King Harbor Brewing Company (formerly known as Coastline) is busy constructing their facility, but Founder and COO, Tom Dunbabin took the time from pulling nails out of the wall to speak with Brew & You columnist Sean Inman about his background and plans.
At what point did you know you’d work with beer for a living?
It all started with trips to Europe with his parents. Visiting England and Germany, Dunbabin became “fascinated by the process” of making beer before he was even legal to drink. A trip to Belgium in 2007 sealed the deal and put a brewery on his “short list of businesses, [he] wanted to start.”
Is there anybody who mentored you along the way? If so, what did they teach you that was so valuable?
Rich Marcello from Strand Brewing popped up in conversation multiple times. Dunbabin has received not only brewery construction advice from Marcello but also how to balance the work-life ratio.
What was the first beer you ever brewed, and how did it turn out?
Dunbabin made a couple of beers at Brewbakers in Manhattan Beach including a Scotch Ale but soon realized that for King Harbor, he wanted an experienced brewing hand. He now has one, who is working on pilot batches in obscurity (for now).
What’s the criteria for a beer that you brew at your brewery? What does a beer have to be?
For Dunbabin, his philosophy on beer boils down to, “I like this beer because…” Whether that sentence continues with because I am out surfing, or lounging at home or paired with food. The beer should match with a particular event or time.
Where do you see the LA beer scene in 5 years?
He believes that it is better for the South Bay to have more breweries. It creates a local following that is more educated about craft beer. For King Harbor, he has already “nailed down their five year perspective” by seeing how mature industries like wine in Northern California have responded. Dunbabin wants to slowly grow both a following locally by distributing mostly in their own tap room before getting bigger.
What beer would you take to a desert island?
Firestone Walker’s 805 was the first beer that came to Dunbabin’s mind. In fact, when his wife travels north on business, she takes three growlers and gets them filled with the beer to bring home.