2020 started off mellow enough; little did we know what was in store for us. The highlight of the month, and possibly the year for some, was the Hop Culture Juicy Brews Beach Party Craft Beer Festival held at Brouwerij West. It was a very fun event featuring craft beer from more than 25 of the top breweries in the country.
The month ended with a going away party for Smog City’s taproom manager Jason “Breezy” Briseño as he and his bride prepared to move to Australia; I think COVID put a temporary damper on those plans.
While January’s are typically slow, February started off as if it wanted to take full advantage of all 29 days it had this year.
February started off with Burnin’ Daylight’s 1st anniversary, followed by LA Ale Works 3rd anniversary, and Hermosa Brewing Company’s 2nd anniversary. The month ended with the Boomtown Brewery 5th anniversary, Brouwerij West’s 4th anniversary and the soft open of SoCal Vibes.
You may recall that in my review of 2017 I mentioned that I thought Port Town Brewing might open in 2018. Every year since then my review has suggested that Port Town would likely open the nest year. Well, while the City of LA can slow things down, they are nothing compared to a global pandemic. Progress has been made, but I haven’t visited them since February. I won’t predict anything, but I would sure like to see it open in 2021 for their sake.
February also had some tough, pre-Covid hits with the closure of The Brewery at Abigaile, State Brewing, and the announcement of the imminent closure of Ximix Craft Exploration.
March started off innocent enough. It seemed like one day I was introducing you to ExtraLegal Brewing in Redondo Beach, and photographing birthday parties; within days breweries and brewpubs were limited to takeout and delivery options only. Pretty much everyone that had an anniversary or beer festival scheduled in Southern California cancelled it; however, Absolution Brewing did have a virtual event, which suddenly became the new normal. The only real upside to the local craft beer scene was that just about everyone was figuring out a way to offer deliveries, and canning became the latest trend.April was pretty slow as far as my ability to cover events. However, I was able to capture the delivery of Hermosa Brewing Company’s brewhouse at their new location in El Segundo; one of the few bright sides to 2020, but not the last.
The month of April seemed to consist primarily of our local breweries figuring out what they could and could not do. Lots of breweries started investing in canning lines or weighing the option of utilizing mobile canning units.
At the end of May it was announced that LA County was entering Phase 2 of the reopening of businesses from the lockdown, and two breweries, San Pedro Brewing Company and Scholb Brewing had been chomping at the bit waiting for permission to reopen as they were the first two craft beer establishments to begin in-house consumption of beer and food. The rules were arbitrary and things changed constantly; but you already knew that.brewery dog, Buddy had traveled through 31 states while visiting breweries in 23 of them.
Speaking of travel, this will be my first recap that does not include my discovering any new brewery that wasn’t within five miles of me! No craft beer tour, no beer travel beyond going from my kitchen to the den. It has been over 15 years since I have been this localized; I am not having a good time.
August also saw King Harbor Brewing’s head brewer, Phil McDaniel, depart to open his own brewery; Assistant Brewer John Garcia stepped up to Head Brewer, while John’s brother Erik Garcia returned to King Harbor as Assistant Brewer.
Strand Brewing announced that they would begin distilling spirits, under the name of Co. Spirits (pronounced Koh Spirits); and Hermosa Brewing Company officially opened in El Segundo, sharing a space with R6 Distillery.
September has typically been a pretty active month for me; the annual South Bay Tap Takeover has always been held on the first Thursday of September, followed shortly thereafter by GABF and my annual craft beer tour. Because of the limitations on in-person dining, the tap takeover would be postponed, while GABF and my craft beer tour were both cancelled for the year.
The only positive news that came out of September was that Culture Brewing Company of Solana Beach in San Diego County opened a satellite taproom in Manhattan Beach. This marks the first time Manhattan Beach has had a brewery or brewery taproom since Brewco Manhattan Beach stopped brewing back in 2007 or 2008.Because my tap takeover was being postponed, and I couldn’t travel anywhere, and I generally missed seeing people, Craft Beer Guy Facebook followers were invited to participate in a craft beer exchange. It was so successful that we have held a can exchange every month since, with no intentions of discontinuing.
If you want to participate, you will need to follow the Facebook page for details like date, time, and location. We wear masks, maintain our socially responsible distance from each other, and have a good time. The next one will be towards the end of January.
Since the Great American Beer Festival was cancelled this year, the Brewers Association decided to make the GABF awards ceremony a virtual event.
With the LA Board of Supervisors and the County Health Department desperate to make us think they were doing something to prevent the spread of COVID, curfews, reservations, mandatory food requirements were arbitrarily put in place while our breweries and brewpubs bent over backwards trying unsuccessfully to keep everyone happy.
Eventually, Transplants Brewing decided to leave the LA Brewers Guild and get their own attorney to sue LA County over some of the inane requirements they had imposed on breweries and brewpubs. While the victory was enjoyed for a while, it would only last a month or so due to the State of California implementing new restrictions.
R6 Distillery went ahead and added a kitchen so that when outside dining is restored, they will be prepared. Because Hermosa Brewing Company shares the location, you can also go there for food and beer as well as spirits.
For as slow as most of 2020 was, November was a pretty active month as far as our local craft beer scene was concerned; actually, everything happened in the last week, but it took work to make it happen.
On November 4 I was given the okay to put on the 6th Annual South Bay Tap Takeover at Tortilla Cantina. While I usually have three months to put this together, this year I had three weeks, and even then at the last minute the county implemented a new curfew that would take affect exactly when the tap takeover ended.
Because new restrictions were going to happen, we had to cut back a little. In a nutshell, this meant that instead of 26 South Bay breweries and 50 taps, we did the best we could and still ended up with 19 South Bay breweries on tap, as well as a couple leftover taps from such breweries as Almanac and Beachwood. The South Bay breweries consisted of Brouwerij West, Burnin’ Daylight, Buzzrock Brewing, Common Space, Culture Brewing, El Segundo Brewing, George Lopez Brewing, HopSaint, King Harbor Brewing, LA Ale Works, Project Barley, Scholb, Smog City Brewing, Surfridge Brewing, The Crac, Honest Abe Cidery, Three Weavers, Tortugo, and Upshift Brewing.
November also saw the opening of two new breweries; The Crac Brewery and Grub, and Eureka Brewing, which took over the old Ximix location.
December, other than the can exchange we had the day after Christmas, has been, for lack of a better phrase, locked down. We can buy beer and food to go, but that’s about it.
Before I sat down to write this, I told myself to not bother with any predictions for the upcoming year. Heck, I have been predicting the opening of Port Town Brewing for three years now; maybe I am jinxing things.
The fact of the matter is that optimism hasn’t been my strong suit lately and my BS-Meter has been going off the charts whenever I hear some government official tell us what they are doing for us; so I am not going to make and new predictions. That being said, I wrote my expectations in May; I think I kind of nailed it.
What I will tell you is that your local brewery/brewpub needs your support; so please do what you can. More importantly, stay healthy and I hope to see you around soon. Cheers!
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