The steady and rapid growth of the craft beer industry continues to have a domino effect on affiliated industries. Restaurants, bars, liquor stores and even grocery and convenience stores hoping to remain relevant with their customers now fill their shelves and taps with brews from boutique breweries. Beer from local beer-makers from the foothills region can be found at locations throughout the Inland Empire.
“Our goal was to start distributing to a few family-owned bars in Rancho Cucamonga and grow that, and then go out to other cities,” says Josh Hamilton, owner of Hamilton Family Brewery. “The owners of Lagunitas (Petaluma, Calif.) have said that if you can’t sell your beer in your own city, then stop selling beer. That makes sense. If you don’t know what your local flavor taste is, then what are you doing there?”
Local brewery tap rooms remain the go-to destination for craft beer lovers, and the popularity continues to rise at Upland’s Dale Bros. Brewery and Rök House, Claremont Craft Ales, Hamilton Family Brewery and the recently opened No Clue Brewery in Rancho Cucamonga, La Verne Brewing Company, Sanctum Brewing Company in Pomona, Chino Valley Brewery in Ontario and I & I Brewing in Chino.
However, the local tap rooms offer just a small portion of what the booming industry has to offer. According to the Brewers Association, regional breweries are opening up at a rate of 1.5 per day, with the number of small and independent breweries growing by nearly 20 percent. Brewers Association Chief Economist Bart Watson recently said that “almost 75 percent of Americans now live within 10 miles of a brewery.”
So where do you go if your favorite craft brew isn’t within pub crawling distance? Probably not far, because now those craft brewers are supplying their products to retail outlets, bars and restaurants seemingly everywhere.
“We originally opened as a growler-fill room and not a tasting room,” says Andy Dale of Dale Bros. Brewery. “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. But you just can’t produce enough at the size we were to make an honest living, so we needed to get bigger and increase our distribution.”
Although his brewery has only been open since June 2013, Rök House’s Mark Heffernan says “We obviously have to devote more time to brew and to have beers ready to go into restaurants and bars.”
Simon Brown from Claremont Craft Ales says much of his brewery’s plans for growth are focused largely on distribution. “Every week we take on new accounts, both draft accounts and liquor stores. The plan is to release more and more beers in cans, get more and more distribution in liquor stores and the bigger retail outlets.”
Local brews and those from breweries around the nation can be found at Inland Empire liquor stores like BevMo, Total Wines and More and Liquorama, among others. Restaurants and bars have also upped their selections. For example, Heroes and Legends, The Press and Eureka Burger in Claremont, dba256 in Pomona, Lordsburg Taphouse in La Verne, Limerick’s Tavern and Tequila Hoppers in Upland and Slater’s 50/50 in Rancho Cucamonga all have generous selections and rotating tap handles. It’s hard to beat the offerings at the Yard House in Rancho Cucamonga. The Back Abbey in Claremont offers a delicious collection of imported Belgian beers, and B.J.’s Restaurant and Brewhouse in Rancho Cucamonga presents a wide selection of its own in-house brews.
It’s not uncommon for restaurants and bars to stage special events to showcase a particular brewery from outside of the area. Along with its substantial selection of craft beers on tap, Pacific Wine Merchants will occasionally host “tap takeovers,” offering an assortment of beers to sample from a single brewery. The Upland bar recently featured Firestone-Walker Brewing Co. from Paso Robles in November and Denver’s Great Divide Brewing Co. in December, and it will showcase Wiens Brewing Co. from Temecula on Jan. 16. For just $15, customers could taste eight different Great Divide brews and keep the brewery’s souvenir pint glass. The same format is planned for the Wiens takeover on Jan. 16.
The Great Divide lineup featured Nomad Pilsner, a classic Bohemian pilsner style beer with German malts and Saaz hops; Colette Farmhouse Saison, a refreshing Belgian style using four different yeast strains; Titan IPA, a hoppy India Pale Ale; Hercules Double IPA, one of my favorite Double IPAs with a malty sweetness; Hibernation Ale, a delicious dry-hopped ale with a malty richness; Claymore Scotch Ale, an aged ale with caramel sweetness; Peach Grand Cru, a limited-edition Belgian-style ale brewed with Colorado’s Palisade peaches; and Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout, an incredible robust dark stout with the sweetness and smoothness of a milk shake.
Dale Bros. will be holding its 12th Anniversary Brews and Bros Beer Festival on Saturday, Jan. 24, at Cable Airport in Upland. The event, which benefits the Claremont Educational Foundation, is unsurpassed for local beer events. Check out the Dale Bros. website for details and tickets. Definitely a “can’t miss” event.
Perhaps the best way to find out about these kinds of events is to subscribe to the organization’s online newsletter, or check out a mobile application such as Tap Hunter, which provides information about nearby breweries, stores, restaurants and events, no matter where you are. There are also a number of other resources, such as the West Coaster, Beer Advocate or the Rate Beer.com map of local breweries.
Articles 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 will appear in the February magazine.