- Reporters Desk
Photo by Phillip Cooke
By Michael Koger, Contributing Writer
If you were to look up Brouwerij West on BeerAdvocate.com, you’d find that it’s located in Rancho Palos Verdes.
However, if you buy a bottle of their beer, it might say it was brewed in San Jose. But in January 2015, Brouwerij West (pronounced “brewery”) will be opening up in the Port of Los Angeles’ Warehouse No. 9, which Crafted hopes to turn into a classic high-ceiling mall, in the mold of downtown Los Angeles’ Grand Central Market or Seattle’s Melrose Mall.
For Brouwerij West owner, Brian Mercer, the move was serendipitous.
“Rachel Waugh [of Crafted] called me one day to see if I was interested [in Warehouse No. 9],” Mercer said.
For the past three years, Mercer has been a “traveling” brewing, which is the practice of renting space in other breweries to brew beer.
“We wanted to get started brewing,” Mercer said. “We’ve brewed at Sudwerk up in Davis” and other parts of the state as well.
However, the plan was not to roam forever.
“I’m from San Pedro,” said Mercer, recently. “My wife is from San Pedro and her family is from here too.”
Mercer learned he could make great beer anywhere, so when he started looking at locations, Mercer and company searched the surrounding Harbor and South Bay area.
He looked at El Segundo and Long Beach, but Crafted’s Executive Director Rachel Waugh made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: opening Brouwerji West as the anchor for Warehouse No. 9, Artisan Food Market.
The idea is to turn the warehouse into a full-scale production brewery with a bottling line, a full service restaurant and dining area in the courtyard space between their space and Crafted’s. In all, Brouwerji will occupy more than 7,500 of the 60,000 square feet available in Warehouse No. 9. There will be 15,370 square feet of common area seating within the market.
Crafted’s plans calls for Off the Vine, a farmers market and a space for community kitchen classes in the warehouse.
“Crafted and The Port of Los Angeles has been absolutely wonderful to work with and have been very supportive,” he said.
The warehouse sits on 7 acres of land and is owned by the Port of Los Angeles. No word yet on what kind of food they will be serving, but the restaurant will be manned by Chef Brendan Collins, who is a Michelin starred chef and owner of Waterloo & City in Culver City, as well as the star of MTV’s “House of Food.”
Collins and Mercer met through a friend while discussing potentially opening Brouwerij West in Long Beach, before they decided on the San Pedro location. The plan is to have the restaurant be “beer friendly, family friendly and budget friendly,” according to Mercer. The restaurant will be able to seat about 200 diners and craft brew enthusiasts.
Brouwerij West already is sold in 30 states and 6 countries. When this facility opens, Mercer plans to step up production to 6,000 barrels (One barrel equals 30 gallons, so about 186,000 gallons) and launch a bottling line. The brew house and bottling line will be viewable from the restaurant dining area.
“We’re going to have a glass window all along here,” said Mercer, pointing to blueprints for the restaurant. “This way people will get to see what’s going on. It should be pretty cool.”
In terms of employment, Mercer is anticipating the brewery to employ 10 to 15 people. The restaurant should hire about 40 to 60 people.
Mercer points to Belgium when describing his inspiration for Brouwerij West’s special brews.
“We brew great, drinkable beer that is inspired by the traditional Belgian styles,” Mercer said.
Their portfolio includes beers such as a Belgian style Tripel, Saison Extra, Mør Mør (“More More”) Quadrupel and others. Having worked in Belgium selling brewing sugar to Trappist breweries and other abbeys that brew, Mercer was drawn to their styles.
Eschewing gimmicks or slick marketing techniques, Mercer is focused on the product. A part of this focus on the product is evidenced in the bottle art design.
With a passion for art, Mercer views bottles as vehicles for the art. Right now, Brouwerij West works with about 30 different artists, including Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo, Jim Mazza, Junichi Tsuneoka and Gina Kelly. Mercer doesn’t give the artists any particular direction. The art ranges from the absurd to abstract expressionism, deploying visual metaphors and conceptual imagery to add a distinctive sense of play and whimsy to the bottle art.
The only guideline is for the art to be unique and to breakaway from a typical product. The result has been the creation of limited edition posters, t-shirts,and pocket art pieces: small wooden disks featuring the work of Ryan Duggan on one side and the Brouwerij West logo on the other.
“We’re planning to have large murals on the outside of the building,” said Mercer, referencing the yellow exterior of the warehouse.
He hasn’t decided on who he will commission for the project.
In regards to the burgeoning craft beer scene in Los Angeles and Orange County, Mercer found it to be exciting.
“Six years ago, it was just Angel City and Craftsman,” Mercer points out.
Now with the explosion of brewing in Torrance and other communities in the Los Angeles area, San Pedro seems poised to become a world class beer destination. Mercer points to breweries like Stone Brewing Company in Escondido and Sierra Nevada Brewing in Chico, drawing visitors from all over the country and all over the world. This could be the future of craft brewing in Los Angeles.
Mercer plans to start brewing in November or December and to open in January of 2015.
“We will have several opening parties and invite people from the community,” Mercer said.
Looking down the line, he sees Brouwerij West becoming one of these beer destinations.
“We signed a 33-year lease, so we’re not going anywhere.”