El Segundo's Blue House Pale Ale is poured from a growler. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)
As the craft beer industry in Los Angeles County continues to grow, it's also becoming hyper-local. Thomas Kelley of El Segundo Brewing, for instance, says his small outfit does as much as 40% of its business in the South Bay.
El Segundo's beers now have the opportunity to travel farther, as earlier this month the brewery officially launched a bottling line. Just two beers have made it into bottles thus far, and the run, Kelley said, is "pretty limited," but the beers are out there.
First up was the brewery's White Dog IPA, which offers a twist on the traditional hopped-up, bitter style by heavily using wheat during the brewing process. The goal is to craft an IPA with a more approachable mouth feel. Still, White Dog IPA carries a relatively high alcohol-by-volume of 6.7%.
"It's one of the strongest categories in the market," Kelley said of the IPA, adding that "we're trying to portray ourselves as a hop-focused brewery for Los Angeles."
El Segundo's bottles will be available at its brewery/tasting room (140 Main Street, El Segundo) as well as at a host of specialty shops such as Echo Park's Sunset Beer Co. and Redondo Beach's Select Beer Store. Kelly said about one-third of the brewery's bottles will go to Whole Foods accounts and will be available as far away as Santa Barbara.
El Segundo, which now has about 160 draft accounts throughout the Southland, initially considered buying a bottling line. Instead, the brewery opted for the more affordable and growing field of mobile bottling -- essentially hiring a company that drives a bottling line on a truck that can visit multiple breweries in a day.
"It’s a lot of capital to get a machine, or it’s a lot of labor and there’s a lot of room for error if you’re going to do it by hand," Kelley said. "We were looking into buying a line. It was in the plans with this next expansion, but this enabled us to get into it quicker and it’s an added revenue stream."
El Segundo has also bottled its Standard Crude Imperial Stout, but Kelley said most efforts will be spent on bottling its pale and IPA brands. Bottles of its Blue House and Citra Pale Ale will be coming later in 2013.
In 2012, Kelley said El Segundo cleared about 1,000 barrels of beer. The brewery, he said, is expanding and should be able to top 3,000 barrels in 2013. That's still relatively modest. By comparison, for instance, the Redlands' Hangar 24 was doing more than 15,000 barrels per year as of 2012.
Normally, a brewery with as small an output as El Segundo wouldn't be focusing on bottling yet, but mobile bottling made it an easier decision. Kelley has just one request to those who buy a bottle of his company's IPA: Don't let it sit in the fridge for months.
"With hoppy beer, you want to make sure it’s getting bought, sold and drank in a short period of time," said Kelley, who hosts an open-to-all beer class every other Tuesday evening at the brewery. "Other beer styles can go a few months and not have averse effects. With hoppy beers, you’re really pushing it within six weeks. They change fast."