Local Craft Breweries are Booming


IMG_0547I’m pleased to note that articles from “Sips, Suds and Spirits” focusing on the local craft beer scene now appear in 9-0-9 Magazine. Highlighted below is the full-length version of the piece from the June magazine…


Most people of legal drinking age have had at least some experience with the vast and varied world of adult beverages. Be it a great beer, fine wine or well-crafted cocktail from an appealing distilled spirit, these beverages serve as intriguing and integral complements to our society. This column focuses on the outstanding and unique products, events, places, people, recipes and business aspects that embody the imbibing world. And, as always, we remind you to drink responsibly.

The current boom in the craft brewing industry continues to broaden opportunities for genuine innovative business ventures for local entrepreneurs to express their creativity in a way like never before. New establishments continue to pop up all the time, and it appears that the Inland Empire may be adding more soon. What a wonderful way to make an honest living, while also making a lot of people happy at the same time.CCA 2

“The growth of the industry is good for everybody,” says Andy Dale of Dale Bros. “We’ve got a lot of people in this region, and for a long time it has been a beer desert. But that is changing.”

With Dale Bros. Brewery in Upland, Claremont Craft Ales in Claremont, La Verne Brewing Company in La Verne and Sanctum Brewing Company in Pomona already firmly established, and Rök House Brewing Company scheduled to open Saturday in Upland, beer lovers in and around the local region have a generous choice of nearby craft beer-brewing taverns.

“It definitely seems to be good for everybody,” says Dale. “The analogy that I like to use is, ‘What if Napa Valley only had two wineries that were 40 miles apart? It would still be a pretty place, but there wouldn’t be a lot of wine drinkers going there.’ We help each other.”

The industry growth throughout the nation gives reason to believe that more new breweries will be dotting the local landscape in the months and years ahead. Nationally, craft brewers reached 7.8 percent volume of the total U.S. beer market in 2013, according to the Brewers Association. While that is only a small percentage of the nation’s overall beer sales, it is up from 6.5 percent of national sales in 2012.

There were a total of 2,768 craft and small breweries operating in the United States in 2013, an increase of 15 percent over 2012, according to a March report by the Brewers Association, the trade organization representing small and independent American craft brewers. That included 1,237 brewpubs, 1,412 microbreweries and 119 regional craft breweries. Last year alone, 413 new breweries opened in the United States (and 44 closed), and small brewing companies employed 110,273 people in 2013, also an increase over 2012. More than 1,000 breweries are currently in the planning stages across the country.

IMG_0929The movement is really just in its infant stages in the Inland Empire. While Dale Bros. has been pouring and distributing craft beers for more than a decade, most of the brewing operations spread throughout the Inland Empire and eastern San Gabriel Valley are relatively young. Among the others brewing locally are Chino Valley Brewery in Ontario and I & I Brewing in Chino. Extending a little beyond the immediate area, there is Hangar 24 Craft Brewery in Redlands, Ritual Brewing Co. and Donkey Punch Brewery in Redlands; Brew Rebellion in Yucaipa; Main Street Brewery and TAPS Fish House and Brewery in Corona; Sons of Liberty Ale Works in Norco; Kat Daddy Breweries in Moreno Valley; and Inland Empire Brewing Company,Packinghouse Brewing Company, Wicks Brewing Co., Thompson Brewing Co. and Area 51 Craft Brewery in Riverside.

While this may seem like a lot in a short time, it is nothing compared to the many offerings in San Diego County. There are more than 80 craft breweries in San Diego County alone, which has become what many people are calling the “Napa Valley of craft beer.” The industry has helped boost the image and the economies of their local communities.

Thanks in large part to the widespread overwhelming success of Stone Brewing Co., the region has embraced the San Diego craft beer explosion, and the brewers work and live together in a spirit of cooperation rather than competition, sharing ideas and recipes, collaborating on special releases, and even giving visitors to their tasting rooms recommendations on other breweries to patronize. The area truly has become a renowned beer community.

“You can tell the brewery that’s not going to survive is one that thinks it has secrets,” said Curt Dale, founder of Dale Bros. Brewing Co., explaining that much of the industry growth can be directly attributed to cooperation between breweries. He said that he and his brother Andy have helped several local breweries get off the ground, and the appreciation is reciprocal.IMG_0936

“Claremont Craft Ales even has a sign that says ‘Visit Dale Bros.’ on its tasting room wall,” he said.

A large part of the appeal of craft beer is the creativity that goes into making some the best beer in the world, as is evidenced at San Diego County heavyweights Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey in San Marcos, Stone in Escondido, Mother Earth in Vista, Ale Smith in San Diego, Pizza Port in several locations, and many others. Brewpubs like Karl Strauss have their restaurants and tasting rooms spread throughout Southern California (and would be an ideal fit in the Inland Empire).

Sid at workMany of these places specialize in what would aptly be described as either “session beers” or “sipping beers.” I find the best way to sample craft beers is much like you would taste wine – in small quantities. Try an assortment of beers in small “taster” glasses, and then enjoy a pint or two after sampling several offerings. Better yet, take home a 22-ounce bottle or a 64-ounce growler to savor later.

Along with the craft breweries where you can test a variety of a single brewery’s production styles, brewpubs, restaurants and bars throughout the country are now offering a wide selection of craft beers. Liquor stores, grocery stores and even big wholesale club stores carry generous collection of beers you’ll never find in a 30-pack carton.