On a national scale, Los Angeles is considered a rather nascent beer city. Yet drive 57 miles north, and the brew landscape gets far more barren. Bill Riegler, however, saw opportunity. His two years in the making Surf Brewery has wasted little time since opening doors five months ago, boasting now 12 original beers in its Ventura County taproom.
His 6,000 square foot operation, located less than 1 mill off US-101 at 4561 Market St., hasn't had much trouble attracting interest. One problem: Most of those wanting to stock Surf beer hail from Santa Barbara or Los Angeles, and the self-distributed brewery isn't yet interested in travelling further south than Santa Monica.
"By and far, most people don't know craft beer up here," Riegler said. "Most owners of bars and restaurants don't know craft beer. They've been buying what they've been buying for 20 years. So that's been harder up here, whereas that has been much easier in Los Angeles."
Riegler grew up in Ventura and began home-brewing while attending the University of California, Santa Barbara, in the 1980s, where he majored in chemistry. After a high end job working with chemicals for Union Carbide – Riegler said his focus was "silicones that go into medical devices and defense coating" – he decided a few years ago to devote his life savings to beer.