JUNE/JULY 2005 | REGIONAL |
L.A. Update : Beering the Inland Empire
By Don Erickson
So far this year, almost all of L.A.’s beer action
is happening to the east, in San Bernardino and Riverside
Counties. Makes sense, since the so-called Inland Empire is
growing mighty fast.
In and around San Bernardino proper, two breweries are fermenting.
Expect one of them to open later this year. Meanwhile, over
in Rancho Cucamonga, Omaha Jack’s opened
where the Compass Creek brewpub once stood. It’ll soon
be joined by a BJ’s tap house.
BJ’s has already opened two restaurants in the area,
one in Moreno Valley and the other in Corona. The Corona BJ’s
is south of town in the heart of a new shopping center. The
beers and food are as good as ever, so this BJ’s should
be a good companion for Main Street Brewing,
Corona’s only brewpub and one of L.A.’s best-kept
Attached (coincidentally enough) to a pizza parlor, Main
Street has been quietly making some of the best beer hereabouts.
The best part is that they’re not afraid to experiment.
If you visit, be sure to try what the bartender calls the
“exotics” — brews such as a rye IPA or an
Just up the 91 freeway, Riverside Brewing
has finished the first phase of a massive makeover. The exterior
is done; now the interior, especially the bar area, is being
reworked. Meanwhile, the menu has been revamped and the brewery
itself is being refitted. Expect the beers to be “freshened
Lastly, in Upland, Old Baldy’s new
brewery is finally coming to life. All kinds of delays were
caused by a permit war with the City over the brewery’s
boiler. The city engineer and inspectors are now happy; soon
Old Baldy’s brewer will be happy, too.
Across town, I’ve rediscovered the beers served at
the Four Points by Sheraton hotel by LAX.
The famous (infamous?) monthly beer tastings are now held
on Friday instead of Wednesday. And the admission price is
deducted from your room bill if you stay the night afterwards!
That could be a good idea, especially if they ever decide
to do a barley wine tasting again.
Besides having good beer and food, the hotel bar is home
to good conversation. You’ll never know who you might
find there. It could be the importer of Chimay passing through
on a marketing tour. Or it could be the maker of a high-end,
That cider is called Aspall, and it ain’t no ordinary
cider. This is a long-standing English brand, almost 300 years
old, made from fresh apples, fermented for four months and
packaged in a most impressive bottle.
Aspall comes in four varieties: extra dry, dry, organic and
medium sweet. The last is most like the other ciders in the
marketplace. The dry versions are something else entirely.
Imagine a cross between champagne and Martinelli’s sparkling
apple juice, only with 6% alcohol.
To experience Aspall, search for it at one of the better
markets, such as Whole Foods.
In other local beer news, the Huntington Beach Beer
Company, Orange County’s oldest brewpub, has
a new owner, a new brewer and a new general manager. After
13 years, founder Peter Andriet is leaving the beer biz entirely
to become a filmmaker in his native Canada. Besides starting
HBBC, Peter was instrumental in launching the Laguna Beach,
Newport Beach and Tustin brewpubs. That’s quite a legacy;
hopefully, Peter will be as successful in his new endeavor.
At the same time, longtime HBBC brewer Kris Martin decided
it was “time for a change” and became the brewpub’s
general manager. His replacement is Geoff Engel, a transplant
from the Hoppy brewpub in Sacramento. Hmm,
hop-heads may be in for a treat.
However, despite all this turnover, new owner Cesar Pena
insists no big changes are coming. Taking an “if it
ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, he
admits only to minor changes, such as more and better TVs.
The biggest change will be to HBBC’s ocean view, thanks
to the ongoing construction across the street.
Elsewhere, in Long Beach’s Belmont Shore neighborhood,
the Belmont Brewing Company is again hosting
its monthly beer dinners. The dinner in July promises to be
a good one: the beers will be from Firestone Walker, and David
Walker himself will host the event. Firestone Walker’s
beers pair especially well with food. That’s all you
need to know.
My local will also quietly celebrate its 15th anniversary
this summer. No big celebration is planned for L.A.’s
second-oldest brewpub (only Pasadena’s Crown
City predates Long Beach’s Belmont Brewing),
but given the joys of the BBC’s beachfront patio, is
anything really necessary?
By the way, a “local,” by definition, is a tap
house or brewpub within walking distance of one’s home.
That said, I do spend time at Long Beach’s other brewpub,
Rock Bottom. In the days leading up to this
year’s Long Beach Grand Prix, RB bartenders Danny and
Clement probably saw me much too much. Organizing this year’s
race was … trying.
Thank goodness a favorite watering hole was nearby.
Omaha Jack’s Steakhouse
11837 Foothill Blvd.
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91741
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