SI: What is your approach to Angel City's beer? You started with an IPA and a wit, but there have been some bizarre ones lately.
I have a rule. I've been in the beer business 20 years now. My rule has been that is anytime a brewer comes to me with an idea for a beer, I don't care how crazy it is or how stupid it sounds - we'll try it. We have an ability to put it on tap at the Public House. My experience is that people love coming to the Public House for oddities and quirky beers and so it fits my rule perfectly. When people come to the Public House we should be educating them on what great world-class craft beer is and we should be stretching what they think of as beer.
Why avocado beer
? Well, because Dieter's [Foerstner, Head Brewer] grandmother had an avocado tree and she had too many avocados and Dieter wanted to do it. And it's turned into kind of a tradition. Who knew it was going to become the Avocado Festival and we were going to draw 5000 people down to celebrate the avocado? You don't think of these things - or at least I don't. You listen to these people and if it works, then cool, let's keep doing that.
SI: Do you ever see Angel City as being a regional brewery?
This is probably one of the questions I get asked the most and my answer is always the same: We're focused on being a great local brewery. If we can do that and if customers outside of the L.A. area really start screaming for the beer and we think there's a market for it, would we expand? Yeah, we probably would, but that's not our goal right now.
When I started Magic Hat, we started it in a state with 600,000 people. The city of Burlington had 40,000 people and it was the largest city in the state. So when we started it didn't make a lot of sense to me to start local. That's the reason why Magic Hat was always a non-geographic name and we were always looking to how we could grow outside of the local area. But L.A. has 17 million people there. If I can't create a successful business with 17 million people in my backyard, I shouldn't be doing business. So that's really 100% of my focus: how can we be the best local brewery we can?
SI: Some of your bottled beer is contract brewed out of state, though. Do you think that should scare anyone about your intentions to stay local?
The bottling issue is a function of logistics and money because Boston Beer is my financial partner, I have access to their resources. I don't have to build a bottling plant, which could be up to $3 million. More importantly, if I build a bottling plant, I'm taking away from space for our customers to experience us.
So, for me, one of the benefits of having the relationship with Boston Beer is access to their great breweries. Most craft breweries, if you offered them the ability to contract brew a beer at Sam Adams breweries to any brewery in L.A., they would probably be thrilled to have that option. I happen to have the option because of our relationship. We get to do that so we don't have to use up space or put in our bottling line. We keep a small bottling line for our specialties, but there is no plan today to build a bottling line on site or to distribute outside of our current distributor network.
SI: Angel City was the first Alchemy & Science brewery, but what other ones do you have in planning?
We have a brewery we're building out in Miami. Coincidentally it's also in the Arts District and my guess is that we'll be brewing there in next 30 days. We also bought another brand called Coney Island Brewing Company and we're in the process of signing a lease in Coney Island to build a brewery there. The goal with those two is exactly the same as Angel City. The difference is that their communities are very different so they will all look and all act different.
The philosophy is the same: We'll hire people from the local community and make sure we're staying focused on the needs of the community in Miami, which is a fascinating multicultural and multinational city. So how do we become part of this multicultural and multinational community? One of the things we're doing in Miami - because 65% of population is Latino - is we're not hiring anybody who isn't bilingual. If you want to talk to the customers, you have to speak the language. At each one, we try to see what we need to do to become part of that community and we try to do it as authentically as we know how. We allow each one to develop organically as part of the community and I think we've been effective so far in Los Angeles.
Heritage Arts and Music Festival, Saturday, May 3, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., free, Angel City Brewery & Public House, 216 S. Alameda St., Los Angeles, (213) 622-1261.
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