The craft brewing trend in Los Angeles County has all but ignored a significant metropolitan area: The San Fernando Valley. Never mind that more than 1.75 million people call the Valley home. Other than a handful of nanobreweries and that imposing Budweiser plant just off the 405 in Van Nuys, when it comes to making beer, the Valley is drier than the Mojave in June.
But folks from Burbank to Porter Ranch can sleep well knowing that two sets of entrepreneurs are setting out to fill the void with a pair of new breweries: the MacLeod Ale Brewing Company in Van Nuys and the San Fernando Brewing Company in the city of the same name.
"In recent years there's been a bit of Valley pride, which has been absent for quite a while," says Ryan Rogers, San Fernando Brewing Company co-founder.
Rogers and brewing partner Vic Chouchanian grew up in various Valley locales, and the long-time beer enthusiasts initially wanted to open in Northridge, but couldn't find a suitable location. After scoping out 21 different buildings, the duo finally settled on a spot in the City of San Fernando. Rogers say that the city has been receptive to their plans.
Chouchanian and Rogers plan to produce West Coast style craft beers such as IPAs and Irish Reds, and bring back the classic American lager.
The original name of the San Fernando Brewing Company was Street Sign, but Rogers and Chouchanian changed the name after finding a home. "If you're sitting in a bar in Winnetka and you see San Fernando Brewing Company, it's going to make you think twice," Rogers says.
After a divorce, Jennifer Boase was looked for a new business opportunity, and with her new husband Alastair, hired a brewer and set out to open a brewery.
Boase was born in Pasadena and grew up in Britain, but she and her Scottish husband Alastair have settled in the Valley. "We just kind of thought, 'What the hell. This could be good for a lot of reasons,'" says Jennifer. "We don't have any regrets. We're really excited to be in Van Nuys." MacLeod Ale will focus on British style cask ales, which Boase sees as a draw for beer lovers.
MacLeod Ale has run into speed bumps en route to quenching the Valley's thirst. Boase says that craft breweries are not something that the city's planning department sees very day, and she gets lost in the labyrinth of L.A. bureaucracy. She says there's been disputes about zoning variances and parking, and likens the experience to walking into a dark room full of marbles, with the goal of picking all the marbles up. "You kind of discover as you go along," she says.
While both MacLeod Ale and San Fernando brewing companies have made progress in their quest to bring craft beer to the Valley, flowing suds is not quite imminent. Boase hopes MacLeod launches in the first quarter of next year. Rogers initially pegged San Fernando coming online in six to eight months, but maybe even sooner if things with the City of San Fernando continue to go smoothly.
"I wanted to serve the people I've grown up with," Rogers says. "My family goes way back. It's pretty ingrained in us."