Andy Black is serious about his cask-conditioned beer.
The former Macleod Ale brewer is so serious about drinkable, malt-focused, hand-pumped British pub ales, in fact, that he’s armed himself with a degree’s worth of knowledge about the oft-maligned traditional British beer preparation, historically a hard sell in IPA-hooked California.
Black’s new project, Torrance’s Yorkshire Square Brewery, which celebrates its grand opening this weekend, hopes to change cask’s scorned image by showing L.A. what’s possible when so-called “real ales” are properly made and served.
“It has the slight oxygenation, that cascade effect, the cellar temperature,” Black says excitedly of cask-conditioned beer, which is kept at a mild 50 degrees and is naturally carbonated (meaning it never touches a CO2 draft handle). “Having it served properly was a foundational beer experience for me. … I feel so strongly that cask served just right can be a transformative beer experience.”
If any brewer is going to help Los Angeles get over its irrational fear of cask beers, it’s Black. The New England native moved to L.A. (after a stint learning to brew in the real England) in 2014 to be the head brewer at Macleod Ale Company in Van Nuys, the region’s original cask-focused brewery.
There he introduced his own takes on classic British beers, including a porter, a pale ale and an ordinary bitter, all low-ABV styles that, when brewed and served properly, are nothing like the brash, hop-forward American versions that have sprung up in their wake.
“Keg beer strips out the variables — you're tasting the subtlety in cask ale,” Black says, noting that with British beers, the emphasis is less on how hoppy you can make it and more on how much flavor you can extract from various grains. “Palate fatigue is moot with cask beers, because all the nuance is in the malt profile. It's a magnum opus of hops and malt.”
Black left Macleod around the time the brewery started incorporating more American-style beers and began serving beers on CO2 and nitrogenated taps, leaving L.A. lacking a place fully dedicated to serving traditional cask-conditioned beers. The lack is over now that Yorkshire Square is open.
Founded by Gary Croft, a British immigrant from (where else?) Yorkshire, his wife and his two sons (one is the assistant brewer), the brewery hopes to be a destination for people seeking an authentic cask ale experience.
As head brewer, Black is back making his favorite kind of beer — ones born from the British traditions that launched America’s brewing history with a keen understanding of how those styles have evolved in England in the time since. He also wants to make beers crafted toward the hop-loving SoCal palate so that people can taste how a familiar beer’s flavor changes by the simple virtue of it being served on cask.
“Cask ales are younger, fresher and brighter than keg beer,” he says.
Yorkshire’s first six beers represent both an expansion of recipes he launched at Macleod and the introduction of even more styles hard to find outside of a British pub.
The lineup for opening day features a brown ale, an oat stout, a golden ale, a 3.8% ABV “pub bitter,” a dark mild and a pale ale called the Tenant, which Black calls “a loving homage” to the classic British beer, Timothy Taylor’s the Landlord.
Already the brewery’s warehouse (which is walking distance from three other Torrance breweries) has been given that homey pub feel, with a stone fireplace and lots of vintage wooden chairs. The bar is lined with eight silver-capped hand pumps, also called beer engines, which beertenders have to pull multiple times to manually extract beer from the cask for each pint. A kitchen will go live by the end of the year, serving modern British food to complement Black’s beers.
In helping people understand his overall vision for Yorkshire Square, Black finds himself referencing Beachwood BBQ, a Seal Beach bar and Long Beach brewpub that is notoriously detail-oriented about beer quality, proper serving temperatures, proper glassware and more.
“What Beachwood brought to draft beer — every pint you get there is perfect — that’s what I want to do with cask ale,” Black says. “It's so important to do this because British ales and British food are so maligned as being insufficient. But of course that’s not true. I want to show off what cask can do.”
1109 Van Ness Ave., Torrance; (424) 376-5115, yorkshiresquarebrewery.com.