If you’re used to visiting breweries, Downtown Pomona’s Homage Brewing will be a rare sight to behold. It has attributes uncommon to most start-up breweries I visit. Located on a main street in the historic Arts Colony, I can’t help but notice I’m somewhere walking distance to other local shops and restaurants. The welcoming signage beckons me in, and once inside I notice a decor that’s both modern and minimalist, much like it’s branding. There’s an aesthetic and style here that’s unique in beer culture, maybe more suited to a boutique coffee shop.
I’m greeted by founder and head brewer Matthew Garcia. We’ve never met and he didn’t know I was visiting, so I can attest that with no special treatment at all that Garcia is indeed a welcoming guy that seems to genuinely care about his business, his beer, and his customers. Taking me through the line up we create a tasting flight of eight beers for a true sampling of what Homage has been concocting.
The beer itself was varied enough to showcase some of the great things Garcia and his team are doing – but succinct enough that I could very easily pick up on the theme’s Garcia is after. There’s a direction here with real thought put into it. Garcia is joined by fellow brewer Jeremiah Bignell, (a ten-year home brewer himself) and together they specialize in hoppy, Belgian, and Brett barrel aged beers. Despite its youth, Homage Brewing does a standout job in all three categories. They were out of the fruit beers I’d been hearing so much about, but instead of being disappointed it just made me want to return later to give them a try, too. The tasting room was calm and well decorated, and while relatively small (and happily so it seems) Homage has big ambitions with its beers.
I have to respect a neighborhood spot like Homage, so rooted in it’s community early on that it’s already doing collaborations with one of my favorite beer bars just a block away, The Rookery. So I asked Garcia to spend 5 minutes with me on an interview. Here’s what he had to say:
Nick: Tell me how you got to where we are now?
Matthew: I was in music before, touring with bands. Creatively I’ve always wanted to do something where I could express myself, so that’s where the idea began. I started working at bars once I got back from touring, at Yard House and I was a manager at Congregation Ale House for about four years. During that time I learned about beers constantly, so I gave home brewing a shot and like most brewers a hobby turned into a crazy passion. I thought, why not take some of the things I learned being in a band and apply it to beer? Everything I did, even playing guitar, I just transferred into brewing. Step by step, practicing and getting better, just like you would if you were playing a song. You practice a song and the fifth time you nail it. With beer it’s a little different, I don’t ever feel like I nail it but collectively you do start to see progress and you get better. That’s where it all started.
We wanted to do something that was a storefront; there aren’t too many storefront breweries. You have some popping up in Downtown LA but I hadn’t seen a cool little storefront and that was really the idea. We found that the real estate was relatively low in Pomona and we feel like the culture here is awesome – it’s really a melting pot for all kinds of different creatives, whether you see a photographer walking down the street or bands coming in to play the Fox Theater or the Glass House. It was just the right fit; we knew that this was where we wanted to be.
Nick: Tell me about what Homage is trying to accomplish.
Matthew: Our mission statement is pretty much “Look, smell, taste, evolve.” We base it on the premise of smelling the hops or the yeast, and like most craft beer drinkers they start with certain types of beers and then start to evolve their palate. With us here as well, we want to evolve.
As far as Homage goes, we wanted to do hoppy beers, Belgian style ales, because that’s what we started drinking and we love them to this day, and barrel aged and Brett beers.
We draw inspiration from a ton of breweries, and I’ve always felt that from being in a band, and with anything, that if you take a humble approach to things it always ends up a success. It’s an act of humility with all the pioneers that have been doing this a while. So this brewery is almost an “homage” to every type of artist: a musician, photographer, film maker, brewer, chefs – whatever it may be that’s what Homage represents and stands for. It’s us adding to beer-making, because every style has been done before, but it’s everyone’s approach and signature that makes it unique.
Nick: If you could use this as a way to reach beer fans, what would you tell them to come visit?
Matthew: I wouldn’t put just it on us, Pomona itself is really starting to boom. If you come here on the weekends it has life, it has energy and a heartbeat. We have the Rookery across the street, which puts out one of the best tap lists in LA County, their food is amazing and amazing people work there. You can catch a show at the Glass House or Fox Theater, too. So if that’s not enough to drive people here I don’t know what is.
But then you have a little gem like us, we’re doing Brett beers and hoppy beers and using all the new hops that people love, we’re doing fruit sour beers, and we do small batches. So it’s limited, when you’re here there’s always a new treat for someone to find and something cool to find on tap, but Pomona itself should really be the draw.
Visit HomageBrewing.com for more info. 281 S. Thomas St, #101, Pomona, CA 91766, Open Wed-Fri (3p-11p), Sat (1p-11p), Sun (1p-8p)