The San Fernando Valley has had a tough time finding its place in L.A.'s craft beer scene. Aside from Ladyface Ale Companie on its western fringes, the SFV has seen few locally brewed beers in the last five years — a time when the rest of the county exploded with brewpubs and production breweries.
Then there was the false start of Pac City Brewing, which began making beers last year but lacked the consistency or retail accounts to make an impact. Some early batches of Chatsworth's Hand Brewed Beer made an appearance at this year's L.A. Beer Week Kickoff Festival (it's also on tap at several Valley beer bars), but the brewery does not have a tasting room.
That left MacLeod Ale Brewing Company in Van Nuys, which celebrated its first anniversary in June, as the only brewery in the Valley with quality beer and a neighborhood taproom — until now. San Fernando Brewing Co., a long-awaited production brewery in the oft-forgotten city of San Fernando, is pouring its first beer in an expansive taproom. The opening last Thursday was a last-minute decision announced on Facebook.
“We literally decided on Wednesday night to open Thursday,” says co-owner Joe Chouchanian, who works as a grip in the film industry by day. “We only had one beer ready, but we thought, 'What else are we going to do for five weeks?'”
Chouchanian's brother, Vic, is one half of San Fernando's brewing team. Vic met Ryan Rogers, the other half, when they were 21 and the two started homebrewing together. They initially chose the name Street Sign Brewing (after a piece of city property they used to construct the scaffolding for their homebrew setup) and originally looked for a place to put a larger facility in Northridge, their hometown.
In November 2013, they instead found a former garment factory in an industrial strip of nearby San Fernando, and with the blessing of the city, the fire department and the police, began an impressively speedy (for the beer world, anyway) buildout on what they decided to then call San Fernando Brewing Co.
Stoney Point Stout is the brewery's first release and the only one currently on tap — a solid, light-bodied stout with a dry middle and lingering chocolate sweetness. Pints of it were on every table in the 150-capacity tasting room (which has couches and a shuffleboard table) when we stopped by this weekend. Over the next month, the brewery will be rolling out the other beers currently fermenting — a pale ale, a red ale, an IPA and, finally, a wheat beer — each Thursday, until all five are on draft and a grand opening will be held.
Each beer bears a Valley-inspired name, but the coolest local connection in the lineup lies in the Sonora Wheat, which is named not after the meat capital of Mexico but for the type of grain used in the beer, which was originally grown on the very land where the brewery now stands. Production of Sonora wheat declined in the late 1800s and it has not been commercially grown since. A few small farms revived the lost grain in Northern California, but so far it has only been used by artisanal bread bakers, making San Fernando the only brewery in the country currently using the varietal in a beer.
Growlers and bottles are still pending governmental label approval, and down the line there are plans for seasonal brews, from a horchata stout to a pumpkin ale, and craft sodas, like ginger ale and root beer.
Currently, the taproom is open Thursday through Saturday, noon to 10 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 7 p.m.
San Fernando Brewing Co., 425 Park Ave., San Fernando; sfvbrewing.com.