Beer Adventure: Big Bear Lake, CA

Beer Adventure: Big Bear Lake, CA

The nexus of Big Bear Lake's social scene: The Village.

The nexus of Big Bear Lake's social scene: The Village.

Booze League's Beer Adventure series finds itself in the City of Big Bear Lake in midsummer with an appetite for beer and exploration.

Nestled 7,000 feet above the haze and the heat of California's San Bernardino County is the City of Big Bear Lake. Although this city of approximately 5,000 people offers year round entertainment and activities for the outdoors-inclined, it's during the winter ski season where Big Bear Lake really shines. It's estimated that the weekend population surges to 100,000 during the winter ski months.

On Wednesday July 1st, however, the population was very normal. The Village, Big Bear Lake's nexus of social life, was populated by a few locals and families of tourists enjoying the boutique shops, pizza joints, and ice cream parlors.   

STOP #1: WHISKEY DAVE'S

The location currently occupied by Whiskey Dave's is a standard stop for nearly all who come to Village. Hidden in the dim interior are multiple pool tables and the vaguely dank, yet comfortable smell of a well used bar. The multiple TVs blare a continuous stream of music videos from every spectrum of the industry. J-Lo's On the Floor jarringly follows Guns n Roses' Welcome to the Jungle. Queen belts Bohemian Rhapsody as an appetizer to Eminem. 

Lagunitas IPA: All $7.50 of it

Lagunitas IPA: All $7.50 of it

There's a couple playing on one of the pool tables and a handful of people seated at the bar. Whiskey Dave's has a fairly solid beer selection. Domestics mingle with crowd favorites Stella Artois and Shocktop. There are a smattering of craft beers on tap including Lagunitas IPA and the newly tapped Superfuzz Blood Orange Pale by Elysian Brewing. Samples of the Superfuzz were being liberally passed out with much discussion amongst the regulars and the 3 token craft beer geeks.

The Lagunitas IPA is familiar and welcome. The $7.50 price tag for what has become a standard, easily found craft beer was a little unwelcome. Especially during what would normally be Happy Hour. All in all, not a bad place to start off a beer adventure.
 

Whiskey Dave's
40740 Village Dr
Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
(909) 866-3283
Website

STOP #2: 572 SOCIAL

572 Social is new to the Village, and it shows. Recently remodeled from a rundown family restaurant with a cluttered, massive patio, 572 Social is now clean, modern, gastropub type establishment with a kickass massive patio. Comfortable seating and firepits abound and the outside bar, the only one visited, had the best craft beer selection in Big Bear Lake Village.

Swami's on the patio at 572

Swami's on the patio at 572

Big Bear Lake's early evening weather in July is exactly the kind of weather you want to hang out in for hours at a time. 572 Social's patio is the perfect place to do just that, as was clearly evidenced by the large number of people scattered around the patio sipping sangria and cocktails. Throw in a spot-on ambient music playlist and the combination was enough to lead to an unplanned second round at this second stop in the beer adventure.

On the day of this Beer Adventure, Pizza Port Brewing's Swami's IPA, one of the first of the "West Coast" IPAs, had just recently found distribution outside of their immediate Carlsbad, CA area. The fact that 572 Social already had it on tap says a lot and it was the beer of choice for both rounds. Bottle/can selection included brews from Modern Times, Speakeasy, Left Coast, and Karl Strauss, while the draft selection featured Stone, Maui Brewing, Hangar 24, Mad River, and Oskar Blues (in addition to the aforementioned Pizza Port). Hours could be wasted with good friends here, but the Adventure must go on.

572 Social Kitchen & Lounge
572 Pine Knot Ave
Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
(909) 878-0307
Website

STOP #3: BIG BEAR LAKE BREWING COMPANY

Sweet glassware at BBLBC

Sweet glassware at BBLBC

Big Bear Lake Brewing Company is trying hard to bring that craft beer brewery feel to The Village and for the most part, it succeeds. Big Bear Lake Brewing has two stories, with the bottom level dominated by the brewery itself. Corrugated metal abounds and large windows offer visitors a peek into the beer brewing process, while a small bar invites you to sit. The upper level has a larger bar and a small 5-seat balcony with a view of the lake by which to drink your brew. The taps include a selection of Big Bear Lake Brewing's own brews as well as an assortment of classic craft offerings such as Bear Republic, Uinta, Stone, and Ballast Point. The staff are all very friendly and seem to have a genuinely good time working together, which makes it a great place to grab some beer and food. They also clearly have a lot of patience as the Beer Adventure was beginning to have some effect.

Apparently hoppy beers were the theme of the Adventure, so Big Bear Lake Brewing's Whisper Pine IPA was the choice here. At this point, some type of food was necessary as well. The appetizer menu has a diverse lineup that is only congruous within the context of a brewpub menu. Seared ahi, bavarian pretzels, monster wings, crab and shrimp cakes and an avocado bomb all seem equally appetizing with a good beer buzz. The bavarian pretzels were pretty good. Nothing mind-blowing but serviceable and really it's hard not to like pretzels coupled with beer. The Whisper Pine IPA is a 6.5% IPA that lives up to its name. Five types of hops give some good citrusy, floral tastes with just a whisper of that classic IPA pine-y taste. There's a lot of potential here and it'll be interesting to see where that potential takes them in the coming years.

Big Bear Lake Brewing Company
40827 Stone Road
Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
(909) 878-0283
Website

 

STOP #4: CHAD'S PLACE

Chad's previously occupied the spot that now houses Whiskey Dave's, the first stop in the Beer Adventure. Chad's new location is just across the street from the Village, next to Big Bear Lake and the city's small harbor. The relocation has given Chad's Place more space, higher ceilings for a more open feel, and a legitimate outdoor patio. What it didn't seem to give was more business, as the Place was literally empty on this particular evening. Winters on the mountain are when most businesses in Big Bear Lake make their hay. The swell of snowboarding and skiing tourists easily innundates the local eateries and bars with clientele. The summers are the more lean months, and the emptiness of Chad's shows how lean it could be.

The beer selection is basic, with nothing that could be considered a modern day craft beer. While Sierra Nevada is still one of the most successful craft breweries in the country, their flagship Pale Ale (the choice for this stop) is easily found... well, anywhere. The bartender was friendly and talkative, chatting about the lack of snow business, the Latin night at Chad's featuring a 13 piece band, Latin night not being as popular as thought and being pared back to only twice a month, his favorite beers, the weather, the drought and anything else about which you'd be inclined to have a friendly conversation. A young couple comes in asking if they're open, order some drinks and play some pool. While the days are lean at the moment for Chad's, it's one of the oldest establishments in Big Bear Lake, and is sure to be serving locals and visitors alike for years to come.

Chad's Place
40824 Big Bear Blvd
Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
(909) 866-2161
Website

STOP #5: MURRAY'S SALOON AND EATERY

Murray's. The final stop in the Beer Adventure. The last in a seemingly endless line of bars bearing the names of guys who you would imagine to be great drinking buddies. Tonight, karaoke is imminent (as it seems to be every night), pool is happening, and Disturbed is blaring from the kitchen. Murray's small interior should feel cramped, but instead just feels comfortable. It's the kind of place where you're a regular by the time your first drink is finished. The local characters become indelibly etched into your brain and inexplicably always seem to be at Murray's, regardless of the time or day. The bar is held down by Murray's Angels, an all female bartending crew that sling the booze with a lot more gusto than they do the mixers.

The food at Murray's is surprisingly good (bacon wrapped shrimp stuffed with blue cheese and grilled tilapia are both excellent), as is the beer selection. Fans of Guinness will be happy to see it on tap, but will be let down when they see the size of the classic Guinness tulip glass. The craft beer community is well represented by the likes of 21st Amendment, Saint Archer, Stone, Avery, and Hangar 24. At this last stop, as things get fuzzy, 21st Amendment's Brew Free or Die! goes down very easy to the soothing sounds of Nancy Sinatra's These Boots are Made for Walkin' being ritualistically sacrificed to the karaoke gods. 

Murray's Saloon and Eatery
672 Cottage Ln
Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
(909) 866-1444
Website

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