Thank God The Tiki Bar is Open

Tiki faces

We’ve created a bit of a mystique with our enchanted backyard Tiki Lounge. Yeah, it’s a pretty nice place to hang out, especially in the summer. We’ve painted a picture of paradise, but who really believes anyone can recreate the South Pacific in the Inland Empire?100_0005

The mystique grows every time Beth and I post a few photos on Facebook while spending an evening in the distant northwest corner of the yard behind the giant palms and the manicured tropical flora. It’s just that we seem to find ourselves becoming part of our surroundings. Encircled by the flames of tiki torches and hundreds of miniature lights, the whisper of the wind whooshing through the 30-foot-tall Queen Palms is background accompaniment to the 800-plus melodies that sequence randomly from every angle, providing stereo resonances wherever we are. The soft blue glow of the light from the swimming pool rises from the level below as Sasha stretches along the outdoor sofa and Kobe scampers through the jungle of bromeliads, agapanthus, Philodendrons, Fuchsias and Amarilis. Our evenings that begin well before sundown frequently end after midnight; just the two of us sitting, talking, listening to music and even dancing in the moonlight long after the dogs have gone inside to sleep below our California King.

10443495_10152357875343813_869949690268394508_n100_0823Serenity transforms into intimate interactions and friendly frivolity when our pals join the gathering. This is when the beverage menu expands from simple cocktails, beer or wine to a much broader and more special beverage menu.

And this is where the mystique of the Tiki Lounge truly becomes reality, sharing cocktails and stories with good friends among the tropical atmosphere.

Our Facebook posts about the Tiki Lounge being open are genuine. If we put it out there, we have to assume somebody might show up. It’s not unprecedented; we’ve had spontaneous visitors in the past, although it’s not the norm. We hope you’ll join us sometime for after-dinner spirits. We love the company, and we never turn up our noses to the addition of a good bottle (although certainly not necessary). Mahalo!

With Tiki torches burning at twilight, we’re happy to share good times at our stay-at-home paradise. And while we have not yet had our official annual “turning of the sign” ceremony this year (attention: Jim), the Tiki Bar is indeed open.

Tiki Bar 4 guys

From Home Brew to Queen of the Valley

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“It wasn’t that I wanted to make more beer to sell it. I wanted to sell more beer so I could make more beer.”

Such was the business plan of Curt Dale when he began selling Dale Bros. craft beers after two decades of simply making home brews for himself, family and friends. Curt and his brother Andy, along with Andy’s wife Karen McMillen, operate the popular Dale Bros. Brewery in Upland.

“I was the salesman and the brewer, I just wanted to sell beer so other people would pour it at their restaurants so I could make enough money to make more beer,” says Dale.

When the brothers were young, the Dale family lived in Claremont, but moved to Louisville and later Vermont. Curt returned to Claremont in 1976 to attend college, and the family returned in 1980. Andy graduated from Claremont High in 1982 before eventually joining his brother in his home brewing hobby. After years of experimentation and refinement, their hobby turned serious.IMG_0547

“As soon as you make your first good batch, you start to think about making it professionally,” says Curt Dale.

While they lived locally, Curt says he still considered opening the beer business in the East because that’s where he spent his formative years.

“We looked at New England for a while and thought that would be a fun place to be,” he says. “Vermont, where we lived, is just chock-full of breweries right now. It has a population of only 500,000 people, so if you are there, you are basically exporting your beer to distance lands. “

The demands of distribution were enough to convince him to focus the business close to home. They found an industrial park on Ninth Street in Upland, where Curt Dale began setting up the brewery in 2001.

“When Curt started as a sole proprietor, he wore all hats at the same time,” said Andy, who explained that the idea of having a true tasting room and on-premise sales didn’t dawn on them until later. Instead, Curt focused on distributing Dale Bros. beers through local restaurants, bars and retail outlets. He sold and delivered the brewery’s first keg to Pizza N Such in Claremont in 2003.

Dale_Bros_Logo_Glow1-300x300Andy and Karen joined the company in 2007, allowing the partners to share their responsibilities and separate the beer-making and business aspects of the operation.

“We opened as a growler-fill room and not a tasting room,” says Andy. “We had a small retail business, and for a small brewery it is essential to have that retail business on-premises, because it is the best way to generate operating cash flow. You just can’t produce enough beer at the size we were to make an honest living solely through distribution. We struggled along for a while; we were a little capital-starved.”

Dale Bros. found enough success to move to their current location in November 2012 in a newer industrial complex building near Cable Airport. The facility at 2120 Porterfield Way in Upland has allowed them to expand production from five 10-barrel tanks and two 30-barrel tanks to six 10-barrel tanks and seven 30-barrel tanks.

“Although we got off to a slow start in terms of our production capabilities, in the past year-and-a-half we will have added 190 barrels of fermentation space,” Curt said. When we left the old facility, we were at 80 barrels that were being used.”

Today Dale Bros. beers can be found in many local restaurants, bars and other venues, as well as the big box wholesale stores, grocery stores and large liquor stores like BevMo and Total Wines and More. In addition, the Dale Bros. tasting room is open Tuesday through Saturday from 2-9 p.m. and Sundays from noon-6 p.m. They also have kegs available for personal events

“Southern California has given us the opportunity of being very, very local. It’s not going to stay this way forever, but right now most of our beer is shipped within about 15 miles,” Curt said.Beer_Sipping

“It’s amazing how many people we would talk to who hadn’t heard of us,” recalled Curt.

Added Andy, “There probably are still a lot who haven’t heard of us, but now it feels as if within our home territory that our brand recognition has grown considerably.”

 

This is the first is a periodic series of articles about Dale Bros Brewery. Stories from “Sips, Suds and Spirits” focusing on the local craft beer scene now appear in 9-0-9 Magazine. An abbreviated version of the above article appears in the July magazine.