The Craft Beer Guy Recap of 2019

As the year comes to an end it is time for me to sit down with a beer and try to figure out what I did that made this year go by so quickly. To be honest, I feel like I have really slowed down on my coverage of the local craft beer scene, but the growth has been so rapid that I cannot keep up. Heck, there were two new breweries getting ready to open in El Segundo that I did not know about until three months before they opened! Oh well, I will continue to do what I can; if I don’t visit a particular brewery as much as I used to it is probably because there are so many breweries around here now. In fact, while my personal craft beer life may have slowed, the growth over the past year is kind of mind blowing. Let’s see what happened in 2019.

tortugo brewing

Tortugo Brewing, Inglewood

January 2019

In my review of 2018 I had mentioned there were two new local breweries that I still had not visited, one of those was Tortugo Brewing. I started off 2019 by remedying that. If you have not been, it is a nice location and they have some good brews; you should check them out.

Mid-January saw El Segundo Brewing Company open The Slice and Pint, a new restaurant featuring craft beer, local wines, pizzas, salads and appetizers.

A few days later, the long awaited soft open of Burnin’ Daylight Brewing happened, and Lomita was on its way to becoming a craft beer destination. The soft open would last about two months, it was worth the wait.

February 2019

Josh McCombs

Meet the Brewer, Josh McCombs

As I look back on February, I cannot help but think, “That sure was a busy month for only having 28 days.”

February jumped off to a quick start with a “Meet the Brewer” event at The Brewery at Abigaile, in Hermosa Beach, where they introduced their new brewer, Josh McCombs. McCombs’ pedigree includes receiving his master brewer certificate from the World Brewing Academy in Munich, Germany, as well as brewing at Devils Backbone Brewing in Virginia, and most recently, was head brewmaster at Westlake Brewing and Libations. In his short time there he has made it obvious that he wants people to remember that Abigaile is a restaurant and brewery.

Since I was in the neighborhood, I walked around the corner to visit the second of the two aforementioned new breweries I missed in 2018, Hermosa Brewing Company. They are a brewpub, and do not brew on premises, but all 12 taps are brewed by them. Located at the corner of 14th Street and Hermosa Avenue it usually has some good people watching to go along with their beer and food.

The next few days included visiting California Sun, a new gastropub in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles. California Sun is part of the Artisanal Brewers Collective, a restaurant group co-founded by Tony Yanow; it was there that I discovered Detroit style pizza and that I really enjoyed it. With 14 tap handles and close to 180 different canned beers, it is good to remember them when in Silver Lake.

A couple of days later I found myself at Humphry Slocombe, an ice cream shop in Venice. Humphry Slocombe was founded in San Francisco, and it was San Francisco Beer Week; in honor of the event, Humphry Slocombe joined forces with a few of its favorite Bay Area breweries to launch a series of one-time-only, beer-infused ice creams. They were great, but that was almost a year ago so let me just say that this was the best ice cream experience I ever had. I had no idea that you might use mushroom caps or foie gras with ice cream, but they are delicious.

The rest of the month consisted pretty much of anniversaries; Hermosa Brewing celebrated one year, LA Ale Works celebrated their second, and State Brewing celebrated the first anniversary of their tasting room. February ended as it began, with another visit to The Brewery at Abigaile for the reincarnation of the Brewtopia beer festival.

Johnny Dice

Hermosa Brewing One Year Anniversary

March 2019

March 2019 was a pretty slow month with the highlights being the first anniversary of Common Space Brewery, and the celebration of Absolution Brewing’s fifth anniversary. Over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, Yorkshire Square held their 2nd Annual N’owt but Stout Festival. The month ended with the long awaited grand opening of Burnin’ Daylight Brewing. The event gave us a glimpse into Burnin’ Daylight’s plans for future events; with their taking full advantage of their large parking lot and the ability to host guest taps. Sadly, after almost three years, Great Society Cider & Mead closed their doors.

April 2019

I started April 2019 with my first visit to the Chino Brew & Chew. The breweries came from the Chino Valley area, which encompassed parts of San Bernardino County, Riverside County and Orange County. It was a fun event and was a good way to check out breweries I had not visited yet. The next Chino Brew and Chew is scheduled for April 5, 2020. I am working on getting a promo code for you.

stereo brewing brewhouse

Stereo Brewing, Placentia

I actually had the opportunity to visit a relatively new brewery that wasn’t in my backyard, that being Stereo Brewing in Placentia. They have been on my radar since 2016, so it was nice to be able to finally visit.

The month wound to an end with Smog City’s sixth anniversary of being in Torrance, and Firestone Walker Brewing Company’s – The Propagator turned three. The Brewery at Abigaile held another Brewtopia; it was a good example of practice makes perfect.

May 2019

May was one of those months that it seemed something was going on every weekend; there was probably a good reason for that. Yorkshire Square had their second anniversary, El Segundo Brewing had their eighth anniversary, and Scholb Premium Ales celebrated their third anniversary.

In addition to those events, I got the opportunity to finally meet the guys from Blackball Brewing, and I went to El Segundo Brewing for a live podcast starring comedian Bert “The Machine” Kreischer and “Chef to the Headliners”, Dave Williamson, founder and creator of The Gundo Comedy Festival.

South Bay craft beer fans had a bittersweet goodbye as Strand Brewing Company’s long time taproom manager, Jonas Neubauer, left Strand Brewing after more than seven years to pursue his career as a professional gamer.

The month continued with the 6th Annual South Bay Beer & Wine Festival, and Abigaile Restaurant and Brewery resurrected their beer dinners with their Brewer’s Beer Dinner, a delicious six course dinner paired with beers brewed by Head Brewer Josh McCombs.

June 2019

June started off with the King Harbor Brewing 5th Anniversary celebration; a five and a half hour long event featuring more than 30 King Harbor brews, live music, food trucks, and fun for all.

LA OG Brewers

LA Beer Week Kickoff Festival

June ended with the 11th Annual L.A. Beer Week, which actually lasted 11 days. It began with the Kickoff Festival, and then continued with various events around town. I attended the pizza and beer pairing at The Slice and Pint, Smog City’s Great Smog Tiki Adventure, and the 2nd Annual Brewmo Pseudo-Sumo Showdown at Three Weavers Brewing.

July 2019

I know I started off by saying that I felt like I have really slowed down on my coverage of the local craft beer scene, the first six months looked pretty busy as I look back on it; but July definitely slowed down.

I returned to Long Beach Beer Lab for the first time since August 2016 when they were beginning construction; things had changed a lot. For one thing, they now had about 15 of their brews and a nice selection of breads that are baked in their kitchen. While I was in the neighborhood, I popped in for a return visit to Ten Mile Brewing because it was close and I have never had a beer from them that I didn’t like.

I ended July with an overnighter to Las Vegas to see Aerosmith. On the way there we stopped by Oggi’s Sports Brewhouse Pizza, in Barstow; then stopped by Claremont Craft Ales on the way home because it was on the way, and they have great beer.

collaboration brew

Better Weather Sweater Collaboration Brew Team

August 2019

August was a good month. It started off with a collaboration I put together with brewers and owners of 21 of the South Bay’s breweries and cideries to brew an anniversary beer to commemorate the 5th Annual South Bay Tap Takeover. The collaboration brew, Better Weather Sweater IPA, was done at Smog City Brewing and had representatives from Absolution Brewing, Burnin’ Daylight, Buzzrock Brewing, George Lopez Brewing, Common Space, El Segundo Brewing, Hermosa Brewing Company, HopSaint, King Harbor Brewing, LA Ale Works, Port Town Brewing, Project Barley, San Pedro Brewing Company, Scholb, State Brewing, The Dudes’, Honest Abe, Southern California Cider, Ximix, and Yorkshire Square. It was a fun morning and the beer was well-received.

The next day, Burnin’ Daylight Brewing held their first annual Small Town Feel Summer Beer Festival. Like their grand opening a few months prior, they took full advantage of their parking lot and ability to pour guest taps by utilizing several pouring stations to provide 20 different brews, including several collaboration brews.

A week later, the City of Lomita became a craft beer destination with the grand opening of Project Barley, a nano-brewery.

The month continued with King Harbor Brewing’s inaugural Wild Beer and Cheese Pairing, which was an eye-opening event for me; and I made a quick visit to San Diego and the Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens at Liberty Station, where the San Diego Brewers Guild presented a VIP preview of the 11th Annual San Diego Beer Week. It was a great networking opportunity.

September 2019

September was another one of those months with seemingly non-stop events from beginning to end.

September began as they have since 2015, with the 5th Annual South Bay Tap Takeover; for the second straight year the event was held at Tortilla Cantina in Torrance. This year’s event featured beer, cider and mead from 26 of the South Bay’s best breweries and cideries, and live music featuring Ashleigh Correa. For the first time, there were two anniversary brews commemorating five years of putting on the South Bay Tap Takeover. You can save the date, the 6th Annual South Bay Tap Takeover will be held Thursday, September 3, 2020 at Tortilla Cantina and will be even bigger next year; there are already four new breweries that were not available for this year.

A few days later I was at the Manhattan Beach Badminton Club Junior Foundation’s 4th Annual Pub at the Club, which was followed a few days later by the CA Craft Beer Summit and the Summit Beer Festival.

Porter Bill Laurie

Smog City West soft open

The two day event was held at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, where the California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA) kicked off the beginning of a three day celebration of California craft beer and the CCBA’s 30 years of protecting and supporting 1000 breweries in the state of California; the Summit Beer Festival was held at Marina Green Park in Long Beach. The event is typically held in Sacramento but they are doing some major renovations at the venue; as a result, the event was moved to Long Beach for two years. Yes, that means it will be held in Long Beach again in 2020. You should plan on going; it really is a great event.

September also saw the official closing of Zymurgy Brew Works, with Smog City taking over the location and creating their second satellite location, Smog City West. The tap list of Smog City West is made up several Smog City core brews and eight of their small batch and experimental brews that are not available anywhere else; primarily saisons, sours, and barrel-aged blends.

As September marched on, so did the events. On one Saturday I attended the 3rd Annual Craft Beer LB Fest, which was held at the Rancho Los Cerritos Historic Site. The event featured craft beer from 16 Long Beach area breweries, food from a few local restaurant pop-ups, live music from Katie Jo & The Mijos, as well as a few games for the competitive people in attendance.

This was followed by Barktoberfest 2019 at Absolution Brewing; with my day ending at Switzer Learning Center, in Torrance, where they held their 6th Annual Boots, Brews & BBQ fundraiser.

The month of September ended with the soft open of El Segundo’s third craft brewery, Upshift Brewing Company. A few weeks later, El Segundo would have their fourth craft brewery.

October 2019

If you think you did not see me much in October, do not feel like the Lone Ranger; I was not here much. On September 30 I left California and began my Craft Beer Tour 2019 on my way to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.

On the road to Denver I made stops in Flagstaff, Arizona, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Colorado Springs, Colorado. After spending a few days in Denver and GABF, I began my return visit to the Pacific Northwest via Wyoming and a few days in Idaho. After leaving Idaho I spent another couple days in Yakima, Washington, and several days in the Portland, Oregon area.

square state brewing

Square State Brewing – Rock Springs, WY

One of the highlights of the trip had to be attending the 2019 Single, Fresh, Wet & Wild Hop Harvest Festival, which was put on by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and the California Craft Brewers Association. I really lucked out in that the Hop Harvest Festival was being held on the day I was returning to California, so it was actually on the way home for me.

In 21 days I had driven 4,000 miles, visited 38 breweries in eight states, attended Great American Beer Festival and the Sierra Nevada Hop Harvest Festival. I probably had a couple beers too.

I was back for a couple days before Smog City West had their ribbon cutting and official grand opening. The next day I headed over to Surfridge Brewing, El Segundo’s fourth craft brewery, which opened while I was on my craft beer tour.

November 2019

As I look back at November it becomes pretty obvious why the month flew by; it was another busy one for the local craft beer scene.

November began with the official grand opening of Upshift Brewing in El Segundo. The following week I attended Yorkshire Square’s second annual Cask’s Not Dead Fest which featured 29 cask ales provided by 27 craft breweries primarily from around the Los Angeles and Orange County area as well as a couple entries from as far away as Chico (Sierra Nevada Brewing) and Redwood City (Freewheel Brewing).

A few days later, Torrance officially had two new craft breweries with the ribbon cutting and grand opening of the Brews Hall. The Brews Hall is different than anything else around here in that it is a combination of two breweries sharing one brewhouse, and a food court made up of four restaurants. The breweries are Buzzrock Brewing Company and George Lopez’s Ta Loco Brewing Company. The four restaurants are Chicken TWILI, Colin Cowherd’s The Herd, Rock’n Fish Restaurant, and George Lopez’s Chingon Kitchen.

In November we also saw the Three Weavers celebrate their fifth anniversary; and Abigaile Restaurant and Brewery held another in their series of beer dinners with a delicious five course meal.

December 2019

I guess I have to blame to cold and rain, but I didn’t do much in December. I attended the Absolution Brewing Company Christmas Party 2019, and I finally made it over to The 4th Horseman in Long Beach for their Christmas Eve party.

crac brewery

Crac Brewery, Carson – Opening in 2020

I am planning on heading over to Yorkshire Square for their British New Year Countdown, but as this is my last article of the decade, I will have to write about that next year.

What to Look For In 2020

In my review of 2017 I predicted that Port Town Brewing would open in 2018. Obviously I was wrong; however, they have made significant progress with their brewhouse and cold box in place and I am confident that they will open in 2020.

Carson will get another craft brewery with The Crac Brewery & Grub; a brewpub that is hoping to be open by St. Patrick’s Day 2020.

On January 25, Brouwerij West and Hop Culture will host the Juicy Brews Beach Party Craft Beer Festival. The event will feature more than 30 craft breweries from around the country, with names that will attract any craft beer aficionado. You can get more details and buy tickets on Eventbrite.

On February 1, Burnin’ Daylight Brewing Company will hold their “Burn One” first anniversary. Stay tuned for ticket information; it should be coming soon.

And finally, rumor has it that I will be putting together the inaugural Craft Beer Guy Invitational. This will be held at Tortilla Cantina and will happen this spring. This will be in addition to the South Bay Tap Takeover and will feature 16 of my personal favorite breweries that can sell beer in California.

Have a safe and sane 2020, and I look forward to seeing you around. Happy New Year and cheers!

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