When it comes to beer drinking, the Southland boasts some of America's best bars with carefully curated lists of ever-changing taps and bottles. But the Los Angeles region has always been out-shined by San Diego when it comes to beer making.
That is rapidly changing. Following on national trends, the long-dormant local brewery business is booming.
Eagle Rock Brewery led the way in 2009, becoming the first to open in Los Angeles in more than 60 years. In the last two years, the doors of Strand Brewing, Nibble Bit Tabby Brewery and Ladyface Alehouse opened.
Most recently, Ohana Brewing Company opened in Los Angeles, tapping its first beer in August. The owner, Andrew Luthi, is just 24.
"Opening my own brewery gave me an opportunity to be creative - and I embrace the challenge of making it a success," Luthi, the son of the brewery's founder, Karsen Luthi.
Ohana offers three flagship brews that consist of "world class IPA," a smoked beer and session beer.
Luthi and partner and head brew master Chris Walowski, 25, a Wilson High graduate and recent Cal State Long Beach graduate, have already won awards as homebrewers and professional brewers.
The company uses a custom brew system previously operated by the highly-regarded Craftsman Brewing Company of Pasadena. It is modeled after German brew systems that produce primarily lager beers.
Walowski, a Long Beach native, brewed a 7.2 percent alcohol-by-volume rye saison in August, Ohana's first beer.
"Our first brew day was 16 hours long," Walowski said. "We brewed during that first heat wave and it was 100-something inside the brewery. I spent most of the time getting sweaty scooping out 700 pounds of 170-degree grain."
The resulting beer, Saison Dubach - along with a Belgian beer called Accomplice - made its public debut at this year's L.A. Beer Week Festival.
In addition to brewing, both Luthi and Walowski also have full-time jobs - Walowski also is currently getting his master's in biochemistry at Cal State Long Beach.
But they say they will be brewing as often as possible, planning as many different beers as they can manage the first year.
They will, however, have plenty of competition.
This year, 2,751 breweries were active and permitted in the United States, according to Beer Institute, an industry group. Of those, 85 percent opened in the last two decades.
Though the industry isn't exactly Starbucks, which plans to add 3,000 stores in the next four years, it is growing by the year. In 2012 alone, 442 new brewers opened; California led the way with 31.
Large commercial brands such as Anheuser Busch are now competing with the new craze of craft beer, which is small-scale artisan batches of brew geared toward extremely specific tastes.
In recent decades, as major beer companies have consolidated, the number of traditional breweries shrank. Since 2006, only 20 have been in operation in the U.S.
But the specialty brewery scene has exploded, surging every year and stealing away market share.
Since August, breweries are opening at the rate of one a day, according to the Brewers Assn. trade group - the fastest pace since the end of Prohibition.
The first kegs of Ohana beer were tapped at Long Beach's The Factory, The Red Leprechaun and Beachwood BBQ earlier this month. They were also tapped at Los Angeles establishments, Boneyard Bistro and Far Bar.
The young brew masters say they hope their offerings will encourage Angelenos to slow down, relax and be happy - something Luthi said not enough people do in L.A.
The makers of Ohana beer said the new fraternity of small brewers is a tight-knit group, like family ("Ohana" is the Hawaiian word for family).
"It is competitive, but we all share the common love of craft brew," said Walowski.
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