Posts by Randy Clemens

Into the Cellar: Tony Yanow

Feb 17

As the owner of Tony’s Darts Away in Burbank, Mohawk Bend in Echo Park, and co-owner of Golden Road Brewing in Atwater Village, there’s no doubt Tony Yanow has been instrumental in the monumental growth of the Los Angeles craft beer scene. And while he can often be found having a pint at his own watering holes—“especially Tony’s Darts Away”—we wanted to find out what the man drinks when he’s at home… and more specifically, we wanted to see his secret stash.

DSC_0148I ventured down the stairs of his handsome Hollywood Hills home to check out his cellar along with West Coaster co-founders Ryan Lamb and Mike Shess. After getting down into the garage, we were greeted by a nicely filled Sub-Zero refrigerator stacked with beers that Tony was planning on having sooner than later. “This is where I keep stuff that I go through a lot of,” he explains. “I can drink IPAs all day,” he confesses while pointing to a row of Golden Road’s Point The Way IPA, “and I go through literally a case a week.” Fondness for hops aside, he’s quick to note that he’s been drinking more and more saisons lately and “a ton of Orval”. Besides stocking plenty of his go-to beers, he also likes having any style of beer chilled and at the ready as well. “You name a style of beer,” he jokingly challenges. “I’ve got gose in here; I don’t even like gose!”

It’s then that he turns around and points to several tall, narrow cupboards jutting out from the cold concrete, each one filled with boozy treasure. Glancing deep into the cupboards, you quickly discover that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg; behind these bottles is a larger storage area full of cardboard boxes… full of beer. “It stays a pretty constant temperature because it’s built right up against rock,” Tony notes. “Directly behind the cellar is pure mountain, so the cellar usually stays between 58-65°F, but it never goes above 68°F.”

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Tony jumps into the cellar to show us some barrel-aged Hudson Porter

Wanting a closer look, we asked if we could nose around; however, this is an awkward space to get into. The small entry door is perched at about waist height, and once inside, you quickly learn why this is called a crawl space. The ceiling is far too low to allow you to stand, and the remaining room is pretty darn stocked with cases. “I usually send my kids in there to pick out beers,” Tony explains. “I’ll ask [my son] Hudson to choose three bottles, and he’ll get so excited that he gets to play in there. This helps me get a random rotation of beer too; I’m not just going back for favorites. The only problem is that he really likes flowers, so I had to put all my Cantillon Iris out of his reach.”

In absence of kids, we all agreed that Ryan’s supple physique was best adapted for the beer spelunking challenge at hand. Maneuvering his way in, he revealed many more bottles from The Lost Abbey and The Bruery, among plenty of others. Of Tony’s own wares, we didn’t find any Golden Road cans squirreled away for long-term storage, but being the boss does have its perks: he made sure that barrel-aged versions of Hudson Porter—named for his nearly three-year-old son—found their way into a few hand-labeled bottles for his own personal consumption. “I’m excited to open them once Hudson’s old enough to be able to appreciate them,” Tony said (while the rest of us did a little mental math and realized that wouldn’t be for some time).

Also well represented in Tony’s cellar is Russian River Brewing Company, including a nice little selection of vintage Consecration, though Tony makes a point to hint that he’s “always on the hunt for Temptation” as I’m jotting down notes. And his aforementioned soft spot for saisons becomes more apparent as we venture through collections of Brasserie Fantôme, Logsdon Organic Farmhouse Ales, and Upright Brewing.

DSC_0140_1So how many bottles are we talking about back there? “If I had to guess,” Tony thinks for a moment. “I dunno. Maybe… I don’t know. I really don’t. I mean, no. Just… can we say ‘a lot’? There’s a lot.” Plenty were personal purchases, but a good number of his bottles have been gifts from friends, customers, employees, and visiting brewery/industry folk.

With such an incredible selection that often seems to grow faster than it dwindles, Tony relies greatly on the good nature of his beer-drinking friends. “If it ever gets too full, I’ll come down to clean it out,” he explains, adding that his neighbor—who he also counts as one of his best friends—often gets some of the spoils. But there’s no list and no pretension about what he’s got on hand. The beer is there to be enjoyed, and it’s there to be enjoyed with friends. “I’ve become quite popular at bottle shares,” he chuckled as we headed back up the stairs, sporting a few bottles of our own that Tony insisted on sharing. Well, if we must…

Eagle Rock Brewery To Open New Brewpub

Nov 23

ting-su-jeremy-raub-eagle-rock-brewpubEagle Rock Brewery has earned quite a name for itself in the local craft beer scene and its taproom has become a popular hangout spot for its ever-growing legion of thirsty fans. Now, just as its fourth anniversary is upon us, co-owners Ting Su and Jeremy Raub have secured an additional location—which they’re going to call Eagle Rock Brewery Public House—that will serve not only beer, but also food.

“We always wanted to have a brewpub, even before we opened the brewery on Roswell,” explains Ting. “But we decided it was best to just start with the taproom and see if we could revisit the food side once we’d gotten the brewery established.”

eagle-rock-brewery-public-houseThe new brewpub will be located at 1627 Colorado Blvd. in Eagle Rock, where the recently shuttered vegetarian cafe Fatty’s once stood. “We started looking for a space about a year ago,” Jeremy reveals. “We shopped around a lot, but when we saw this on the market, we jumped on it. It really is ideal for us.”

The 4,500 sq. ft. brick building is a marvel; it’s designated as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (No. 692!) recognized for its art deco styling that dates back to 1931. Though it looks more akin to an airplane hangar with its bowed wooden ceiling, it was originally a car mechanic’s shop.

The team is hoping for a spring 2014 opening, though it will be in stages. “We’re going to get the dining portion open first,” says Ting. “Then we’ll bring the brewery equipment on board. With all the additional permitting there, that could be anywhere from six months to a year later.”

The menu direction isn’t quite nailed down yet, but there will be a focus on small plates. “And not your typical pub fare,” adds Ting. “Why would we do burgers? The Oinkster is right down the street and they already make a great burger. We’ll definitely be looking to do something unique.”

warehouse-eagle-rock-brewery-public-houseBesides the dining and bar section, which Ting estimates will seat around 50 people, there’s also a connected warehouse 2,000 sq. ft. warehouse space, which is where they will install a 15-barrel brewhouse to complement their existing 15-barrel brewhouse back at the original taproom, which will be staying in operation. Eagle Rock Brewery co-owner Steve Raub will continue to oversee production at the taproom, with Erick Garcia managing the brewing. Brewer Lee Bakofsky will be shifting over to brewing at the new brewpub once it has been installed, though Jeremy says you can expect to see people splitting their time between locations. Ting estimates that an additional 10-12 jobs will be created thanks to the new addition.

“It’s going to be really nice to have a little more flexibility,” Ting declares. “We’ll be able to do more experimental beers rather than just trying to keep up with meeting production demands.”

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Brewing Soon: Highland Park

Sep 20

The Hermosillo long stood as a seedy dive bar along York Blvd., but after about 35 years, a shift in ownership brought about some much needed changes. In May of 2012, it was transformed into a quaint craft beer bar with 12 rotating taps, and now—nearly a year and a half later—there’s even more exciting news: they’ve repurposed part of the space to become Highland Park Brewery.

At the brewing helm is 33-year-old Bob Kunz, a passionate craft beer drinker originally from the Pacific Northwest, but you just might recognize from his six-year tenure at Father’s Office. But even before his time at Father’s Office—where he’d moved up the ranks to become general manager of both the Santa Monica and Culver City locations—Kunz got his start in the LA beer scene when he moved down from Utah to take a brewing job at Pasadena’s celebrated Craftsman Brewing Company in 2006.

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Bob Kunz. Photo by Randy Clemens

Stepping into The Hermosillo, I’m greeted by a comfortably open layout with a large bar equipped with an old school overhead projector announcing what beers are on tap, far better than the old pre-algebra equations I’d formerly seen on such contraptions. And after plunking down a glass of Naughty Sauce, I got to try one of Kunz’s wonderful homebrews, a delightful peach sour that instantly got me even more excited about the prospect of having another local brewery here in LA. In between sips, I learned more about his plans and what the future holds for Highland Park Brewery.

A seven-barrel brewhouse was put in place just days before my visit, along with several 15-barrel fermenters, and Kunz is hopeful that beer will be bubbling away as soon as next month. He offers a few ideas for beers that are in his head—a tart Berliner Weisse brewed with Masumoto peaches and nectarines, a sessionable coffee beer, and his “Bob Logger Ale”, a pilsner brewed with ale yeast—but cautions that he doesn’t expect any of his recipes to be available year-round. “For me, craft beer has been all about adventure and discovery,” Kunz waxes. “I’m sure certain beers will gain traction and I’ll make some of them more than once, but brewing the same four beers all the time would bum me out.”

Looking around as we talked, my excitement for the future became mixed with curiosity about the past, since the building quite visibly has some history behind it. Turns out it was constructed in 1929 and has served as a bar since the 1960s. Formerly known as The Hi-Hat before becoming The Hermosillo Club in 1977, it changed hands last year and was completely revamped by co-owners Ross Stephenson, Michael Blackman, and Dustin Lancaster (Bar Covell, L&E Oyster Bar). In addition to dropping “Club” from the name, the new owners gave the Latin-themed décor a much-needed facelift, while still keeping a neighborhood bar feel. The wine list was built to showcase the best grape juice from Mexico and South America, the small-but-mighty craft beer program was put together, and once they reopened, Kunz found himself to be one of their more frequent customers.

Highland Park Brewery

Highland Park Brewery. Photo by Randy Clemens

“I started bringing in some homebrews to share with the bartenders and the owners,” Kunz recounts. “Sometime around December of last year, one of them asked me if I’d be interested in opening a little microbrewery. That’s when we started talking.”

Kunz is quick to note that he’s had a lot of help along the way, not just from the Hermosillo owners, but also Craftsman’s Mark Jilg (“a huge mentor to me”), Noble Ale Works’ Evan Price, San Diego beer phenom Lee Chase, and the folks at Eagle Rock Brewery, whom he calls “pillars of the community… the most open, helpful, and gracious diplomats for LA beer.”

The Hermosillo will host at least four Highland Park Brewery beers at any given time, and plans to expand their existing 12-tap setup so that it will accommodate 18 once Kunz’s creations come online. In addition to being available for on-site consumption, his beers will be available for growler fills, and kegs will be distributed to some local beer bars.

“It’s great to actually be building a community and having a hand in shaping beer culture… especially here!” says Kunz. “There’s without a doubt an unparalleled excitement about craft beer in LA, and it’s amazing to have a small part in it.” How small remains to be seen. “We’re going to run out of room here pretty quickly,” he confesses while surveying his 400 sq. ft. space. “I don’t know what that means or what it will lead to, but I’m excited to find out!”

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Profile: Bernie Wire

Sep 12

It’s been said that the craft beer industry is 99% asshole free, a sentiment I’m inclined to agree with. But even after meeting fiercely passionate brewers, bartenders, and the like, someone like Bernie Wire comes along whose kindness and generosity almost defy reason. And even if you don’t know him by name, you’ve likely seen him around at many of the local beer events, snapping pictures and chronicling the rise of LA’s burgeoning craft beer scene.

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Bernie Wire

Since 2011, he’s photographed over 250 shindigs, collecting thousands upon thousands of images featuring everyday people­ enjoying each other’s company over drinks. And now, he’s selected some of his favorites for an exhibit called “I Shoot Beer People” that’s going up at Mohawk Bend in Echo Park starting on September 17, running through LA Beer Week, and continuing on until October 31.

Bernie has become a mainstay, his happy face capturing other happy faces and uploading the resulting snapshots to his Friends of Local Beer Facebook page at no charge. “I’ve always liked taking pictures,” explains Bernie. “And when you go to these beer events, it’s amazing what you find. You come across folks who truly celebrate craft beer… and they love the people who brew it, sell it, serve it, write about it, or just simply enjoy drinking it. It’s a community unlike any other I’ve ever experienced.”

The 56-year-old Oklahoma native’s photo fascination began when he was a child: “I took pictures of a rock climbing trip I took during summer break one year, and I loved the fact that when I got home, I’d be able to get that memory… that stimulus… all over again through pictures.” Sharing these memories with others further fueled his excitement, even early on. “I turned my pictures into a slide show and played it at show and tell when I got back to school, and the class was really into it,” he recounts.

City Tavern

City Tavern, Culver City

A single photography class in high school was the only formal study he ever gave the subject, though even when he attended the University of Oklahoma to study microbiology and chemical engineering, he felt most passionate when he nurtured his creative side in art classes, and he ultimately pursued his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a focus on metalsmithing. “I played with ceramics, but found early on that I really enjoyed the immediacy of metals. While clay had to go off to a kiln to cure and dry, I could weld metals into sculptures and they never had to leave my hands.” It was then that one of his professors, Lane Coulter, asked if Bernie knew anything about titanium. “He told me it could be colored, and this little light went on in my head… I had to see this. I had to do this.”

stickman-his-dog-and-the-flying-rockTitanium was a little hard to come by—Bernie needed to sift through aerospace scrap yards to find what he needed—and not much literature existed at the time that explained how it could be colored, but he persisted and tracked down a paper that gave him the basics. “There are no actual pigments on the metal,” he explains. “You create color through oxidation.” Bernie dips the titanium—a whiter shade of silver in its untreated form—into an electrified chemical bath that creates a layer of titanium dioxide, the thickness of which can be altered by the amount of voltage pumped through the anodizing liquid. It’s the thickness of the oxide film that determines the colors, but Bernie is quick to explain, it’s no pigment. “Think of it like a soap bubble; those colors you see are a result of light waves interacting and interfering with one another as they travel through the film and reflect off the surface.”

He soon discovered a rarely used micro spot-welding machine at the university, and found that it was perfect for joining titanium pieces. He began creating jewelry and working on larger sculptures that would eventually earn him an award at the 1987 International Platinum Design Competition in Tokyo. The photography became even more important through all of this as Bernie would always want to take pictures of his stunning work.

Jazz PianoBut as many artists will attest, it’s tough to make a living through art. And though Bernie continued creating (and shooting) his pieces, the same microwelding equipment he used for his artwork would lead him to his “real” work that paid the bills. He’d moved to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree at Arizona State University, but bowed out after just one semester. “Three weeks into a two-month research position I proposed on titanium welding, I was doing stuff they said wasn’t possible,” he says proudly. He ended up staying on with the company for five years before moving to Monrovia in 1983 and starting his own consulting business.

By day, he developed processes for welding components—some thinner than a human hair—under a microscope, improving design and functionality for many items such as pacemakers, airbag initiators, ultrasound transducers, microcoaxial cable, and stadium lights. But by night, he continued with his art. “I had no social network at all,” Bernie admits. “It was just work, work, work. But I made discoveries in art that became solutions for productions and vice versa.”

His interest in beer came a little later, with his first visit to the late Greg Noonan’s famed Vermont Pub & Brewery in 1989. “The beer laws in Oklahoma were archaic and there wasn’t a lot of good beer there,” Bernie laments. “Thankfully, that’s changed some since then, but porters and IPAs weren’t even on my radar until heading up to that brewpub in Burlington.”

Bernie loved to take trips with childhood friends whenever possible, and he always brought his trusty camera along with him. After their epiphany in Vermont, many more beer outings were planned, including one to the Great American Beer Festival, which really opened his eyes to the wide world of craft beer. As technology advanced, he created a private website where he could share pictures of his travel, an early precursor to what he does now with pictures of the SoCal craft beer community on Facebook.

Bottle share @ 38 Degrees Ale House in Alhambra

Bottle share @ 38 Degrees Ale House in Alhambra

As much as he loves taking pictures at these events, he admits he doesn’t know if he can carry on like he has been. “I can’t afford to do it full-time, since I’m usually not getting paid,” he chuckles. He is quick to thank those who have offered to pay him for his photos—places like El Segundo Brewing Co., Monkish Brewing Co., 38 Degrees Alehouse & Grill, Tin Roof Bistro, and Phantom Carriage—but has no plans to stop with his consulting. “Whether I’m welding or making art or taking pictures, I’m just glad I’ve been able to earn my living while having fun,” he beams.

Rob Croxall of El Segundo Brewing and Henry Nguyen of Monkish Brewing at Select Beer Store

Rob Croxall of El Segundo Brewing and Henry Nguyen of Monkish Brewing at Select Beer Store

Bernie lives near Culver City with his wife, Anne Marie Gillen, who, in addition to being a most delightful person, does some notable work herself. She’s a consultant, a published author, and served as the executive producer of Fried Green Tomatoes. To see more of Bernie’s photos, head to his “Friends of Local Beer” Facebook page, and to see more of his metal artwork, check out TitaniumArt.com.

“I Shoot Beer People” | a craft beer photo exhibit at Mohawk Bend
Sponsored by West Coaster SoCal
Runs from September 17 through October 31st
Mohawk Bend, 2141 W Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

Opening Reception with photographer Bernie Wire
Tuesday, September 17, 5:30pm-7:30pm

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Firestone Walker: Venice

Aug 28

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”.

David Walker via Firestone Walker Facebook

David Walker via Firestone Walker Facebook

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.

google screenshot 2Walker 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.”

google screenshotHe 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.”

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