Sometimes it is hard to remember that just a few years ago you could count the production breweries and brewpubs in the South Bay on one hand; now you need both of your hands and a foot to count them all and new locations are being constructed as you read this. A common question that has been debated frequently over the past couple of years is that of over saturation.
As a craft beer consumer, over saturation never really comes into play for me although I can understand how a brewery owner might not feel the same way. Of course, I might not feel the same way if all of our breweries were merely churning out the same brews and styles as the next guy, but the reality is that even though we have a dozen tasting rooms and brewpubs to visit in the general vicinity each is unique in their own way. I feel that as long as this trend continues the only problem the consumer will have is deciding which brewery to patronize on any particular day.
On Wednesday afternoon I headed over to the Port of Los Angeles and the future home of Brouwerij (pronounced: brewery) West. Those of you that were fortunate enough to attend The Festival 2014 at CRAFTED at the Port of Los Angeles back in November you probably remember the big Warehouse No. 9 that was located across the way from the warehouse that The Festival was held. This will be the new home for Brouwerij West.
Brouwerij West’s brewer and co-founder Brian Mercer has been a gypsy brewer for four years and has their Belgian-styled brews distributed to an impressive 30 states. While Mercer was as much hands-on as possible, the fact that he was using facilities belonging to others meant he lacked the control that will be gained when Brouwerij West begins brewing at their new location. However, Brouwerij West will not simply be a production brewery; Mercer and partner Dave Holop together with Brendan Collins, the chef of the Culver City gastropub Waterloo & City will transform the 56,000 square-foot warehouse into a production brewery complete with a bottling line and kegging, a tasting room, bottle shop and a restaurant/cafe. Since Mercer understands the plight of the gypsy brewer, they plan on having a section of the warehouse set aside for gypsy brewers and will be holding events to help educate home brewers.
The building of this brewery is a little different than most I have watched build out in that not only are they constructing a brewery, but they are restoring a building that was constructed during World War II by the Navy. Naturally, one of the first things that had to be taken care of was the roof as it was letting in as much rain as it was keeping out. In an effort to be socially and environmentally conscious they will be utilizing solar panels which will generate more than enough electricity to power the entire operation. Since California is currently in a drought and will always have water issues, Brouwerij West will use a brewing system that uses 30% less water.
As you look through my photos you can see that the 25,000 square-foot looks pretty empty right now, but if you look at the drawings I photographed you can see that this will soon be a beautiful facility. Oh yeah, in some of the photos of the warehouse space you will notice a door going to another room; that is an additional 31,000 square feet that will be brought into use in the future.
While the Port of Los Angeles falls under the jurisdiction of the City of Los Angeles and anyone that has been paying any attention has noticed that the City of LA has not typically been easy to work with when it comes to opening a new brewery, Mercer and Holop are quick to mention that everyone involved from the City of Los Angeles to the Port of Los Angeles has been extremely cooperative and they seem quite enthusiastic to see Brouwerij West open their doors. Mercer is in the same boat; “After four years of brewing Brouwerij West, we are really excited to finally have our own brewery and to be able to make all beers we could never do as a traveling brewer. To finally have full control over our process is a dream. Look for a lot more Saisons, Brett-Saisons and more fruit versions.”
Brouwerij West is hoping to open their doors with a soft-open in early July; they will be a welcome addition to the South Bay and Los Angeles area craft beer scene. Cheers!
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