Firestone Walker Brewing Company’s long-rumored plans to open a brewery outpost in Los Angeles have been confirmed. The Paso Robles-based craft brewery recently announced that they’ve acquired a space in the Venice/Marina Del Rey area where they’ll not only be pouring their beers, but also serving up food. Growler fills too? “Very definitely,” declares co-proprietor David Walker. He also confirmed via email that there are hopes of installing a “very small pilot system to brew a series of Venice/experimental beers”.
The new location will occupy 3205 and 3223 West Washington Blvd., just west of Lincoln Blvd., utilizing two separate buildings that previously housed a Sizzler and medical offices. As for when the new venture is expected to open, Walker offers, “We are in the ‘lap of the gods’ on this one, but our sincere hope is the second half of 2014.”
The brewery proper began operations in 1996, and their Los Angeles project has been in the making for some time. “We’ve been talking about [coming to LA] for at least 10 years, but haven’t been able to seriously consider it until the last two years,” Walker reports. And he’s no outsider phoning it in; in addition to living in Santa Monica back in the early ‘90s, he has remained a familiar face at many local craft beer events, as has brewmaster Matthew Brynildson.
Since its inception, Firestone Walker has garnered a great deal of respect and popularity in the Southern California market, as well as internationally. They’ve been named “Champion Mid-Size Brewing Company”—a prestigious top honor—at the World Beer Cup an unprecedented four consecutive times. Brewing an estimated 110,000 barrels of beer in 2012, they’ve grown to become the 20th largest craft brewery in the US by sales volume, and they’re projecting 150,000 barrels for 2013, a 36% increase over last year.
Walker fully admits that they are very early in the planning stages for Venice, and it’s not clear yet how they’ll be handling food quite yet. They will draw some inspiration from their two existing taprooms, one adjacent to the brewery in Paso (close to a four-hour drive from Venice on a good traffic day) and another in Buellton (two hours and change), but they’re also looking to incorporate some local flair. “Over time, we have created food we love—and think others love, too—that pairs well with beer,” says Walker of his current taprooms. “This will be a starting point [for food at the Venice location], but much will be decided as we dig into the neighborhood and discover what the locals are looking for.”
He describes the number of jobs that will be created in Venice and the size of their financial investment as “significant”; obtaining the two new buildings already reflects a buy-in of approximately $7.5 million. He continues, “I’m neither economist nor politician, but we hope to have a marketing crew, some educational staff, and a full taproom contingent pouring beer, serving food, and making folks happy.”
All told, he and the company are excited to become a bigger presence in the burgeoning Los Angeles craft beer scene, closing our interview with this last note: “Although many of us have been living craft beer in LA for decades, I think LA is just beginning to officially romance craft beer… and like all its romances, it will be steamy. I think the party is in full swing and we are pleased to be part of it.”
“What can I get you young man?” beckons a voice from behind the bar. Searching for a tap board and giving up, I scan the tap handles. “Can I get a Sierra Nevada “oh-vulla”? “Oh, you mean the “oh-Veela?” “Yeah, that’s the one…is that the Saison with mandarin and peppercorn?” “Yep.” He slides a snifter over with one finger, head creeping to the top, “enjoy my friend.” I sip and gleam about, taking in the afternoon, pretending to check my phone while listening to nearby conversations and jokes, trying my hardest not to laugh.
Hollingshead’s Deli reminds me of a sitcom in the 80’s filmed live in front of a studio audience. One foot through the door and the stage is set to a small family deli circa 1965 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Cheese heads, beer signs and Favre newspaper clippings flutter about as the door jangles open. The deli counter in back assembles sandwiches and salads like mom used to make. The green and gold themed bar back is filled with personalized dimpled pint glasses; a true mark of a place that regulars love.
Biting into a violet colored pickled egg, I ask Kenny — the second generation owner — about the business’ 50th anniversary party this Saturday. Wait, 50th? Did they really open in 1963?
“Yep, it’s going to be real special. Breweries are bringing something unique for the occasion.” “When did you get into the beer biz?” I ask. “In the late 80’s when Mr. Straub (of Straub Distributing) told my dad (Ken Sr.) beer is going to be the next big thing in beverages. He sold us twelve cases of imports and said, “I’ll be back in two weeks and whatever doesn’t sell, I’ll pay you cash.” We sold out of everything and never looked back. It’s been a fun ride! All the local places coming onto the scene making exceptional beer has made it even better.”
In the mid-90’s Hollingshead’s was one of the first customers of Vinnie Cilurzo of then Blind Pig Brewing in Temecula. Although Vinnie has moved on to much bigger things, Russian River is still one of Hollingshead’s main draws. Pliny the Younger release day has a line around the corner, and many of RR’s beers can be found on tap regularly. “Natalie Cilurzo was just here last week to pay us a visit and to wish us a happy anniversary,” adds Kenny.
Their 50th Anniversary is being celebrated on August 24th from noon to 5 p.m. With only 200 tickets available at $50 a pop, I’m sure it will sell out. They’ll be doing appetizers, ribs, cake and of course unlimited special beer donated from various breweries. “We even got to blend a special Stone Brewing Mixtape for the party, it tastes incredible,” notes Kenny.
With over 500 bottles of import and craft beer plus 22 taps, Hollingshead’s Deli is where it all started in Orange County. With their old school vibe and dedication to customer service and selection, I’m sure they’ll be around for another fifty! Cheers!
Contact Hollingshead’s Deli at 714-978-9467 for tickets, sandwich/catering orders, or just to say hi.
Bonus quote: “When your article is up, make sure and fax it to me” – Kenny Hollingshead. I plan on doing so – fax # 714-978-9594
Surf ‘n’ Suds Beer Festival debuted as Carpinteria’s first craft beer festival of its kind to a euphoric, sweaty crowd. Sponsored by DEEP Surf Magazine, the sold-out event pulled craft beer lovers from Santa Barbara to San Diego. For many festival goers it was an opportunity to talk to brewers and sales reps, putting a face to the beer they are so accustomed to ordering. For industry attendees, it was a homecoming.
Amtrak was the transportation mode of choice, with the train spitting you out a few short blocks from the festival and selling Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale for all those aboard looking to pre-game. Train, taxis, and designated drivers delivered their passengers to a sunny Saturday in August. The festival on Linden Field at Carpinteria State Beach beheld sweeping views of the Santa Ynez Mountains to the north while the Pacific Ocean enveloped sites to the south, reminding attendees of the festival’s union of great beer and great surfing access.
Carpinteria is a small coastal community in the southeast corner of Santa Barbara County. Predictably, many of its inhabitants are beach folk who enjoy top surf spots dotting the county coastline, a short drive away. As San Diego residents are well aware, the craft beer industry has found a reliable bedfellow in the surf industry and the two are becoming more codependent in Southern California. This festival masterfully united the Michael Jacksons of the world with the Johnny Utahs (or the Bodhis, if you prefer).
When I questioned those behind the jockey boxes as to why they would make the long drive for many to a relatively small and unestablished festival, the answer, more often than not, was that is was simply about “coming home.” Such was the case for Josh Landan, President of Saint Archer Brewing Co. in San Diego, who grew up in neighboring Ventura. Likewise Evan Weinberg, owner and brewer of Cismontane in Rancho Santa Margarita, saw it as a social occasion to visit and stay with friends from UCSB.
There were plenty of quality flagship beers poured — Anderson Valley’s Boont Amber, Figueroa Mountain’s Hoppy Poppy IPA, Firestone Walker’s DBA, and Green Flash’s West Coast IPA. But heads turned toward the unusual — French Sip from Angel City (beef bouillon just doesn’t belong in beer), Anderson Valley’s beautifully drinkable Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout, and Cismontane’s La Crema. Island Brewing brought their game with double the usual selection of taps — granted, the brewery was visible from the festival grounds so they only had to tote kegs downhill 100 yards or so.
Festivals of this size — with nearly 1,500 attendees — serve a unique purpose offering generally underserved beer communities the chance to commingle, network, and learn more about the beer they’re drinking. In Carpinteria, according to one resident, “Island Brewing Company is pretty much the only place to find craft beer.” You could feel enough momentum and interest from the crowd to pressure local retailers into seizing the opportunity to carry the best beer accessible to them.
View all the pictures from Saturday’s event over on our Facebook page.
About The Full Pint:
Located in Southern California, The Full Pint is able to taste and enjoy some of the most unique brews on the planet. Our quest to bring you the best of beer is not limited to California, but wherever there is beer to drink. Read on about how we got started, as well as an introduction to the members of the team.
Founders Jon and Dan are guys who enjoy beer, and don’t like to go to work everyday for the man. Both working in the IT field, Dan and Jon had this nightmare of answering questions, and fixing broken computers for the rest of their lives, so thinking up a way out of the rat race was a constant conversation. We decided to take our love of good beer, and put it online for people to enjoy with the goal of having content so good, advertisers would be enticed to share some space with us. In executing this plan, we found out we were here to serve a new set of customers, ones not asking computer questions, but ones who make CRAFT BEER.
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The Full Pint Team
This site wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and inspiration from these passionate craft beer lovers, who give their unique perspective. Click on their names to go to their archive of work.
Dan aka Danny Fullpint – Co-Founder/Chief Beer Drinker Dan is a student of the craft beer game. Dan provides tasting notes, a semi-regularly updated opinion blog and first hand craft beer industry news. Blood brothers with Jonny.
Jon aka Jonny Fullpint – Co-Founder/Chief Beer Drinker Jon is the smoother side of The Full Pint. If you think this site looks good, thats because of Jonny’s eye for style, photography and the magic touch of web development. While not a hop head like Dan, you could warm up to him quickly by getting him a glass of Speedway Stout or Old Numbskull.
Arne Frantzell – The guy who makes those Tomme cartoons. Arne Frantzell was publishing his craft beer lampooning Trouble Brewing series over at The Hop Press. I asked him if he’d be interested in working with us partially, and from there we decided The Full Pint is a place Trouble Brewing can call home.
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I’m not the biggest fan of hop puns. The incredible proliferation of hoppy beer-producing small breweries over the past several years has led to a flood of me-too beer names all clamoring to incorporate “hops” in some awkward fashion. So imagine the horror I felt when attending a symposium where Tim Kostelecky of Barth-Haas, one of the world’s largest hop suppliers, switched to a powerpoint slide listing just about every hop pun name in use. Kostelecky was delivering a presentation on hop varieties to a group of brewers who had converged on Paso Robles this past June. Brewers from as far away as Minnesota (Surly), Indiana (Three Floyds), Michigan (Bell’s), and even Europe (Birificio Italiano, Brasserie de la Senne) were in attendance, along with a collection of Californian brewers. We were eager to learn about new varieties, techniques, and scientific research, as well as discuss our own experiences. Yet as much as I wanted to roll my eyes at the puns, Kostelecky’s infectious enthusiasm for all things hop-related gave him a pass.
Barth-Haas works with growers all over the world to process and deliver hops to brewers large and small, and they also develop new varieties. Technical Manager Georg Drexler flew in from Germany for the symposium, and kicked things off with a presentation and discussion of brewing techniques for emphasizing hop flavor and aroma. Whirlpool and dry hopping have been widely practiced in the American brewing industry for years now, though these techniques have been less widely adopted in Europe, and Germany especially. Up until very recently it was believed that the German Reinheistgebot, also called the “Beer Purity Law,” forbid adding hops after the end of the wort boil, but a recent reinterpetation of the law now allows dry hopping with whole hop products, though not with hop extracts, which can still only be added to boiling wort.
When wort – the malt-sugar solution that is fermented to make beer – is boiled, brewers typically add hops at least two times: once at the beginning of the boil (usually 60-90 minutes in duration) to attain a high amount of isomerization of alpha acids, which adds bitterness to beer, and again near the end of the boil time to provide more essential oil retention, which provides the characteristic flavor and aroma of hops. By the end of theboil, most of the essential oil from the bittering hop addition has been boiled off, and you are left with mostly just the bitterness from the iso-alpha acids in the hops, which have been made soluble by the heat of the boil.
When the wort boil ends, brewers typically whirlpool the wort, either by pumping the wort tangentially back into the kettle, or pumping it into a special whirlpool vessel. The centrifugal forces in the whirlpool cause the solid matter to form a cone in the center, allowing the liquid to be pumped off the side of the vessel. This post-boil step has become a popular time to add more hops in the search for bigger and better hop aroma, as the lack of boiling action allows more essential oil to remain. The wort is usually only a couple of degrees below boiling at this point, and you still lose some lighter oils to vaporization, especially myrcene, which is a big part of the aroma of many IPAs. At the symposium, Drexler went over new research that suggests lower whirlpool temperatures increase oil retention and overall hop aroma. Some brewers, especially homebrewers, are trying this by lowering the temperature to about 170-180 degrees and then adding their hops before resting for about 20-30 minutes and cooling to yeast-pitching temperature. This reduced temperature can be accomplished by either recirculating some of the wort through the heat exchanger and back into the kettle/whirlpool, running and immersion chiller for a short amount of time, or brewing to a slightly higher gravity and blending in some cold water at the end of the boil.
While dry hopping remains the most effective way to get a big hop aroma in a beer, Drexler stressed that hop-focused beers lack complexity when not also given a generous dose of late-boil or whirlpool hops. Hop varieties will always lend a different aroma when added to hot wort than to fermented beer, even with intensity controlled for. The biological interactions of fermenting yeast have the capability to change aromatic compounds from hops, creating wholly different aromas than were present in the wort before fermentation. Some of these compounds, like glycosides, are combinations of hop and malt compounds that are bonded during wort boiling and then cleaved into new compounds by the yeast during fermentation.
At the Bräu Beviale industry convention in Germany in 2011, Barth-Haas conducted taste tests with several single-hop beers, including dry hopped and non-dry hopped versions with German Tradition, American Citra, and New Zealand Nelson Sauvin. Theresults showed marked differences in aromatic impression between the two versions of each variety. The dry hopped Citra beer was the most preferred, while the non-dry hopped Citra beer was fourth, behind the non-dry hopped Tradition beer in second and dry hopped Tradition beer in third. These results can be interpreted in different ways, but they seem to confirm that the big oil profiles being developed in American hops are best expressed through dry hopping, while the noble and noble-derivative hops of Germany best show their classic hop aroma when added to the boil. Poor Nelson Sauvin was relegated to last and second to last place with the dry hopped and non-dry hopped versions, respectively. I suspect that many brewers are still not on board with thepowerful tropical, grassy, and white wine aromas it lends to beer.
While brewers typically dry hop their beers for periods of several days to a couple of weeks, new research suggests that the main hop oils reach their peak concentration in beer in a much shorter amount of time. A 2011 study by Peter Wolfe at Oregon State University tested extraction rates for various hop oils using both whole-cone and pelletized Cascades from that year’s harvest. While pellets generally led to better extraction, peak concentration of most oils was reached in under six hours, suggesting that much shorter dry hop times are possible. The tests were done at 23 degrees Celsius, which is warmer than what most brewers dry hop at, but Wolfe concluded that even at cold temperatures, extraction doesn’t take more than a day.
New hop varieties were a big topic at the symposium, with some of the most exciting new ones surprisingly coming from Germany. The Hüll hop research center has released four new varieties in the last couple of years, all targeted at the bigger, fruitier aromas ofthe newer hops from the US, Australia, and New Zealand. Polaris is a high alpha hop with the highest levels yet of any variety (19-23%), and a correspondingly high oil content. Its aroma is described as floral and minty, with “ice candy” being a popular descriptor. Mandarina Bavaria is a mid-alpha hop (7-10%) with a very fruity aroma of tangerine, pear, orange, and lime. The Barth-Haas guys were very excited about this one and see it as a German answer to American hops like Citra and Amarillo. Hallertau Blanc is another mid-alpha (9-12%) hop that is similar to the popular Nelson Sauvin from New Zealand, with an aroma of tropical fruit, grass, white wine, gooseberry, and grapefruit. Hüll Melon rounds out the new group of German hops, with a lower alpha content of 6.9-7.5%, but a very fruity aroma with a distinct honeydew melon quality.
While Germany is making waves with its new releases, mostly due to how different they are compared to older varieties from the country, New American variety Mosaic was released in larger quantities this past harvest after some limited availability as HBC 369 previously. Mosaic is a high alpha variety (11-13.5%) that is a cross between Simcoe and a Nugget-derived male plant. Its aroma is floral and fruity with the character of tropical fruit, berry, citrus, and pine. Lots of American brewers are experimenting with Mosaic right now so it should be relatively easy to find an IPA or pale ale with it.
Sam Tierney is a brewer with Firestone Walker Brewing Co. in Paso Robles, CA.