APR/MAY 2005 | REGIONAL | WEST
L.A. Update : What's New And What's Not
By Don Erickson
I write for a beer magazine. My relatives know this. So they
ask me questions about beer. One, who lives in the Central
Valley town of Hanford, just asked me a doozy: “There’s
a new place in town that makes its own beer. I haven’t
been there yet. Is it any good?”
There are better ways to find out about a new brewpub.
The newbie in Hanford is called the Old Firehouse
Brew Pub & Hofbrau. Open only a few months, it
is located downtown in a building that began life as the town’s
first fire station.
The building has seen a lot of other uses over the years,
so there’s little left that suggests its original purpose.
The current configuration features a small upstairs dining
room overlooking a dance floor to the left and a sandwich
bar to the right. The bar is at the back fronting the brewery.
That brewery is an interesting mix: the kettles came from
the defunct Oldenberg brewery in Kentucky, while the tanks
are relics from one of SoCal’s first brewpubs, the Heritage
brewery that used to be in Dana Point.
The brewer, Ron McIlroy, is a local homebrewer who is quick
to point out that he is not a hop fiend. His Escape Ladder
Amber is proof: made with German malt and hops, it could be
thought of as a “light” märzen.
Interestingly, the beer menu has few regular offerings. Owner
Steve Churchill granted McIlroy considerable freedom in beer-making,
and McIlroy has been experimenting ever since. He’s
brewed everything from something called Firehouse Light to
a brown ale, a porter and even a weizen. McIlroy intends to
introduce a standard line-up … one of these days. Given
Hanford’s 100-degree summers, expect the light and the
weizen to be two of those standards.
As for the beers, someone really, really
likes hops. Not that I’m complaining, mind you.
The menu is likewise in a state of flux. During the day,
the sandwich bar rules — be sure to try the German-style
potato salad. At night, there’s a full menu with all
the usual pub grub plus pastas and other entrees.
Like all newly opened brewpubs, Old Firehouse is still finding
its way. To check out its evolution yourself, take Highway
198 from either I-5 or California 99. Exit into downtown Hanford
and go north on Douty Street. The brewpub will be on the right.
Another new brewpub is out in the Inland Empire in Rancho
Cucamonga. Actually, it’s a second coming. What was
once the Compass Creek brewpub is now a steak house and brewpub
called Omaha Jack’s Steakhouse And Brewery.
At first glance, Omaha Jack’s seems to be Compass Creek
all over again. Except for some of the accents, the interior
of the place is almost unchanged.
However, one look at the menu reassures you that Omaha Jack’s
is an entirely different operation. Where Compass Creek’s
menu was a confused mess served in plastic baskets, Omaha
Jack’s menu is chock-full of classic Midwest dishes
As for the beers, someone really, really likes hops. A pale
ale, an IPA and a Double IPA? Not that I’m complaining,
To find Omaha Jack’s, exit the 15 freeway at Foothill
Boulevard and head west. The brewpub will be on your left
just past the most elegant Denny’s you’ll ever
On another subject, someone else asked me why I’ve
never written about a certain “brewing company.”
I’ve visited the place in question, but I haven’t
written about it because it isn’t a brewery. It’s
not even a decent ale house. Actually, the last time I counted,
there were five such faux brewpubs around here.
Now, let me be clear. I am not talking about BJ’s or
Oggi’s “brewhouses.” Those two chains use
a business model of centrally located breweries providing
beer for a network of ale houses. There’s nothing wrong
with that approach; in fact, it’s a variation on the
tied house concept that’s prevalent in Britain.
What am I complaining about? Well, back when, there was a
place in Westwood called the Main Line Brewing Company. The
beer list proudly featured “Main Line’s own beers,”
yet there wasn’t a kettle or even a beer tank in the
Main Line didn’t last very long, but others carry on
the “tradition.” The aforementioned “brewing
company” has no tanks but lots of kegs of its “own”
beer, every one marked with a Bay Area address. Of course,
the beer prices are excessive too.
Then there are the brewpubs whose breweries have obviously
not been used in a long, long time, if at all. Kinda defeats
the whole idea, doesn’t it?
End of rant. I need a beer.
Old Firehouse Brew Pub &
215 N. Douty St.
Hanford, CA 93230
Omaha Jack’s Steakhouse
11837 Foothill Blvd.
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730
Don Erickson is an associate editor of the
Celebrator Beer News and a longtime “grognard”
covering the Southern California beer scene. He lives in Long