NGingold_Homage_CBMblog_006

5 Minutes with Homage Brewing’s Matthew Garcia

NGingold_Homage_CBMblog_004

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.

ngingold_homage_cbmblog_001 Read more

NGingold_Vagabond_CBMblog_008

Vagabond Cheese: Pairing Beer and Cheese Across Los Angeles

NGingold_Vagabond_CBMblog_003

It’s 4pm at the Buzz Wine Beer Shop in downtown Los Angeles. Certified Cheese Professional (yes that’s a thing) and owner of Vagabond Cheese Alex Ourieff has literally been cutting the cheese – 30 to 40 times if I’m not mistaken, right in front of me. My nose is on olfactory overload (from the cheese, not Alex), my tongue is coated with a mix of hops and rind, and my stomach is immensely happy yet totally confused by its contents. For the last three hours I’ve been taking bites of cheese and taking sips of beer. Bites of cheese, sips of beer. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

After the marathon I just endured, tasting what seemed like insurmountable number of cheeses to pair with a tasting flight of five dank IPAs, I needed a nap. Ourieff, on the other hand, walked around as gleefully as when he walked in, packing up his arsenal of cheeses into a large cooler with a pep still in his step, happy with the selections we’ve made – another cheese pairing set in the books. And he’s headed to conduct another pairing at a brewery down the road.

Read more

NGingold_DuexAmis_CBMblog_003

Collaborators Lost Abbey and Brasserie Dupont brew “Duex Amis” Yielding Flavorful Friendship

NGingold_DuexAmis_CBMblog_003

Hidden in the midst of Los Angeles Beer Week was a very small but very special event. It featured two brewers (neither from Los Angeles), and highlighted a beer brewed not just outside of LA but outside of the continent. It took place at a newly opened bar I had not yet heard of, tucked into an open-air back room that, according to its owner, had not yet been fully completed. Few of my fellow beer-friends were present, yet in this foreign space with foreign people was something deliciously familiar.

Read more

NGingold_BeerCamp16BLOG_002

Beer Camp Pitches Final Tent in Long Beach to Highlight LA Beer

NGingold_BeerCamp16BLOG_002On Saturday June 25th Long Beach was home to the grand finale of Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Across America. In the shadow of the Queen Mary over 150 breweries came together to celebrate both the local and nation-wide craft beer community in the only way craft beer knows how; with a strong showing of flavorful and diverse brews. The second Beer Camp to materialize after a one-year hiatus, Beer Camp Across America again highlighted various regions throughout the country in both a the six-city festival tour with nearly 700 participating breweries, as well as a commemorative twelve-pack featuring six beers each brewed in a different region.

Los Angeles has played a particularly important role here, which underlines a respect for the city’s fast-growing beer culture as well as a reputation for quality. “We saw a lot was happening in Los Angeles,” says Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman on bringing the festival to LA County. “LA had been a bit of a beer-desert… and now it seems like there’s really a movement here with a lot of great brewers and a beer scene’s really starting to happen.”

NGingold_BeerCamp16BLOG_006

Read more

NGingold_LagunitasAzusaBLOG_002

First Look at Lagunitas Azusa: What We Know So Far

NGingold_LagunitasAzusaBLOG_002On April 19th Lagunitas Brewing Co, the nation’s sixth largest craft brewing company, opened the doors of its new Azusa campus for the first time to neighbors, press, and industry members. Lagunitas welcomed its guests in true Lagunitas fashion, complete with live music, food trucks, and plenty of beer on tap. They even utilized one of their three massive (and empty) warehouses for both a party space and roller derby rink. The event was attended by Southern California beer nerds and local politicians alike, and was a fitting way to build ties to the San Gabriel Valley.

In a press preview prior to the festivities, Communications Director Karen Hamilton provided some details of the location, which I’m happy to share with you now. The gargantuan brewery campus spans three new warehouse structures, and is expected to put out around 1.8 million barrels of beer per year at full capacity. That’s a staggering amount of suds.

NGingold_LagunitasAzusaBLOG_006

Lagunitas Director of Communications Karen Hamilton

Building One will house shipping and receiving as well as cold storage and office space. Building Two will house a keg, bottling, and canning line (that’s right, Lagunitas CANS) and spit out bottles at a mind blowing 750-800 bottles per minute. Building Three is where most of us will be spending our time, as it will be home not only to the future taproom (located on the second floor to give a birds eye view of the facility), restaurant, gift shop, and rooftop beer bar, but also to the brewery’s three-250 barrel brew houses.

Current plans include 90 55-foot-tall fermenters, 12 bright tanks, and three centrifuges as well, making this truly a monster beer-making facility, bigger than Lagunitas’ campuses in either Petaluma or Chicago. And of course, there will be an amphitheater, because according to Hamilton, “where ever you find Lagunitas, you find music.” Just like the MillerCoors plant located within eye’s view, Lagunitas will utilize Azusa water as well as its citizens, creating 200 jobs through initial hires.

The buildings sit empty for now, but it shouldn’t be more than a year before we see an open taproom signaling signs of life, and signs of more beer to come. Here’s some more photos to keep us thirsty in the meantime.

Read more

NGingold_SFBW16_CBMblogOnly_018

48 Hours In San Francisco Beer Week: A Photographic Journal

NGingold_SFBW16_CBMblogOnly_006

We sped North up the 5 Freeway at an average speed of 85mph. Whooshing by Andersons Split Pea Soup, The Harris Ranch, and that god-awful cattle farm situated just close enough to the freeway for a good whiff (you know the one), the car’s engine purred and the trunk clinked with the LA Beer we’d been hauling. We jettisoned past the windmills on 580 and winked at cops as we passed. They understood. We had a goal to reach, you see. That goal was San Francisco Beer Week.

This year’s SFBW was massive, with over 700 events listed on the books. It’s impossible to get to everything, leaving many with a serious case of FOMO regardless of whatever amazing beer you happen to be sipping at the time. Arriving mid-week, Girls Who Like Beer (my business partner and travel companion for this trip) and I had already missed some of the big events, like the Opening Gala on Pier 35. Instead, we tried our best to be strategic with our two-day stint in the city. We focused on hitting smaller events and local breweries.

Faction Brewing

NGingold_SFBW16_CBMblogOnly_001

Arriving into the Bay Area, our first stop was at Faction Brewing in Alameda. I love visiting this brewery; both for the ambiance (it’s located in an old Marine helicopter hangar and the view of the city across the water can’t be beat) the people, and of course the beer. As head-beertender Corey Hennegan told us, “The thing I like about Faction is that it’s all about balance. There’s a lot of thought put into hop profiles and flavor profiles, we make big aggressive beers but a lot of times they don’t drink like it, they’re very smooth and balanced. Very approachable to people.”

NGingold_SFBW16_CBMblogOnly_003 Read more

NGingold_HPB_CBMuseonly_010

Brewer Profile: Meet Bob Kunz of Highland Park Brewing

NGingold_HPB_CBMuseonly_010It’s been said that good things come in small packages. What’s said much less often is that good things come from the small back room right behind the bar. For one that’s not a very catchy saying, and it’s rarely true. It can actually be quite scary back there. Lucky for us, such is the case with Highland Park Brewery, which occupies a grand total of 480 square feet of space in a little room behind a terrific beer bar called The Hermosillo. The two are distinctly separate businesses, yet the symbiosis is unavoidable. The Herm acts as Highland Park’s tasting room, offering fresh IPAs and new saison experiments. In return, the bar is often packed with beer fans and neighborhood locals alike, thanks in part to the shock waves put off by this mighty mouse of a brewery.

Specializing in mixed fermented beers, Highland Park Brewery is without question putting out some of the most inventive beers in Los Angeles, size be damned. Established in 2014, HPB will put out around 700 barrels of beer this year, which makes it both a treat and a rarity to snag sought after bottles like Raised Eyebrows (a mixed fermented sour aged with guava and passion fruit from the parking lot) or Cart Fetish (a sour collaboration with Monkish Brewing). Both are well worth the search. NGingold_HPB_CBMuseonly_020What’s even more of a treat is to enjoy the full spectrum of their beers, (from Noble hop driven IPAs to rich dark beers like their imperial stout with coffee),  fresh from the taps of the Hermosillo, while conversing with the man responsible for these yeast and bacteria driven brews, Bob Kunz. A wacky guy with a lot of heart and a lot of beard, Kunz has accomplished some incredible things with the system he’s been given. He brews these beers in the freakin’ parking lot for god’s sake. Bottles are conditioned 33 to a milk carton stacked in the hallway. But as you’ll read, the pursuit of innovation and quality is always in the forefront of Kunz’s mind, and evident in the beer he produces. This interview is a long one but a good one – so before we begin I want to make an emphatic suggestion to my fellow beer fans out there – go visit the Hermosillo and try these beers. Visit now, and visit often. I just might see you there.

Read more

NGingold_CBMonly_IronTrianglePreview_013

First Impressions: An Ambitious Iron Triangle Brewing Sets Its Own Bar

NGingold_CBMonly_IronTrianglePreview_013

On a rainy evening in early January the highly anticipated Iron Triangle Brewing in the Arts District opened its doors (and its taps) to friends, community members, and beer media for the first time. Like many others, I had been patiently waiting for this opening for some time; both to try brewer Darren Moser’s beer and to see if the buildup that owner Nathan Cole had been asserting was all that it had promised to be. I think it’s fair to say that Cole has been a polarizing figure in the Los Angeles craft beer scene, something he’ll readily admit. An unknown in beer until now, Cole came out swinging by setting his sights high with a business model built on high levels of production and distribution throughout Los Angeles. Iron Triangle is positioning itself to make quite a bit of beer out of the 10,000 square foot facility they occupy, and there are already rumors of future expansions. The four-vessel brewhouse is equipped to handle multiple brews per day, giving the indication that the goal is to hit the ground running, and run fast at that. If things go well for this startup brewery, Los Angeles could be seeing the birth of a Golden Road sized player quite quickly. And that’s worth the intrigue itself. With these thoughts in my head, I entered the results of Cole and Moser’s best efforts to see for myself.

NGingold_CBMonly_IronTrianglePreview_003

Read more

NGingold_ArtsDistrict_CBMBlogONLY_005

Brewer Profile: Meet Devon Randall of Arts District Brewing

NGingold_ArtsDistrict_CBMBlogONLY_005

It’s the holidays, and Arts District Brewing in (you guessed it) the Los Angeles Arts District has finally opened its doors bearing gifts for us all. With former Pizza Port brewer Devon Randall taking charge, LA adds yet another well respected brewer to its roster. Randall is just the second female head brewer to grace the LA beer stage (Alex Nowell of Three Weavers being the first) but as is the case with beer, who we are takes a distant back seat to what’s in the glass. In the case of Randall, the quality of the brewer as well as the beer she’s producing is already top-notch.

2015 has been a great year for the advancement of beer in Los Angeles, with plenty of new breweries opening their doors for us to explore. The Arts District is putting itself on the map in many ways, but for me its transformation into a community of beer purveyors and roaming beer fans is definitely what has caught my eye (for a wider picture of the Arts District, check out my previous writings on it).

Arts District Brewing is the latest installment from the 213 Nightlife Group (responsible for such great LA bars as Seven Grand, Las Perlas, Casey’s Irish Pub, and plenty others) and Blue Palms Brewhouse owner Brian Lenzo. They’ve created a well-designed multi-use space packed with offerings for beer nerds and tag-along friends of beer nerds, too. The beers themselves are clean and inviting; best enjoyed among the backdrop of this large brewpub space that provides a little something for everyone. I picture my future spent playing free skeeball with a Traction IPA in one hand and rotisserie chicken gracing my table; compliments of chef Neal Fraser from Red Bird. Did I mention there’s a full bar as well?

I had the opportunity to speak with Randall, the results of which lie ahead. Enjoy and happy holidays! There’s plenty more to explore in 2016.

NGingold_ArtsDistrict_CBMBlogONLY_015 Read more

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 9.58.06 AM

Hops Story Now Available in Book Format

I’ve gotten a couple suggestions to turn my last story, In Search of America’s Best Hops, into book form. I’ve used online publisher Blurb to do just that… so now you can order a beautiful 7×7 hardcover book featuring the whole story and photographs. It looks great online of course, but there’s something special about holding something tangible in your hands. Thanks to everyone for the support! Cheers.