Local Craft Beer On the Move in California

Photo: phanatic/Flickr/Creative Commons License

By now, Angelenos are intimately familiar with the growing local craft beer scene. There are longtime stalwarts like Craftsman in Pasadena who have helped to pave the way for breweries like Eagle Rock Brewery (founded in 2009) and their sometimes thought-provoking ales. But in today's exploding market, Eagle Rock seems nearly ancient compared to the new guys like L.A. Ale Works, who are just now in the process of building their brewery, but already have a National Home Brewer's Competition award under their belts. Now, some underserved slices of California are going to start getting a taste of our region's finest craft beers, thanks to a rash of new distribution deals going down in the industry recently.

The first big distribution deal of 2013 came courtesy of Hangar 24 Craft Brewery, the Redlands-based operation with an aviation theme and penchant for locally-sourcing ingredients. Not long after pushing further into the San Francisco market, Hangar 24 began rolling out to Napa, Sacramento and beyond in mid-January. The market expansion is the largest of its kind for the five-year-old brewery, and will include selections from the popular Local Fields series, as well as their summery Orange Wheat and heavy Chocolate Porter. Since December, Hangar 24 has had their new canning line up and operational alongside their existing bottling program, which will soon allow the regional-sized brewery to push into neighboring states with ease.

Next up is The Bruery, long held as one of the finest examples of what craft brewing in Southern California could be. Founded in early 2007, the Orange County brewery's unique Belgian-style ales and rare bottles have quickly found their way beyond California's borders. According to The Bruery's own beer locator map, a snobby southern hemisphere beer drinker could even impress their friends in Melbourne, Australia with a bottle of warming Autumn Maple. Yet, despite hundreds of accounts in New York City, Chicago, Portland and beyond, The Bruery has only just begun to push for distribution in California's central coast. As of early April, the aptly named Central Coast Distributing has begun loading up on 750ml bottles of The Bruery's finest, to be poured at beer bars and shelved at retailers in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

This week delivers distribution news from Golden Road Brewing, L.A.'s own craft beer darling. Tony Yanow and Meg Gill have yet to experience growing pains for their can-happy operation out in Atwater Village. Since opening in 2011, the team has continued to expand their on-site pub and build accounts across the southland. Most craft beer bars wouldn't be caught dead without some can space or a tap devoted to Golden Road and their popular brews.

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First, word spread that Gill and new brewmaster Jesse Houck were using some of their former Northern California connections through 21st Amendment Brewing to establish a foothold in the Bay Area beer scene. A few key accounts, like City Beer Store in San Francisco's SoMa neighborhood, will be carrying the brews with heavy regularity as the slow expansion of Golden Road moves ever outward. Not content to just look north, Gill, Yanow, and Houck have just completed a distribution deal with L. Knife & Son to push their cans and kegs into south San Diego county. Next week, Gill and Houck will be christening their recent land grab at Hamilton's Tavern in San Diego with a cask or two of special brews for anyone who happens to show up. Moving forward, Golden Road will be on shelves in certain retail outlets, with Whole Foods and Trader Joe's confirmed, as well as a number of keg-capable accounts.

As more and more fantastic non-regional craft beer becomes available at beer bars and retailers throughout Los Angeles, it's nice to see some of our area's best offerings pushing back. Los Angeles and its surroundings have a lot to offer the craft beer world, not least of which is growing the scene right here in the city, but that doesn't mean we can't start sharing our creations with the rest of the state. If anything, it only helps to bring the whole craft beer discussion to another level. And for anyone on vacation in San Francisco, Sacramento or south San Diego county who finds themselves getting a little homesick, a nostalgic sip of some of the region's best craft beers is now easier to find than ever.

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