Docent Brewing – San Juan Capistrano, CA

Hey everyone, my name is Mike and I’m the founder of Floppy Ear Beer Company.  I’m a craft beer nut that lives in Orange County, California and I decided to start a blog to document my craft beer and food adventure in one of the best places in the world to visit!  I’m no official beer expert, but I’ve held a job in the beer industry, brewed my own beer in the past and done lots of research on the topic of beer.  My biggest qualification however is my real-life experience tasting beers.

Since this is my first post, I’d like to quickly explain my thoughts behind this blog and my rating system.  My mission here is to provide insights into mostly breweries, but other hidden food gems, within Orange County so if you ever plan a visit here, or live here and are looking for cool new spots, you have some ideas on where to go.  For my ratings I’m planning on scoring breweries based on 3 criteria and a 5 point scale expressed in “floppy ears”:

  • Atmosphere – What’s the vibe in both the tasting room and outdoor areas? Any other fun features that make the brewery stick out?
  • Beer – I think this one speaks for itself, but I’d like to give you an idea of what’s on tap and the quality of beer they serve
  • Food – Not all breweries sell food but if they do, how’s the menu selection? Is it good food to eat while having a beer? 

With that being said, let’s jump into our first brewery….

If you’re ever in Orange County or driving down the 5 freeway to/ from San Diego, do yourself a favor and make a stop at Docent Brewing.  Located in San Juan Capistrano, home to 1 of California’s 21 missions, this brewery checks all the boxes for a craft beer fan looking for great beer and food.  The word docent is defined as “a person who acts as a guide, typically on a voluntary basis, in a museum, art gallery, or zoo” which fits this brewery and their philosophy well.  Built on their 3 pillars of Craftmanship, Community and Independence, Docent has set the bar high for other Orange County breweries with what they’ve got brewing (oh did I mention I love puns!). 

Atmosphere

When you first show up at Docent it’s a bit hard to find.  It’s located in a warehouse district and then the entrance is tucked around the corner of a building.  Luckily there were signs to guide us but driving down the side of the building my hopes weren’t super high for the location.  Boy was I wrong!  After getting out the car and walking up to the back of the building and entrance I was immediately impressed by what a cool place it was.  Granted it’s a pandemic and the set up isn’t 100% normal but the current layout is pretty cool.  Out back they have multiple picnic tables, some with shade and others without, that provide an awesome outdoor experience in the California sun.

The inside of the brewery though is where Docent really shines in my opinion.  The inside is absolutely stunning with a sitting area right inside the door with large comfy chairs, wood planked walls and their exposed beer tanks (one of my favorite parts of a brewery).  Their bar area is huge as well, although it is closed for now, and is the perfect spot to keep the beers coming. 

One of the biggest criteria for a high atmosphere rating is of course is it dog friendly.  Not only is it dog friendly but the outdoor picnic tables are located right on a bike trail which is perfect for helping your pooch stretch their legs.  We were able to find some shade as well and Parker had a great time getting treats and hanging out while we ate and drank. 

Rating: 5 Floppy Ears out of 5.  The inside of this brewery is incredibly cool and the relaxed environment out back is the perfect place to bring the dog and enjoy some brews!

Beer

Lucky for me, I know one of the chefs that works here and he had given me a hot tip about some of the beers that had just won medals at the Great American Beer Festival (the nation’s largest and most prodigious beer competition) the night before.  Naturally I had to try a gold medal winner.  I started with Super Tonic, an 8.5% oatmeal stout that won the Gold Medal at GABF, which is something I don’t normally do.  I can only have dark beers sparingly but this one was so smooth and had so much coffee flavor I wanted to savor it forever.  Little did I know though that my favorite beer of the day was on deck…..the MoMoMo.  My favorite type of beer is an amber or red ale followed closely by a nice West Coast Style IPA.  Combine the two however and look out!   The MoMoMo was so good I had to grab a crowler to go so I could enjoy it again later.

Luckily when you bring others with you, you get to try other beers as well.  The Luna witbier led the way as a great lighter option and the Canteen and Tiny Umbrellas were also really good.  I’ve been lucky enough to try most of Docent’s standard lineup and it’s hard to find one I didn’t thoroughly enjoy.  Couple that with their unique releases and Docent is one of the best breweries in OC in terms of quality and selection.    

Rating: 5 Floppy Ears out of 5.  There was 15+ beers on tap and a great selection of different styles that caters to everyone’s pallet.  And the beers are delicious!

Food

As mentioned above, I do know one of the chefs so I know this may come off biased.  However, I want to honestly say that the food here was out of this world.  When you think of brewery food, you think of simple thing like sliders, fries, deep fried appetizers, etc.  Docent however takes those normal options and puts an elevated spin on them.  The ingredients are fresh, everything was perfectly seasoned and they even have healthy salad options if you’re looking to just drink your calories.  We had the Quesadilla with chili verde and pulled pork and it was probably the best quesadilla I’ve ever had.  We also decided to try the Jalapeno-Cheddar Sausage Pastry that came with an IPA Beer cheese that I’m still dreaming about. 

If you look at the menu it may not seem too different than other breweries but the quality of the food was what really surprised me.  I demolished the food in front of me and the prices were incredibly reasonable for the taste and portions.

Rating: 5 Floppy Ears out of 5.  This is some of the best brewery food I’ve ever had at an incredibly good value.  They are constantly experimenting with the menu and I already can’t wait to go hungry and eat more.

Parker’s Final Rating

I really can’t recommend Docent enough.  I personally feel that they don’t get enough credit for how great they are, but I have a feeling they are on the verge of a breakout.  From the atmosphere to the beer & food, I only have positive things to say about this brewery.  Couple that with a 10 minute drive to the beach and you have all you need for the perfect Southern California day. 

Final rating: 5 out of 5 Floppy Ears!  Docent is a must visit if you’re in southern California!

Until next time remember to Paws and Drink Good Beer!  Cheers!

Published by Mike

Founder of Floppy Ear Beer

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