Advertisements
Flights Beer Bar

The Craft Beer Guy 2015 Year in Review

HopSaint brewpub

HopSaint Brewing Company Now Soon!

Well, there are still a couple of days left in 2015 but I think it is safe to write my year-end review of 2015. To be honest, there has been so much activity in the craft beer world this past year that I would not be surprised to have something new pop up before Thursday night.(So, this is taking me a while to write, and yes, there have been updates since I started).

There were several beer buyouts that seemed to dominate most other craft beer sites, but the craft world in my immediate domain only seemed to increase. Yeah, Golden Road got bought, but I only went there for special events and I guess that means there will be fewer of them there in the future. In the meantime, the reach of this site seems to be increasing. In the beginning people pretty much pigeonholed this site as covering the South Bay craft beer scene only. This year I covered various local beer events from the Antelope Valley to Orange County. Attendees have come up asking if I am now covering the west side, or wherever we might be. I guess the answer is yes; and I will expand my area as long as it is requested.

2015 in the South Bay ended pretty much as it started, with the soft open of a new brewpub. In January Phantom Carriage officially opened, and at the end of December HopSaint Brewing Company opened their doors. While they are open daily, the official opening of HopSaint will be January 1, 2016 when they will start serving lunch at 11:30 AM.

Strand Brewhouse

Strand Brewing Company New Location on Dominguez Street


I guess if I had to summarize the craft beer scene around here in one word, it would be “explosive.” Besides Phantom Carriage and HopSaint, Scholb Premium Ales was granted their Conditional Use Permit as was Cosmic Brewery to begin brewing in Torrance. The Torrance Planning Commission also approved Conditional Use Permits for Strand Brewing to move to a much larger location and for Absolution Brewing and Monkish Brewing to increase their hours and have food trucks liberally. Along those lines, the Planning Commission made that process much easier and cheaper for the breweries.

The San Fernando Valley is becoming a craft beer destination in its own right with the opening of San Fernando Brewing, joining the ranks of MacLeod Ales, Pac City, 8one8 Brewing and Hand-Brewed Beer. Even Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) is beginning to give me a reason to drive out there. I made a visit to Mumford Brewing in the Arts District and was quite impressed. At the end of 2015 places like Boomtown Brewery and Arts District Brewing have opened with Iron Triangle Brewery scheduled to open soon. These are all in the same general vicinity, so it would make for a good day.

Transplants Brewing logo

Transplants Brewing Company, now open

As I mentioned back in July, the Antelope Valley was opening two new breweries to join Kinetic Brewing and Bravery Brewing; Lucky Luke Brewing Company and Transplants Brewing Company. As of now, both locations have opened to the public; Transplants and Lucky Luke are virtually across the street from each other, so keep that in mind if driving out.

While the addition of new destinations is one thing, there has been a lot of internal growth by just about every brewery around here; whether it was in brewing and/or seating capacity or just the beer styles themselves. For ease of making sure I cover them all, the following will be alphabetical.

brewhouse

New Absolution Brewhouse


Absolution Brewing Company has done nothing but grow and co-owner Nigel Heath has probably done more single-handedly to help every production brewery in Torrance with his going for the gold at their last CUP hearing. By the time that hearing was over, it became possible for tasting rooms to be open six days a week and for longer hours; with food trucks! In addition, they started brewing in Colorado and they have replaced their old brewhouse in Torrance. I think they plan on having eight 30 bbl fermenters, if they aren’t there already.

Beachwood BBQ & Brewing opened their Beachwood Blendery where they do barrel aging of their Belgian-style lambics and wild ales. Since this is a new operation and these style of beers are on their own time schedule (as evidenced by the last bottle release being short one style because it was not ready) the hours for Beachwood Blendery are not exactly carved in stone. In fact, while I have been able to buy a few bottles of most of the releases, I have yet to have a pour from their taps. 2016 should rectify that.

ESBC tasting room

El Segundo Brewing Company’s New Tasting Room

Back in July, El Segundo Brewing Company finished the remodel on their brewery which included moving the tasting room down and in back by the brewing equipment. Not only did this change the entire vibe of the tasting room, it gave them so much more room. I know there were times that I would see people walk into the old tasting room and walk out because it was so crowded. Now they just jump into the mix, it is a great change for ESBC.

King Harbor Brewing Company definitely spread their wings in 2015 while celebrating their first year of business in April. Since they are the closest brewery to me at a block away, the best thing as a local consumer is that they have expanded their menu to include a few more varieties and a couple months ago they got two 7 bbl fermenters that will allow their brewer, Phil McDaniel to play around more. As of this writing, McDaniel has put out four experimental brews that have all been pretty tasty. In addition to the brewing capacity expansion, King Harbor opened their Waterfront tasting room on the International Boardwalk close to Naja’s Place. It’s a nice location in the summer, I don’t know if today would have been ideal.

Monkish Brewing Company; yes I used a semicolon because I wanted it to sink in. While the external growth may not be readily apparent to the naked eye, Henry Nguyen is just killing it over there lately. While IPA fans may have stayed their distance because of Nguyen’s No IPA policy, they have no reason to do that anymore. Monkish seems to always have at least four genuinely hoppy beers. On the other end of the spectrum is what Nguyen has been doing with his barrel aging program. If sours are the new IPA (they are), Monkish Brewing will be the one to watch.

Phantom Carriage was the first craft brewery around here to add the word “blendery” to our vocabulary. Phantom Carriage officially opened in January of 2015 and pretty much started with a full house and seems to have had one every day since (I have to smile because I have been writing this article over the course of a few days; and I started writing it in my head before that, so I knew I would mention that they are always crowded. The day I started this article I took a break and we went to Phantom for dinner. I was really surprised that the parking lot was virtually empty; I may have to re-write this paragraph. It turns out they closed early that day for an event.). If I had any question whether or not a brewery could survive on just sours and wild ales my question was answered. They started bottling recently, so it will be nothing but up for them, I am sure.

silver medals

Smog City Brewing GABF Silver Medals


Smog City Brewing Company has had a very busy year; a lot of it having to do with their barrel program. They have expanded that program from just bourbon barrel-aging to full-fledged sours. They secured a second warehouse down the street from the main brewery that they keep all their barrels for the aging process; the original location is getting stuffed with equipment and bourbon barrels. In 2015, Smog City Brewing took silver at GABF for their Kumquat Saison. At the end of 2015 Smog City announced that they will be opening a tasting room in Long Beach and they have expanded their hours so that they are open six days a week; taking Mondays off for the time being. They are even open a lot later, so check out their website for hours.

The big news for Strand Brewing Company in 2015 was obviously their move to Dominguez Street. The new location is a massive 35,000 square feet and even though the new brewhouse is bigger and they have more fermenters than the old Telo Ave. location, the remaining space has room for a roller-disco. I have seen groups of a few hundred at Strand Brewing’s new location and it is not close to being crowded. As the bar does not really invite loitering, there are rarely any lines either. I look forward to seeing what the pilot system provides in the near future.

The Brewery at Abigaile obviously had to find a new brewer when their former brewer, Brian Brewer left to work at HopSaint Brewing Company. This was a task that was easier said than done as the brewhouse at Abigaile is not exactly spacious. In fact, they had applicants that had to bow out because they were too big for the brewhouse. Luckily, Brewer helped them out in the beginning and The Brewery at Abigaile found a replacement in Paul Papantonio. I have tried a couple of his brews and his Midnight Mass black IPA tells me we can expect good things from him.

The Dudes’ Brewing Company has also gone through a lot of changes with the primary one being that they have a new brewer. With all the breweries around here, some get visited less by me than others, but the few new brews I have tried since they got their new brewer have been interesting in a “fun” kind of way. There are some additional plans in the works, but they like to keep things close to the vest, so keep your eyes open. Just don’t believe every rumor that comes down; they assure me they have no interest in selling.

Pink Boots Fundraiser

Pink Boots Fundraiser at Three Weavers Brewing

Three Weavers Brewing is another location I do not visit a lot, but I see them a lot at various beer festivals or tap takeovers that they have had. While they definitely started off big when they opened at the end of 2014, they have done nothing but expand their facility and brand since then. They are also taking an active part in their community and have held several fundraisers over the year.

As far as 2015 was for me personally, I finally made it to my first Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival and it was everything it was made up to be. Great beer and fun people; I was surprised that this was only their fourth invitational because it was run like a well oiled machine. As someone who has attended many beer festivals this was the best one I ever attended, and that is not even taking the outstanding selection of brews available. There was only one other event in 2015 that came anywhere close and that was at the 2nd Annual Holiday Bottle Share held at King Harbor Brewing a couple weeks ago. A bottle share that was on the same level as the Firestone Invitational? You betcha’ – go take a look at the bottle list, then consider you only had a crowd of 50 and you will begin to understand. They plan on having another one in the spring, so watch this site for details.

FWIBF

David Walker & Shane Kral at the Firestone Walker Invitational

Another first for me was that I was able to curate the beers for a 40 tap tap takeover at Flights Beer Bar. I happened to meet the owner of the newly opened Flights Beer Bar in Hawthorne and he said he wanted to have “a Craft Beer Guy party.” They have 40 taps and it is all craft so I asked him if I could have control of all 40 taps and designate them solely to South Bay breweries. Even though it meant installing a new cold box to handle all the new beer, I was given the green light. A little over a month later we held the Inaugural South Bay Tap Takeover featuring 40 taps from 10 South Bay craft breweries. Close to 500 people attended throughout the course of the evening, so the owner was quite pleased and has suggested that we make this an annual event. With all the new breweries that have opened since and will open soon, choosing 40 beers is going to be tougher than before; but I am up for it.

As you can see, 2015 was a pretty active year for craft beer and I really just skimmed the surface of the general vicinity. There are places I have wanted to visit for a few years and I still haven’t made it because a dozen new breweries open between here and that brewery. 2016 promises more of the same.

As of January 1, 2016, HopSaint will be open daily at 11:30 AM as they begin serving their lunch menu; they will have their grand opening shortly.

Brouwerij West Blonde

Brouwerij West will open soon.

The next brewery to open will be Brouwerij West in San Pedro. They wanted to open in the spring of 2015, but we all know how that is. They started brewing a couple weeks ago and have three brews kegged, another in the brite tanks and another was being brewed while I was there. They just need to finish up some things with the tasting room, like lighting with motion sensors, so they can get signed off by the building department. It will probably be a couple more weeks before their soft open, but it will be worth the wait. San Pedro will become a destination with San Pedro Brewing Company and Brouwerij West being a little over a mile from each other.

Speaking of San Pedro, Port Town Brewing is closer to opening in San Pedro when the City of Los Angeles allowed a microbrewery to be opened at the planned location at the corner of 7th and Centre Street. They still have a ways to go, so think 2017 maybe.

Next, as far as the South Bay is concerned, I would expect Scholb Premium Ales to be the next to start brewing with Cosmic Brewery sure to be brewing before the end of 2016. El Segundo is getting their second brewery, Ruben’s Distilling & Brewing. Yes, they will be distilling spirits also as the laws are getting ready to change in California. If we spread the area out a little, Firestone Walker’s new Venice location should open in the spring of 2016. It should be a very good year.

In closing, I had a great 2015 and I always enjoy my time with you, especially when you come up and say hello. So, don’t be a stranger and let’s raise a glass to another year of great craft. Cheers!

Buy Craft Beer Guy a Beer
Buy A Beer
Archives