Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Craft Beer - Smog City Brewing

Over the last few years  growth in the craft beer industry has been phenomenal. In 1980 there were just three craft beer breweries in New Zealand, now there are currently more than 90 listed on the Brewers Guild website.   Not only have small commercial breweries mushroomed around the country but brewing beer as a hobby has also become very popular.  My own son enjoys brewing, and, of course drinking, his own beer.  He makes beer purely for his own use and to share with friends and family but Jonathan and Laurie Porter have taken Jonathan's brewing hobby to a whole new level and set up the successful Smog City Brewing in Torrance, South Bay, California.

Smog City Brewing
I first met Jonathan and Laurie when they came to New Zealand on their honeymoon around ten years ago.  Laurie's parents are long term friends of my brother and since my brother was out of the country he asked that we host and entertain them while they were here.  We did so and it was an absolute pleasure. They are now also my friends, I am pleased to say.

Laurie and Jonathan at my home on their New Zealand honeymoon
 While in New Zealand their plan was to visit as many New Zealand boutique breweries as possible to absorb and learn as much as they could.  Having met at university in Philadelphia where they were both taking a photography course and then working together in the photography business they decided to fulfill Jonathan's dream and venture into the world of brewing.   He told us that he started home brewing in 2003 and before long his hobby had turned into an absolute passion. We were struck by both his and Laurie's enthusiasm and their excitement at the prospect of developing and running their own brewery.  Now ten years later it is amazing to see what they have achieved as the proud owners of Smog City Brewing.

Spoilt for choice at Smog City!

Both  Jonathan and Laurie have put in a lot of hard work to get where they are today, Jonathan having put in many long hours working from the bottom up at a number of breweries
around the LA region.  He told me that 90% of brewing is cleaning, it is hard physical work and he would often end up exhausted at the end of the day.  Starting out on their own it was  Laurie, juggling work with caring for their young son, who would use her own car to drive around dropping off kegs of their brew to bars and restaurants and those kegs are heavy! They are co-directors and equal partners of the company, Laurie is artistic and very social media savvy, her roles are in publicity, marketing, sales, distribution and a myriad of other management roles, Jonathan is the chief brewmaster and overall manager.

Fun times beer tasting with Laurie
I had long wanted to visit their brewery so my recent stop over in LA gave me the perfect opportunity. Located on Del Amo Drive Torrance the brewery is much larger than I expected with huge tanks brewing all different types of beer.  The popular tap room, or bar as we would call it,  caters to more than 100 customers a day offering an extensive range of beer from Saisons, to sours to ales and porters (appropriate!). Many of the beers are made from foraged fruit, such as their popular Kumquat Saison and the labels are quirky works of art. The tap room has a relaxed and friendly vibe with a great  spirit of friendship and camaraderie between  the staff and the customers.  I had a brilliant time...and got to try a number of their beers.  The Coffee Porter is sensational and was awarded a gold medal at the American Beer Festival in 2012,  it is my personal favourite and I only wish I had been able to bring more back to New Zealand.

Back in New Zealand my envious son sporting a Smog City T Shirt with Coffee Porter and Kumquat Saison
I am greatly  impressed at how Porter and Laurie have converted a hobby and a passion into a successful business. They work so well together as a team with skills that compliment each other.  Their business is expanding and just recently they opened a satellite taproom at Steelcraft, Long Beach, California.  I wish them well.  Success only comes from hard work, as the saying goes 'It takes years of hard work to become an overnight success'.  There is no doubt that Jonathan and Laurie  have worked hard to fulfill their dream.

If you are in Torrance I recommend a visit to Smog City Brewing.  I can assure you you won't be disappointed. www.smogcitybrewing.com