Brouwerij West’s expansive San Pedro facility, housed inside a 70-year-old Port of Los Angeles receiving warehouse a few hundred feet from the water, officially opens Saturday after nearly three years of construction.
Awash with exposed wood, the historic building is an open-air marvel that provides visitors with views of the surrounding palm trees and blue skies and lets the sea breeze waft through owner Brian Mercer’s modestly sized brewhouse, which he says uses 30 percent less water than a normal brewery and runs entirely off of power generated by solar panels installed on the roof.
“It’s like a big tent in here,” Mercer says, under the glow of the tasting room’s soft-white Christmas string lights. “It suits us with our mixed fermentation.”
While much attention has been paid to Brouwerij West’s breathtaking space, even more exciting are the mixed-fermentation beers Mercer is now making inside of it.
Mixed fermentation is how funky or sour beers are made – by “mixing” multiple microorganisms such as Brettanomyces (a yeast) or Lactobacillus (a bacteria) into an otherwise “clean” brew. In American and British-style beers, mixed fermentation is rare, but in Belgium, where Mercer has been traveling for much of the last 10 years as part of his candy-sugar importing business, creating highly nuanced beers through this process is common.
Since 2010, Mercer has been gypsy-brewing his own Belgian-inspired ales at different breweries, from Bayhawk in Irvine to Hermitage in San Jose, and selling bottles and kegs of regular-fermentation beers such as his blonde, tripel and quadrupel across the state. He says that working within another brewery’s scheduling confines made it nearly impossible to experiment beyond the standards; a mixed-fermentation beer often needs to sit around until it develops the ideal flavors.
“When I was a contract brewery, we had a strict two-week turnaround,” Mercer says. “There’s only so much you can do in that time.” The San Pedro brewery is a chance for Mercer to finally try something different. In addition to having a state-of-the-art brewhouse where he can brew on his own time, Mercer utilizes a mash filter instead of a lauter tun during the brewing process. That not only helps achieve more efficiency in extracting sugars from the malt but also allows Brouwerij West to make mixed-fermentation beers with grains that are ordinarily off-limits to other breweries.
Of the seven first-batch beers that will be on draft this weekend, three of them – a Sour Orange Wit (a 100 percent wheat beer), an extra orange-y version of the Sour Orange Wit and a spelt saison – were made possible by this mash filter. Mercer also is currently fermenting another odd-grain beer, made with 55 percent buckwheat.
“This brewery gives us the ability to do all sorts of weird things,” Mercer says.
Though you can find familiar Brouwerij West beers like the tripel and blackberry saison on the opening-day tap list, Mercer doesn’t plan on having any core beers for now; he says he’s just excited to be chasing new recipes and seeing when they’re ready.
Don't expect an IPA anytime soon.
“I don't even know how to make an IPA. We’re like a Japanese restaurant,” he says. “We don’t have burritos. We’re doing something different, and we hope people like it.”
Brouwerij West's grand opening is Saturday, Feb. 27, noon to 9 p.m. (it's free!), and features food trucks and performances by San Pedro bands. 110 E. 22nd St., Warehouse No. 9, San Pedro; (310) 833-9330, brouwerijwest.com.