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