I’ve lived in Orange County my whole life. Newport Beach Brew Co. has been around for as long as I can
remember. Nestled in between dive bars, posh beach homes, restaurants and the beach lies a jewel
of a brewpub that has been a surviving staple of downtown Newport Beach, CA. It’s impressive that
something can survive this long and not sell out to the masses.
Newport Brew Co was created in 1992, opened in 1995 (after years of construction) and was the second
OC Brewery (after Bayhawk) and Newport’s First Brewery. Being a unique brewpub and educating the
masses that craft beer was available; today it remains a pillar of creativity and exceptional style.
I am fortunate to be friends with the current Newport Beach Brew Co. Head Brew Master, Derek
Bougie, due to our mutual love for craft beer. I cornered him for an interview and with some pleading he
Me: How did you become the brewer at NB Brew Co?
Derek: I was fortunate enough to be at the right place at the right time. I was working at a job I really
didn’t like and was home brewing in my spare time. I decided that I would rather homebrew and work
at a place that has a beer influence instead so I quit and went to the local brewpub where I was already
spending all of my free time (NB Brew Co.) and asked if they had any jobs opening. I mean any job. I
told them I would do whatever was available be it serving, bartending, etc. I was hired as a server, and
I started learning and volunteering with the Brew Master Kirk Roberts when I wasn’t working. I worked
with him for about two years before he ended-up moving on to another venture in San Diego and it
was just natural that I would take over where he left off. I knew how to work the equipment and I loved
doing it. That’s how I became the brewer. It was very lucky.
Me: Do you have a favorite beer to brew?
Derek: I love to brew every beer. There really is no favorite beer because it’s all basically the same
ingredients with a few tweaks here and there. All beer is fun to brew.
Me: Is there something that you wish you could brew but can’t because it might not be liked by the
Derek: I really don’t hold back. I brew what I want to brew and if people like it, great. If not, then lesson
learned. I will sometimes brew a smaller pilot batch and see how people like it if I feel apprehensive but
that’s not that often.
Me: What is your favorite thing about working in the beer industry?
Derek: The comradery. I can call almost any brewery and ask them what they put in their beer and they
would gladly tell me. I can call my old mentor and ask him anything. Beer people are just good people
who prefer good interesting beer instead of the same old thing. Beer people are friendly, generous,
open and honest. I am happy to be a part of the industry and I don’t think I will be leaving anytime soon.
If you have never been to NB Brew Co. then I highly recommend it. Derek’s beer is better and better
every time I drink it. I have a soft spot for IPA’s and his Me So Hoppy IPA is a fantastic hop-bomb in your
mouth. Unfortunately they didn’t have it on tap when I went but I was happy to substitute for Hoppy Ending. It pours a cloudy orange/amber color with a nice white head. It has lovely citrus notes of orange and grapefruit offset with a mild pine and mild bitter aftertaste. It smells hoppier than it actually is. It’s not super-hoppy, but well balanced double IPA with a little sweetness on the tip of the tongue.
Bisbee’s ESB is most likely the most famous of NB Brew Co’s beers. It’s a local favorite and the strange
old man at the end of the bar will grab you and tell you so. “Oh, the ESB! It’s so good.” Thanks old man, I
like it too. It’s a brownish/red beer with a bready sweet taste. It’s not super sweet, and it’s got an almost
dry finish that reminds me of a good Chardonnay. A good ESB deserves to be drank over and over and over.
Just in case you were feeling squirrely you should get the sour on tap, which just happened to be he Just
Peachy. I think Derek was born with a crazy ability to make wonderful sours. It’s just wonderful. It’s tart,
but not overpowering, mild and sweet and smells like summertime. It’s the perfect beer with a salad or
a burger. Sour beers do wonders for your taste buds so drink this with whatever you desire. It will be
I am also a massive sucker for anything on Nitro. If you have something on Nitro, I will try it. Nitro
doesn’t make every beer awesome, only highlights the good beers and gives a fantastic smooth
mouthfeel. The Lil Cowboy Stout is a great beer on nitro, and it highlights the roasty coffee toasty flavors
and finishes smooth and dry.
If you go, I recommend trying the Steam beer as well. It’s great for a hot day, eating pizza watching
football with a group of friends. NB Brew Co. has something like 17 different screens playing during
football Sundays so you won’t miss your team play and you can drink good beer. The brewpub is inviting
and subtly encourages you to spend your whole day there enjoying Derek’s great beer while hanging out
with splendid people. I applaud Derek for consistently making wonderful beer and being so open to us
beer people. If you see him pouring beer at a beer event or at the brewpub, shake his hand for me and
let him know you love his beer. You might be lucky enough to see that famous Derek Bougie smile.