November 29 was Small Business Saturday and I suppose if you did not know that, you should not feel like the Lone Ranger. First established in 2010, Small Business Saturday takes place the first Saturday following Thanksgiving and is meant to coincide with Black Friday and Cyber Monday but with the idea that we should “Buy Local” and is targeted towards brick and mortar, mom and pop shops. To be honest, I am not sure that this is being promoted very well. The only advertising I noticed were specials that seemed to require owning and using an American Express card (probably because American Express is such a mom and pop operation); and the City of Torrance declared November 29 through December 6 as Small Business Week. I am not sure that anyone that did not attend last week’s city council meeting would know this though.
Since I like to do my Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve, Small Business Saturday would take a different twist for me. I decided I would spend Saturday visiting small businesses that specialized in craft beer, with an emphasis on Torrance businesses since our mayor did request residents to support Torrance business.
We started off by going to Torrance’s first production brewery, Strand Brewing Company. Strand Brewing opened five years ago and is always a crowd favorite due to a combination of great beer and a very personable Rich Marcello, co-owner and the main sales guy. His enthusiasm for their product is contagious and that has a lot to do with their success. The tasting room is on the small side and can fill up quickly, but everyone just seems to start talking to whomever is close and by the time you leave you have a new friend. Continue reading
These photos are from the 2014 Bourbon County Black Friday release which was held at Bar 225 which is inside Whole Foods Venice. This is the second year that Goose Island’s annual event included the Los Angeles area market, which is most likely a direct result of the 2011 purchase of Goose Island by Anheuser-Busch InBev back in 2011. While the Brewers Association immediately downgraded Goose Island from being considered craft due to this change of ownership, I have yet to meet more than a handful of people that have turned their noses at their Bourbon County Brand Stout (BCBS). In my personal opinion, the merger has not changed much except now BCBS is now available locally.
When I was approached to cover the event, I immediately accepted for several reasons. I guess the most obvious was that I can always use the work, followed closely by the fact that I now knew I would be able to score some of the latest release without having to drive around town trying to find someone that still had it in stock. Apparently no one was supposed to sell it before Black Friday but rumor has it some locations were selling [out of] their stock on the day before Thanksgiving. The third reason was that it seems that over the past year or two I have met several people in the craft beer industry that included Whole Foods Venice on their resume. I have come to realize that not all Whole Foods are created equal so I looked forward to seeing what the Venice location had to offer with their Bar 225.
I had forgotten who it was that told me they had worked at Whole Foods Venice and was pleasantly surprised that one of them was Drew Murphy, the manager of Bar 225, whom I had done some work for back in February. Goose Island Brand Ambassador Raul Moran was there assisting in pouring flights consisting of several high octane brews carrying the Goose Island name for those that were there for more than the purchase of whatever Bourbon County brews they could get their hands on. Continue reading
About two and a half weeks ago I was at the Shelton Brother’s Festival 2014 at the Port of Los Angeles. While I was wandering around trying beers from breweries I had never heard of, my fiancee was bouncing around between a few we were familiar with that had brought bourbon barrel-aged beers (her favorite style) with them. She had a pretty nice selection available to her with Firestone’s Parabola, Beachwood’s Sadie and Faction Brewing’s Nyx-goddess of the Night; heck, The Bruery even brought out some Black Tuesday. She would bring me a sample of each and they were all very good, but I remember when she brought me one in particular from Bottle Logic; it was outstanding. So much so that I went to their booth to find out what it was called; Darkstar November. I told them straight out; “You need to bottle this stuff.” I was happy to hear that this plan was already in motion and I made a mental note to reserve a day towards the end of the month. That day was today.
Bottle Logic Brewing is a production brewery with a tasting room out in Anaheim, which is a little more than 30 miles from us. Since their release did not begin until 4:00 PM and it was the day before Thanksgiving, I knew that the drive could be a bit of a hassle. We have only visited Bottle Logic once before, back in August, and there was a decent but not excessive amount of people there. I was not really sure what kind of crowd they might have there at 4:00 PM on a workday. When we were turning off La Palma onto Armando it became pretty evident that they were having a good showing. To be honest, as we drove around trying to find a parking spot we weighed the option of going elsewhere first, then coming back after the crowd died down. I knew only 3,000 bottles were available and there was a four bottle limit so I did the math and decided we had better stick it out. Continue reading
On Sunday afternoon, Abigaile Restaurant and The Brewery at Abigaile in Hermosa Beach hosted their inaugural Novem-BEER-Fest beer garden, featuring 20 of Los Angeles’ finest craft breweries. While the event was initially scheduled to take over the entire Abigaile complex, it was later decided to keep it confined to the Ocean Bar and its rooftop lounge. It was a great decision as it was a beautiful day to hang out with a couple hundred craft beer drinkers outside a block from the beach and it made it easy to see who was there for the beer.
The breweries in attendance brought out some very interesting brews. Some of my favorites included Alosta Brewing Company’s Saison Bleu, Angel City’s Rum Barrel Aged Mexican Cola Ale, El Segundo Brewing’s Ka-PAU! IPA, Back Home Gingerbread Stout by Golden Road Brewing and Progress Brewing’s Mustang Tripel. I would say my overall favorite was Wicked White IPA by Timeless Pints. Other offerings included Wanderin’ Possessed Pumpkin Porter by Absolution Brewing Company, Citraholic by Beachwood Brewing, Pomegranate Saison by Angel City, Buster’s Brown Ale by Bravery Brewing, Revolution XPA by Eagle Rock Brewing, Potential Blonde by Kinetic, Post-Season DIPA by King Harbor Brewing, Blind Ambition by Ladyface, False Prophet by Monkish Brewing, The King’s Taxes by MacLeod Ale Brewing, Acorn Ambition by Ohana Brewing, Smog City’s Groundwork Coffee Porter, Stand Brewing’s Harvest Ball, Three Weaver’s Knotty DIPA and Golden Eagle Ale by Wolf Creek Brewery.
In addition to the beers, several of the breweries had owners and/or brewers with them to socialize with their fans. Celebrity sightings included Alexandra Nowell of Three Weavers, Brian Avery and Roger Morrissey of Bravery Brewing, Rob Croxall of El Segundo Brewing Company, Steve Farguson of Absolution Brewing, Phil McDaniel and Tom Dunbabin of King Harbor Brewing, Rich Marcello of Strand Brewing and Brian Brewer of The Brewery at Abigaile. Continue reading
On Thursday evening, the South Bay’s Business & Beer networking group returned to Absolution Brewing Company, a relatively new production brewery and tasting room located in Torrance. In the eight months since the first time Business & Beer visited Absolution Brewing there have been several changes with more on the way. Probably the most visible changes were the available brews, including three barrel-aged varieties and a sour; aesthetically, the changes included a lot more seating along with strategically placed tables so visitors have a place to sit their beers while chatting with other visitors. Probably less obvious was the fact that they have a new head brewer, Bart Bullington, as their former head brewer Wes McCann recently moved back east. Bullington took some time to visit with the group, giving some details of his brewing past as well as his plans for the future. Bullington’s brews should be ready for consumption by next week, so it will be interesting to see if there is any detectable difference.
The Business & Beer networking group is open to all and meets on the second Thursday of every month at a different brewery tasting room or brewpub in the South Bay area. There are currently eight locations in the rotation including The Brewery at Abigaile, El Segundo Brewing Company, Strand Brewing Company, Monkish Brewing Company, King Harbor Brewing Company, The Dudes’ Brewing and Smog City Brewing. There are no dues or other requirements to join Business & Beer, just an appreciation of craft beer and a desire to network with others of the same mindset. You can see the schedule of upcoming events on the Business & Beer home page where you can also sign up to get on their mailing list. You can also Like them on Facebook to be kept in the loop. It is a nice group of people and believe it or not, real business does get done. Cheers! Continue reading
On Friday evening I headed over to Absolution Brewing Company, the newest production brewery to open in Torrance, where they were holding a small gathering to welcome their new brew master, Bart Bullington. Bullington, who will begin his brewing tasks on Monday, has quite a few years of brewing history under his belt including stints at a couple Southern California craft breweries including the Laguna Beach Brewing Company back in the mid-90s, as well as a couple others that are no longer around and most recently (going by memory) Solvang Brewing Company.
I was able to talk to him briefly and while he has no intention of changing the recipes of Absolution Brewing’s flagship brews he said that we should probably notice a slight difference as he adds his touch to them.
Absolution’s original head brewer, Wes McCann will be moving back to the Washington, D.C. area as his wife Ann will be decommissioning her Navy ship in San Diego this winter and is transferring to duties at the Pentagon. McCann has already been in talks with a brewery or two back east so I suspect we have not seen the last of him. We wish Wes and Ann the best of luck in their future. Cheers! Continue reading
Regular visitors to Smog City Brewing Company cannot help but notice the large number of aging barrels that have been accumulating in the tasting room and on Saturday afternoon Smog City released the first of their bourbon barrel-aged beers. Goldie, a Belgian Golden Strong Ale, was aged in those bourbon barrels for over five months. Goldie marks the first release of their boutique and limited release barrel series. Like just about everything that has come out of Smog City in the year and a half since they opened their production brewery in Torrance, it was outstanding. For those that enjoy watching the evolution of the beer they drink, Smog City also offered Atomic 82, Batch 1 and 2. Atomic 82, Batch 1 is what Goldie was before she entered the bourbon barrels. Atomic 82, Batch 2 will become next year’s Goldie. It was interesting how different 1 and 2 were from each other. If you have a chance to try them, I would recommend it. Bottles of Goldie are available at the tasting room; I would not expect to see it at any stores as bottling was extremely limited. So limited that the side labels each has the beer name, bottle number, ABV and bottled on date handwritten on them.
In addition to the Goldie release, Smog City used the opportunity to release their fall seasonal, Smoked Smaug Lager and a bunch of beers I had never tried like Gottalottahops and Wet Hop Hoptonic. It was a good beer day at Smog City Brewing Company. Smog City is located at 1901 Del Amo Boulevard in Torrance. Continue reading
The Business & Beer networking group returned to King Harbor Brewing Company on Thursday evening for the first time since their soft open back in February. Back in February the King Harbor brewhouse was not yet powered up and all the available beers had been brewed via their pilot system. Eight months later a fully functional brewhouse provided the brews including The Quest Pale Ale with Mosaic Hops, their California Saison, the Abel Brown American Brown Ale and Swirly, which is essentially Abel Brown with vanilla.
In addition to the functioning brewhouse there have been several aesthetic improvements made with more seating at the bar, more tables and more decorations. King Harbor’s success has also resulted in their having more employees to make the customer experience more enjoyable.
Since it was Thursday that meant that it was also Bring Your Own Beer Mug night which allows customers to bring their favorite beer mug or stein and have it filled at the standard price. Those that brought their own mugs were entered into a contest King Harbor runs on their Instagram account; next week the photos will be posted and whoever gets the most votes will win a free growler and fill courtesy of King Harbor Brewing Company. This is a weekly event, so remember to bring your mugs on any Thursday you visit. Continue reading
A frequent question that is asked with the proliferation of craft breweries in the Los Angeles area is, “Are there too many breweries now”? Well, as a consumer I am not sure that there will ever be too many, even if visiting my favorites is becoming a little more difficult due to the “so many beers, so little time” aspect. One thing that prevents there being “too many” is when breweries start producing beers that are different than what everyone else in the area is doing; MacLeod Ale Brewing Company would be one of those that are doing things a little differently with all their brews being cask-conditioned and serving them at the traditional cellar temperature of 54°.
I had only visited MacLeod once before back in June, but they were not officially open yet and only had one ale on tap. MacLeod Ale Brewing Company was recently named Best Local Brewery by LA Hot List voters which has brought them additional exposure including being noticed by Timeout.com. Last night I saw the MacLeod Ale needed some photos taken for the Time Out article so I decided I would lend a helping hand and use the opportunity to see how much has changed in the last four months.
The most obvious difference was that not only did they have customers in their tasting room; they are now offering six different taps to chose from. Last night they had two versions of their Session Gap ordinary bitter, The Little Spree Yorkshire Pale Ale, The King’s Taxes 60/- and two versions of Jackie Tar Brown Stout. If you have ever visited a pub in London you will definitely recognize the taste and style as being authentic. Continue reading
Sunday was day two of the 6th Annual LA Beer Week and I decided to start the day off by visiting a couple of the Torrance tasting rooms since they were not around last year. The afternoon began at Torrance’s oldest production brewery, Strand Brewing Company. It was not particularly crowded, but they did have a nice group in there; due in part to LA Craft Beer Tours bringing a group in. I had the opportunity to visit with a few people and wish Nikki good luck as she will be leaving us soon to take on a new job with Drake’s Brewing. Congratulations, Nikki. Strand Brewing Company is located at 23520 Telo Avenue in Torrance.
I then headed over to The Dudes’ Brewing Company to see what has been going on there since their grand opening last week. The first thing I noticed was that they now have ample seating for everyone; to celebrate LA Beer Week The Dudes’ held raffles for beer, shirts, hats and other swag over the weekend. In addition to eight or nine beers on tap they also offered one on nitro and one on cask. It looks like The Dudes’ have gotten the hang of the tasting room and they should be quite successful as time goes on. The Dudes’ Brewing Company is located at 1840 W. 208th Street in Torrance.
For my final production brewery stop, I paid a visit to Absolution Brewing Company. It has been a few weeks since I was there and again, one of the first things I noticed was that they rearranged their pews to make it easier for people to sit together and talk while enjoying a guilt free Absolution brew. Judging by all the new kegs that were waiting to be filled it would be safe to presume that their distribution to bars and restaurants must be doing pretty well. Absolution Brewing Company is located at 2878 Columbia Street in Torrance. Continue reading