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_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

CBM_NGingold_PipeDreams_016

Home Brewing Professionally: Big Ambitions for Pipe Dream Brewery

CBM_NGingold_PipeDreams_016

I’ve never interviewed home brewers before. And who could blame me? This blog is called California BrewMasters after all… which isn’t to disrespect the age old tradition of brewing in a private residence. Maybe I just hadn’t met the right home brewers yet? I personally do not home brew; reason being I find it much, MUCH easier to cozy up to a bar and sip on the labors of others than stumble through all that hard work myself. Take my $7 and hand me a pint, damn it. Call me lazy (I certainly do), but there’s just no way in hell I’m capable of a Ballast Point Victory at Sea Imperial Stout or a Russian River Blind Pig IPA. I certainly can’t get the hop contracts.

Brian Holter, Kingsley Toby, and more recent team addition Kevin Segna are thankfully not at all like me, at least in that respect. Collectively, they make up Pipe Dream Brewery, and Brian and Kingsley have been brewing together for almost a decade. They’ve taken it to the next level with professional-quality beers and aspirations to get out of the garage (impressive in its own right) and into their own brewery. These guys are even on Untappd for Pete sake!

I first tried their beers in a hotel room late at night (the inspiration for too many blog posts these days) with Brian, Kingsley, and a bunch of beer bloggers. Mid-bottle share they whipped out some stunningly beautiful 350ml bottles and poured abso-friggen-lutely stunning fruit sours. My taste buds were wowed, and after careful inspection of the minimalist white label with a hardened smear of oil paint, the color signifying the variety (I believe I tried a deep red for raspberry and a purple boysenberry), I remarked, “Wow, you must really like these Pipe Dream guys.” Looking at each other, then back at me, they chuckled and revealed their true identities. I’m all the better for it.

Read more

NGingold_KHBCweb_001

Brewer Profile: Meet Phil McDaniel of King Harbor Brewing in Redondo Beach

NGingold_KHBCweb_001I was, admittedly, a little buzzed. Sitting at the Adelaide Inn in Paso Robles post FWIBF, I dug out a dark brown bomber with a baby blue bottle cap from a watered down cooler. It was The Swirly; a coffee brown with cocao nibs, vanilla beans, and lactose. Among friends, I remarked that I kept hearing about these guys over King Harbor, but I had never tried them before. “What’s their deal?” I asked my fellow beer blogger friends, my leg slung over the arm of my chair, as it’s prone to do in such a state.

“Oh, they’re good,” said my friend, leaving it at that and popping off the blue cap. Pouring a beer of this nature (it has a friggin ice cream cone on the front), I was prepared for a sugar bomb… or at the least an intimidatingly harsh amount of vanilla. Pretending to be more analytical than my senses allowed, I took a sniff (as is customary) and breathed in a surprisingly nice aroma. Continuing with my ritual, the first sip hit my lips and I was introduced to a beer that was, oddly enough, as it should be. Not too sweet, hitting the right notes to capture a chocolate and vanilla soft serve ice cream, this beer was actually pretty damn good. I made a mental note to investigate further.

Fast forward to mid-June and I pull up to a parking lot off the freeway in Redondo Beach. “Things are a little crazy around here today,” says Will, one of the King Harbor owners, as a I approached the door. “We just got the go-ahead from the ABC for our new tasting room, literally an hour ago, so we’re rushing around to be open tomorrow!” While this was awesome news for them, I wondered, given the timing, if my brewer would show for this interview. “Don’t worry, Phil’s on his way,” said Will. And he was, the results of which make for this blog post.

Read more

NGingold_SanctumBrewing_010_web

Inside Sanctum Brewing Co: Meet Scott Lucas and Jason Stevens

*A version of this article will appear in the June issue of Beer Paper LA.

NGingold_SanctumBrewing_004_web

Jason Stevens (left) and Scott Lucas, the owners and brewers of Sanctum Brewing in Pomona.

 

I first met the gentlemen of Sanctum Brewing, Jason Stevens and Scott Lucas, at the Great American Beer Festival this last year. We played shuffleboard together at a bar around midnight. Earlier that day I had photographed some competitive beer judging, where old men huddled around tables used their collective senses to sniff out hundreds of Belgian Tripels. They made sure, first and foremost, that each beer had the taste, smell, and appearance of exactly the style it claimed to be. Without passing this initial test, a beer is hardly given a second glance. While rigidity is a necessary evil for competitive fairness, the experience made me realize the important role that innovation has at the table as well.

This brings us back to Jason and Scott, two self described “regular dudes” that couldn’t care less about the rigidity of beer styles. And thank God for that. Sanctum Brewing, nestled in the corner space of the Pomona Packing Plant (about 6 miles east of Cal Poly Pomona), is rooted in inventiveness. But Sanctum’s envelope pushing, through the use of creative ingredients, doesn’t seem to come from an aggressive place; they aren’t testing boundaries for the sake of it. Instead, when you talk to these jovial, laid back guys, you get the feeling that they’re almost unaware of the role they’ve cast themselves as. They’re brewing what they want, and that’s pretty much the long and short of it.

Read more

CBM_Greenbar_Web_011

A Truly Organic LA Growth: Distiller Profile with Greenbar’s Melkon Khosrovian

CBM_Greenbar_Web_011

Today we take a break from craft beer to focus on something equally important: craft spirits. I confess that I am just as much a fan of a fancy $15 cocktail as I am any craft beer. Put a Negroni or Old Fashion in my hand and the look on my face will probably reside somewhere between satisfied and elated. Find me three to four hours later in the same room, and that look will have changed only slightly; to satisfied and sleepy.

My love of cocktails aside, we take a break from beer today because there are equally intriguing characters harnessing the same can-do mindset that we’ve come to observe so often in beer; and I for one believe that spirit-makers deserve equal representation. For that reason I’d like to introduce you to Melkon Khosrovian, founder of LA’s Greenbar Craft Distillery.

Read more

CBM_TomTait_Web_001

Being Beer Friendly: An Interview with Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait

CBM_TomTait_Web_001

I’ve interviewed plenty of brewers since starting California BrewMasters. If you haven’t noticed by now, it’s kind of my thing. I’ve spoken to brewers in depth about primary and secondary fermentation methods, and listened closely as they pontificated the philosophies of good recipe formulation. For me this information is thought provoking, but as someone that has never brewed, either at home or on a commercial level, these pieces of brewing knowledge are not why I got into craft beer journalism.

I got into beer because of the community that was every bit as intriguing as the beer itself. The nuances of my favorite farmhouse saison are every bit as interesting to me as following the rise of a new brewery in an untapped neighborhood. And just as beer doesn’t make itself, a beer community is only as strong as those that foster and create it. As journalists and fans our appreciation most likely begins after the doors have opened, but we should take into consideration the incredible determination by each brewery to pry the doors open in the first place. It takes months and years, and the process is oftentimes fraught with red tape due to a lack of information or misinformation by the city and county it hopes to call home.

Read more

NGingold_Terreux_web_001

Inside Bruery Terreux: Meet Jeremy Grinkey

NGingold_Terreux_web_001

I have a storied history with The Bruery. In many ways I owe my inroads to the craft beer industry to their generosity, as well as their beer. It was Oude Tart that gave me my “a-ha!” moment while attending the first Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival. As I’ve written before, it sent a mushroom cloud through my brain (I must have gotten in line at least three more times for that beer, trying to define what hit my taste buds). It was Tyler King, former head of brewing operations for The Bruery, that granted me my first interview for the California BrewMasters book. Lastly, it was thanks in part to a sizable donation by The Bruery to my Kickstarter campaign that California BrewMasters was published in the first place.

I tell you all this for a couple reasons. Might I have an inherent bias? Quite Possibly. But the point I’d also like to make is that as an Orange County native, The Bruery always stood out as a beacon of what was possible in craft beer. In those beginning years, a focus on sours and the use of 750ml wine bottles seemed niche and innovative. And it was. Today, just a mere three years since my first interview in Placentia, sour beers like Oude Tart are booming in popularity. Anaheim and the surrounding area has made itself a beer city well worth talking about. How quickly the tide of craft beer rushed through our lives, changing not only the way we drink but also shaping our thought process as educated consumers. While I don’t think The Bruery can take all the credit, I have no problem calling them pioneers. That’s why, when I heard they were starting Bruery Terreux, a new brand that will, in their own words, “focus solely on farmhouse-style ales fermented with wild yeasts as well as oak-aged sour ales,” I had to stop by and see what all the fuss was about.

Read more

NGingold_PhantomCarriage_004

Spooky Meets Funky at Phantom Carriage in Carson

Meet the Boys Behind LA’s Phantom Carriage

NGingold_PhantomCarriage_004from left, Head Brewer Simon Ford, Founder Martin Svab, and Assistant Brewer Brendan Lake

Phantom Carriage was a little hard to find initially, but the good stuff usually is. Tucked into an industrial space in the city of Carson, I found my destination and parked my car at a spot drenched in sunlight. Tinted shades still on, I walked through the entrance, doing away with the expected brightness of a Southern California day and stepping into what can only be described as utter darkness.

It took me a minute to set my course. Adjusting my eyes to the dimness, shapes began to converge creating my first impressions of a brewery that, while only a few months old, I’m sure to experience again and again. For a brewery that doesn’t have its grand opening until this coming Saturday, Phantom Carriage was raucous in the best way. A brisket sandwich and homemade pickles (fermented with lacto, of course) scooted past me and caught my attention. The place was packed. I made my way past the horror-film screening room, and up to the bar. Towards the back of the tasting room, two walls stacked with barrels four rows high took my attention away from the tap list.

I was greeted by head of brewing operations Simon Ford and was immediately handed a Muis, a 100% brett fermented wild Belgian-blonde ale. It was crisp and light despite a full flavor and a wildness that I hadn’t expected. It was the first beer they put out, thanks to a past collaboration with Monkish, and it was a great introduction to their line up. In the back I met founder / general manager Martin Svab and assistant brewer Brendan Lake. Martin, as you’ll read, has been in the craft beer industry in some capacity for the last decade, and after three years finally gets to witness the fruits of his labor with the upcoming grand opening.

Read more