If you’re looking to enjoy a craft beer, you know your options are endless in Southern California. In Orange County alone, you can find dozens of specialty and craft breweries that offer tap and tasting rooms. But sometimes decisions are hard. So, we’re here to help! We’ve been to all the great beer spots in Irvine and can tell you without a doubt what places should be your first – and maybe only – stops. Whether you’re craving a hoppy and straightforward IPA, a citrus-infused wheat or a chocolate-tinged dark sour, Irvine has a great range of breweries and bars that offer a wide variety of delicious local craft beers.
Left Coast Brewing Co. & Distillery
Left Coast is new to Irvine, but, has been making stellar independent brews out of San Clemente since 2004 and has won over 23 different awards for their full-time beers. Although we’ve been lucky enough to have access to Left Coast’s beers at stores for some time, we finally got a Left Coast Tasting Room of our very own here in Irvine. Located on Irvine Center Drive, the tasting room offers a great energetic vibe with three main beers brewed on site – Barranca Brutty, Witty on Wednesday and Big Boy Pete – as well as two craft spirits produced on site.
The specialty beers brewed on site are delicious and unique, and being able to see how they are made right there on the property is an extra special bonus. Barranca Brutty is a great example of Left Coast’s love for traditional American IPAs, but adding their own spin to it. Inspired by the brut beauty of champagne’s classic flavor with a little throwback to Irvine, the Barranca Brutty is dry, clean and hoppy – a classic and honest IPA that will undoubtedly become a staple beer in your repertoire.
Originally a microbrewery and pub, Backstreet Brewery opened in Irvine back in 1998 and has become a local favorite ever since. Set inside Lamppost Pizza, Backstreet creates universal craft beers for every palate. This family-owned brewery began with just four different styles of craft beer – Tomahawk Double IPA, Set Sail IPA, Rita Red Ale and Rydin’ Dirty Rye IPA – but has expanded and continues to add new beers into the bottle lineup. This spot offers great ambiance for families or date nights, but is also a simple place to just go in and grab a beer after work, even if you don’t want a side of pizza with your craft brew. We suggest trying Backstreet Brewery’s Rita Red, Oktoberfest Festbier or the Blood Orange Animation IPA. Your taste buds – and your buzz – can thank us later.
TAPS Fish House and Brewery
Most Irvinians are familiar with TAPS Fish House and Brewery – it’s your dad’s favorite brunch spot and your brother’s favorite happy hour place. It is on the higher end – and price tag – of dining destinations, but their beer and booze is fairly affordable and on par with the best bars in all of O.C. for craft beer and craft cocktails. TAPS has brought home 103 medals for their craft beer including a silver medal for their Irish Red at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival. Their reputation for ambiance, service and quality of beer has made them a favorite independent multi-location brewery. If you like a nice red ale, then you should definitely try their Irish Red Ale, but we are low-key obsessed with their Amend This Prohibition Lager and their Grapefruit American IPA. Swing by for happy hour Monday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and grab a TAPS craft beer for only $5!
Anthill Pub & Grille
Although parking on UCI’s campus is atrocious and makes any quest for beer seem like an epoch, Anthill Pub & Grille on UCI’s campus probably has the best craft beer selection in all of Irvine and is worth the journey. Located on the Student Center Terrace, the Anthill Pub & Grille has delicious bites (for every diet) as well as amazing brews in every variety. Anthill has been getting rare beers from the best breweries around for a long time. They rotate their tap beers regularly and seem to try and surprise their regular craft beer connoisseurs by getting rare beers that most other beer bars in the O.C. don’t get, like Anchor, Dogfish Head, BarrelHouse, Deschutes and Paulaner. If you’re up that way, you should definitely stop in and check out their selection. We highly suggest the Deschutes Black Butter Porter, the Firestone Walker Leo v. Ursus: Doublus and the Anchor California Lager.
Although the Los Olivos Marketplace has turned into a chaotic clustered parking nightmare in the last year, the Whole Foods Market inside this marketplace has one offering that will make you grit and bear it – The IRV. The IRV is a casual café and bar that offers made-to-order restaurant-quality dishes (and weekend brunch options) with a fantastic craft beer and craft cocktail menu with reasonable prices. If you enjoy the hustle and bustle of a metropolitan space with TVs to keep you entertained, this café bar is perfect for you. If you maybe get bad anxiety being in close quarters with a lot of people, maybe you stop by for a high ABV beer and keep carrying on. Their craft beers on tap change consistently, and if you become a regular at The IRV you will be pleasantly surprised with their personable bartenders and hip but welcoming ambiance. We have recently enjoyed the Alpine Nelson, the Noble Ale Works Naughty Sauce and the Lost Abbey Citrus Sin.
Old World Liquor
If you’re not in the mood to go out to a brewery but you’re still craving craft brews, you’ll definitely want to stop by Old World Liquor to pick up a few rare bottles or some of your favorite local beer. Old World Liquor has been stocking craft beers, great spirits and fine wines for 40 years in the same location. A local hidden gem kept afloat by local residents, this spot has a great selection of craft beers from near and far! If you’re in the area, stop by and grab a Firestone Walker Lager, a Bear Republic Racer 5 or an Arrogant Bastard Ale by Stone, and enjoy a craft beer in peace.