topanga or have been planning to visit us, stay tuned — there is a fundraiser in the works featuring pairings of Barley Forge beers and my tasting plates. More info to come…

And I expect we’ll be seeing these beers on the shelves of fine liquor venues and discerning grocery stores before long… Let the hammer fall where it may.

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Barley Forge Brewing Co.
2957 Randolph Ave, Unit B
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 641-2084



Treat… or Trick


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It was Halloween many, many years ago — quite obviously before I had children of my own, as you will soon see.

My pal, Mike, and I were at his girlfriend’s parents house in an affluent suburb of Los Angeles, waiting for our dates, who were upstairs putting the finishing touches on their Halloween costumes. We were reclining on the couch, into our second or third beers, when the doorbell rang. More

Cowboy Colgin Rides Again

It was past Pioneertown, the last outpost, at the end of a long and dusty dirt road amidst the boulders and Joshua trees and outlaw cabins of the Mojave desert, that we set up camp.


Desert shadow selfie

More specifically, it was the property of our friend and Scoutmaster, Greg, and his wife Mary Ann, and an official Cub Scouts camp out. And I was designated cook for 50 or so people on Saturday night.


Magnificent Moo Shu

When I was a kid, my family used to go to the Twin Dragon restaurant — a mere mile from my home, it was the best gig in town, shy of driving all the way to Chinatown which we did on the weekends sometimes for dim sum.

Moo shu with support act, Mandarin chicken

Moo shu with support act, Mandarin tangerine chicken

By today’s Chinese restaurant standards of Szechuan vs. Cantonese vs. Fujian vs. Shandong, etc., Twin Dragon was pretty old school — sweet & sour pork, wor wonton soup, pressed duck. But back then, when most Chinese joints were serving chop suey and egg foo young, it was pretty special. They made a mean spicy kung pao chicken with whole blackened chilies, a rocking tangerine chicken with bits of chewy peel, a sublime three-flavor sizzling rice soup, as well as some unique specialties — I recall the chicken with pine nuts standing out, and remember my parents once ordering a big plate of jiggly jellyfish which they tried without success to get the kids to eat. More

Kinley’s Egg

My 4-year-old daughter Imogen had her 4-year-old pal, Kinley, over to play the other day. They were outside enjoying themselves, when Kinley approached me sheepishly.

Kinley and her egg

Kinley and her egg

“Sean,” she said, “Can we go get eggs from the chicken coop?”

I explained to her that I had, sadly, already gathered the eggs a short while before. But they could certainly go see if any more had been laid. She then went on to explain to me how her 6-year-old brother, Finn, was trying to lay his own egg. I asked their mother, Amber, about this later, and she told me that Finn actually wanted to hatch a chicken from an egg, not lay an egg. I’m not certain if he planned to nest on the egg himself. More

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