Smog City Brewing Co. celebrated the first anniversary of its Torrance brewery and tasting room a few weeks ago with a daring lineup of 20 sour, barrel-aged and year-round beers that showed off Brewmaster Jonathan Porter and his team's ability to make beer brewed to a certain style's specifications alongside their growing knack for adventurous brewing.
Across three stations in their spacious brewhouse, Smog City poured a mix of oddities (fennel Scotch ale, coconut IPA, Merlot-brewed saison) as well as the solid offerings more commonly seen on tap at bars, like Little Bo Pils, Makeout Session Pale and the L.A. Saison. The freedom to experiment as Smog City now does daily is a right hard-won in craft beer, especially in a young scene such as L.A.'s, where new customers crave approachable styles and beer geeks judge a brewer's true skills on whether or not they can make a flavorful session beer.
After years of home and production brewing, Porter has perfected recipes for both its easy-drinking styles and its light (but not on taste) lager. His brewery's first anniversary was a milestone celebrated with boundary-pushing beers, both old and new, that reflect a year of success since moving into their Beer City L.A. digs.
And this weekend, the born-in-Tustin-raised-in-South-Bay operation will celebrate another long-awaited milestone: putting those boundary-pushing beers into bottles.
That's right, our top brewery to watch from 2013 has followed in the footsteps of fellow Torrance breweries Strand and Monkish and installed a bottling line, where 500ml bottles – like those for Pliny The Elder – are being filled for regular and special releases.
The first round off the line will be available for purchase at the taproom only this Saturday. It includes Smog City's top two dark offerings: GABF-medal-winning Coffee Porter and The Nothing, a double chocolate imperial stout special release whose name nods to Porter's favorite childhood flick (please don't sue, movie studios).
Their Coffee Porter, originally called the Groundworks Coffee Porter, will have the L.A. coffee roaster's name dropped from the label due to contracting issues. However, the brand's beans remains in the well-loved recipe and Smog City intends to keep bottles of it stocked year-round at retailers throughout the region.
Like their creative growler art, which won the brewery Best Growler Design in L.A. last year, Smog City's bottle labels were all but guaranteed to be as quirky and playful as their big-jug counterpart. Porter tapped friend and artist Ryan Cochran – who has worked in advertising for big-name brands like Oakley, Speedo and Doritos – to illustrate the first two labels. A hand-drawn Caffeinated Beer Bot graces the Coffee Porter bottle and a black-on-black interpretation of the Neverending Story's mysterious and ominous force goes on The Nothing, the latter a dark-yet-playful commemoration of Smog City's first bottle releases.
This weekend, approximately 150 cases of The Nothing are being released, at $10 a bottle, and a limited first-run of the Coffee Porter will be for sale for $8 per bottle. Stop by the brewery between noon and 8 p.m. to purchase.