Interview: MacLeod Ale Brewing Co. beer pros

Craft Beer Los Angeles


What’s the criteria for a beer that you brew at your brewery? What does a MacLeod beer have to be?

(JB) – We are committed to British styles, and the beer has to be authentic.  And delicious. We are very fortunate to have found Andy; a young, enthusiastic brewer, who is an anglophile and beer history fanatic.  We are all more interested in making true British historic styles than super-hoppy West Coast ales.  Andy spent time studying and brewing in Yorkshire, and is excited about helping us bring that beer culture to Los Angeles.

(AB)– It needs to have British heritage in some way, and I won’t brew a particular beer style until I feel that I have some understanding of its history and nuance. I’m not a pedant about beer styles; I just don’t like beer history bastardized for the sake of ignorant marketing shenanigans. And having a story behind each beer can help beer lovers to make an informed choice, enjoy the beer more, and connect with our brewery’s goals in a meaningful way.

What beer or brewery is a current inspiration for you?

(JB) – OK, it’s a long list, but if I had to narrow it down to ONE, I’d have to say Hess.  Mike’s blog was so inspirational and invaluable when the idea started to hatch for me.  He has so much detailed information there…exactly how to modify plastic fermenters [we are using those for our test batches right now], what paperwork is required, lists of other micro and nano breweries around the country etc…Thanks to Mike I began to believe this was possible and somehow found the guts to give it a try. Having said that, we have used this past year to meet with every brewery owner we could find, and each of these breweries has been a tremendous help and inspiration.  Each one does something that sets off a lightbulb for us, and we are looking forward to helping out the next guy the way we have been helped.

(AB) – Allagash Brewing out of Portland, Maine. They focus on “traditional and experimental Belgian-style beers”, and they do a damn fine job of it. I like breweries with focus. It’s all well and good to jump around, chucking money away buying new pitches of yeast for an altbier today and a biere de garde tomorrow, but I’ve always liked it when brewers focus on getting each beer right – to the highest possible standard – before trying something else. Plus they bottle-condition all their beer which I think is a huge plus.

How do you go about naming your beers?

(JB) – The first time I uttered “let’s start a brewery” it was followed by “and name all the beers after bagpipe tunes.”  And this is something that we are carrying out.  There are thousands of piping tunes, and many of them have really great names that will make great beer names, such as The Little Spree, The Big Spree, Jackie Tar, The Crisis, The Kings Taxes, The Baldooser, The Nut Brown Maiden, Nine Pint Cogie…an endless list.

(AB) – That is Jenny’s territory, so over to her on that one. I’m told they are bagpipes tunes; they could be messing with me.

What was the most recent beer that you brewed, and what was your inspiration and approach?

(JB) – I will default to Andy on this one.

(AB)– That would be The Crisis (4.0% ABV), a pale ale that has heritage in the golden ale style. Golden ales were created as cask ale’s answer to the scourge of mass-market lager in British pubs. There was a demand of a very light bodied beer that was very quaffable. For those who have drunk proper cask ale it is hard to think of demanding something more quaffable that a cask bitter, but the dominance of kegged lager is hard to dispute. Anyhow, the brewery I interned for, Roosters, makes a beer in the golden ale genre that is absolutely superb, buckets of hop flavor and so smooth. The Crisis is my homage to that beer, and its fantastic in the heat of LA.

Where do you see the LA beer scene in 5 years?

(JB) – I don’t think we need to guess about this…our neighbors down in San Diego have shown us the way, it’s just a matter of catching up in terms of numbers of breweries.  We’ll be the first craft brewery in the Valley, and I’m sure there are several more following right behind.  There are great “gastropubs” opening up, with tons of craft beer on tap, so there are plenty of places to sell our beer.  I think the next thing that will happen will be clusters of breweries opening in the same area; people will be able to visit several, easily, like they do in San Diego.  Also, I don’t know if this will bear out, and perhaps it is just our friends trying to be nice, but many people have mentioned to us that they are excited about our project because they are ready for less hoppy, session ales. Perhaps this will be the next trend, or at least there will be a few more sessionable beers on tap at the local breweries.

(AB) – Most likely still in LA, I don’t think there is precedent for a beer scene shifting geographically.  I’m pretty new to the area, so grain-of-salt time. My hope is that LA will find a positive identity within the larger California beer scene, not just be the trend chaser with more and more generic gastropubs. I’m not sure if that can come just from bars, breweries, and writers setting more nuanced goals and sharing ideas and best practices, but that is certainly our plan with MacLeod. This city already has some great folks doing great things for beer and I hope that MacLeod will fit in with what they have already built.

Address: 14741 Calvert Street, Van Nuys, CA 91411

Sean Inman

Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.

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