Latino millennials residing in East and Southeast Los Angeles communities like Boyle Heights, East L.A., Montebello, Pico Rivera, Downey, Whittier and beyond are some of the most active craft beer enthusiasts in the city. Beer groups as Hopheads, IPA Nation, and Beer Thugs meet up for "bottle shares" regularly. The members and attendees hashtag things like #hoppedthugz while sipping and passing the usually rare bottles of beer brought to those type of gatherings. These select few people, and many other young adults of drinking age like me that eventually graduate from drinking cheap 40-ounce malt liquors (a common East Los Angeles underage drinking habit, as it offers the most alcohol for your buck) owe a large part of their current sophisticated beer palates to the Ramirez Liquors in Boyle Heights and Pico Rivera. These family-owned liquor stores are nothing short of local institutions. They are praised in the entire tight-knit Los Angeles craft beer scene for their unrivaled selection of local, national, and international craft beer bottles and kegs at the cheapest prices in town. And now, future generations of burgeoning Eastside craft beer enthusiasts will owe their bitter-forward beer palates to an official Ramirez-owned taproom in the Eastside.
The Cellar Bottle Shop & Tasting Room is the Ramirez family's first full-service beer operation and it is now soft-opened in uptown Whittier with 24 rotating taps. It seats about 76 people and, at not even a month old, is already picking up momentum with their loyal followers and thirsty locals, mostly Latino men and middle-aged Latino couples. Available beers include Pliny The Younger, Rodenbach Classic Red, Epic's Big Bad Baptist and a bunch more beers with cult followings on tap priced as if they were Pabst, Victoria, and Heineken, at only $2-$3 for eyeballed tasting cups and $6-$7 for fluted goblets filled to the brim.Retail beer selection includes some Cantillon sours from Belgium and a few cases of limited-edition "Nancy" American wild ales from Allagash. Not to mention the rarer than rare pricey beers behind a thick glass in the back of the room, which holds bottles like The Bruery's "Black Tuesday" (starting at $30 per bottle).
"People's minds just go crazy when they see so many bottles, plus, they have an extensive collection of brews that most stores don't have available," says Alex Rhino Rebollo, of the Beers in Paradise beer blog. He's been loyally buying his beers from the Ramirez Liquors in Boyle Heights and Pico Rivera for the last five years.
What made the Ramirez family want to step into the world of serving beer instead of just selling it? "We wanted to provide our customers the opportunity to sample beers that would not be normally available in our retail [store], because of their limited availability," says Alex. He is one of the four Ramirez brothers that are now co-owners of the family business, along with their entrepreneurial mother and father, Teresa and Jesus Ramirez, who founded the first Ramirez Market in 1981 in South Los Angeles, between 51st and McKinley.
Teresa Ramirez was unable to be at The Cellar's opening due to a back injury. But that didn't stop her from witnessing the celebratory clinks of glasses and people happily chugging their extraordinary beers -- this time, on draft -- through Facetime. She waved hi to Ramirez's loyal customers through the iPad screen and smiled at her four boys, carrying on her tradition, thirty three years later.
Follow The Bottle Room and Tasting Room on Facebook or Instagram at @thecellarbottleshop to see when they announce their grand opening date, which is usually celebrated by a large amount of the rarest, limited-release beers on the planet, of course, for purchase at the cheapest price available.