Beer in the vineyards: tasting Temecula’s brews

Temecula Valley is thick with vineyards, wineries -- and breweries.
(Market Connect / Temecula Valley Winemakers)

There’s an old saying: ‘It takes a lot of good beer to make good wine.’


In the vineyards, there’s an old saying: “It takes a lot of good beer to make good wine.”

Last weekend in Temecula, we sampled both beverages yet barely scratched the surface. Of the dozen-plus breweries in this wine-centric valley, I visited only three. Like the wines we sipped, the beers were a mixed bag:

8 Bit: Sitting near the Temecula/Murrieta border, this brewpub impressed with a diverse lineup, each beer focused and distinctive. Shambrüe III (5.8 percent alcohol by volume) is an unfiltered American pale ale, with Nelson, Simcoe, Citra and Mosaic hops packing a fresh, bold punch. Restrained toffee and tootsie roll notes lift Unibrown (6 percent) to a clean finish.

Ironfire: Best thing about this brewery’s tasting room? Its location in bustling Old Town. With its beers, though, Ironfire misfires. Lemonade Stand (7 percent) IPA tastes like Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Where’s the beer? Stetsons & Sombreros (4.7 percent) is a grassy lager with a sulphuric aftertaste. Code Duello (15.1 percent), a barrel-aged imperial stout with oranges and chocolate, is strictly for fans of liquefied bourbon-soaked fruitcakes.

Refuge: This airy, unpretentious tasting room pours full-flavored, unpretentious beers. Refuge is best known for Blood Orange Wit (5 percent), whose coriander and ginger balance the sweet-tart citrus base; in the refreshing Grapefruit IPA (7.7 percent), citrus tang also enhances without dominating; Oh My Darby (5 percent), an English-style stout with roasted grain and dark chocolate flavors, benefits from SoCal-style — i.e., damn the torpedoes! — hopping.