by Chris O’Neal  

Topa Topa
Brewing Company    
104 E Thompson Blvd.

Institution Ale Company
3841 Mission Oaks Blvd.

If it’s all about the timing, Ventura County breweries are on the same moon cycle. As Topa Topa Brewing Company celebrates its first year (it’s been that long already?!), Institution Ale Company expands, giving fans many reasons to celebrate.

The weekend started off at Topa, where remnants of the brewery’s one-year anniversary collaborations were still on tap, including the Piece of Cake — an American strong ale infused with Centri Roasting Company’s coffee, Madagascar vanilla beans and cinnamon, brewed in collaboration with Institution Ale Company. The result: an ale hovering around 10 percent ABV that tastes similar to its namesake, only this slice will knock your socks off.

Also available is the new Sespe pilsner, a floral German-style lager. At 5 percent ABV, grab a growler and head for the beach — this one’s sticking around for the summer (we hope).

In Camarillo, Institution Ale Company finally has room to breathe after a successful relocation into a much larger brewery and tasting room. 

Situated across the street from the Camarillo Ranch, the brewery is almost like a Disney attraction: Enter through the front into a merchandise shop, follow the guided path through the brewery and voilà, you’re in Star Tours, I mean, the tasting room, where over the weekend a dozen or so brews were on tap, including the Coffee Cake, sister to Piece of Cake. 

Also: White Walls infused with Thai chilies. If you’ve not hopped (pun intended) into the wild world of chili-infused beers, here’s a great intro. The white IPA packs a hoppy punch as well as a tinge of heat on the backend. Follow it up with a Coffee (-infused) Restraint, the brewery’s award-winning maple brown ale, and call it a party.

Though on the horizon several new breweries are threatening to saturate the craft beer market even further, for now, Topa and Institution are at the top of their game. Here’s to another year, more collaborations and an exit through the gift shop. 

Chris O’Neal is thrilled that Game of Thrones is over so he can play game of beers uninterrupted. Follow him on Instagram @atchrisoneal.