The L.A. area brewery scene has shown marked improvement in the past few years. In “An L.A. Beer Scene, at Long Last”, I name-checked local craft breweries like Craftsman Brewing, Eagle Rock Brewery, newcomers Strand Brewing, Nibble Bit Tabby Brewery and Ohana Brewing Company, plus outliers like The Bruery, Bootlegger’s Brewery, Ladyface Alehouse and Hangar 24. However, that list clearly doesn’t tell the full story. After all, right before the release of last week’s L.A. Beer Blast, we learned that a three-week-old brewery is now competing for tap handles: Brouwerij West.
Brouwerij West is a new Belgian-inspired brewery from partners Brian Mercer and Nick Brown. They currently contract brew by night in an undisclosed Orange County location and operate during the day in Palos Verdes. Five years ago, Mercer launched a company called Dark Candi, selling caramelized sugar syrup to breweries in the U.S. and Canada. However, the longtime home brewer had a grander vision that involved starting a brewery of his own…in Belgium. A year ago, he met Brown, who was working at Rubicon Estate in Napa Valley, and the hop- and malt-fueled dream finally became realistic.
“When we were going to do it in Belgium, we were going for a wider, larger release,” says Brown. “We wanted to do a blonde, tripel and quad and wanted to start big.” Instead, they decided it was best to “focus on one beer and keep it small and under the radar.” The partners also felt it was necessary to brew the beer themselves. That mean shifting focus to Southern California.
“In the beginning, we don’t really have the millions of dollars we’d need to build a brewery,” says Brown, “so we’re renting the brewery at night.” Mercer added, “It’s kind of like a chef borrowing a kitchen, where the chef is still the one creating the product.”
Brown said, “We really want to focus on producing the classic styles of Belgium and utilize what we feel they do – relatively simple recipes that gain complexity by using traditional ingredients and proper brewing techniques.”
“We’re doing things a little bit different from the way they do it in Belgium,” says Mercer, “but starting with a Belgian perspective.” So far, they’ve brewed 15-barrel batches of their blonde, with a 30-barrel batch hitting the tank on Saturday. “There aren’t many Belgian blondes, period, even in Belgium,” says Mercer. “We wanted to focus on one that’s lower in alcohol…have a couple of them and not be overwhelmed by alcohol or for it to be too sweet.” A tripel is also in the works.
For now, you can find Brouwerij West’s blonde on tap at bars like Simmzy’s, Father’s Office, Library Alehouse, Bouzy/Chef Melange, Naja’s Place, Venice Ale House, The Surly Goat, Verdugo Bar, and soon, at El Prado and Beachwood BBQ (again).