The only thing as important as craft beer to Scott Francis is his hometown, Santa Monica.
"We decided early on that if we couldn't brew our beer in Santa Monica, we weren't going to brew at all," says the president and CEO of Santa Monica Brew Works, the first brewery on the Westside.
Francis — along with partners Rich Super and Carl Sharpley — began building SMBW in late 2012 and as the microbrewery prepares for its one-year anniversary, word comes that they will be opening a tasting room at their brewery on Colorado and 20th before year's end.
Santa Monica Brew Works first launched with WIT — an accessible take on a Belgian wheat beer, brewed with orange and coriander. Crisp and effervescent, it's the type of beer you want to enjoy on a sunny beach day. So it's hardly a surprise that their flagship offering was warmly welcomed in its immediate vicinity. They found similar success with their subsequent release, XPA, a modest take on an American pale ale that's full of hops, yet muted in its lingering bitterness.
As marketable as these beers are, they are hardly groundbreaking. To really shake things up, SMBW unleashed Pale Chocolate Heaven. Billed as an homage to Old World style porters, PCH is a robust, full-flavored beer, brimming with sweet notes of dark chocolate, vanilla beans, and honey. As a traditional porter, it would stand out as exceptional. Separating itself further from the pack, the ale pours an inexplicably brilliant golden hue into the glass. Nothing about its taste suggests anything light in color. When the beer is placed in front of you, your mind expects a certain series of flavors completely belied by what the tongue ultimately perceives. Hardly a novelty, the glaring contrast between what you see and what you get elevates the entire drinking experience.
SMBW tap handles have begun popping up across town at an increasing rate. To stay relevant, the brewery plans to premiere two new beers over the next several months. First up is a light-bodied Kölsch, designed to be an ideal summertime sipper, available now. By mid-June, Francis and friends celebrate their one year anniversary with an unnamed IPA, which promises a hop-forward blast atypical to their standard lineup.
Perhaps the most exciting news in the pipeline is the brewery's on-site expansion. "Our tasting room is in the planning stage," promises Francis. "We don’t just want to stick a bar in the corner of our brewery. We want to give our customers the full brewery experience." Careful planning has kept the project in the developmental phase for months.
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Francis sees it as "a place where [you] can drink all of our styles of freshly brewed beer—including those not on the market—talk to us...learn about our brand...and promote...Santa Monica while using our beautiful brewery as a backdrop." As committed as Scott Francis and his crew is to making quality beer, SMBW remains at least as equally resolved to making their city a better place to drink it in.
Santa Monica Brew Works, 1920 Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica; (310) 828-7629; santamonicabrewworks.com