When Dennis Trilles and his wife first started drinking craft beer seven years ago, they would turn their travels into beercations, picking cities with rich beer scenes and exploring all the breweries there. The trips expanded on the Long Beach couple’s craft beer education, which began at downtown bars like Congregation Ale House, then expanded outside the city, which at the time had several award-winning brewpubs but not much of a beer scene beyond.
“Hearing that it was going to soon be possible to visit multiple breweries across the city got me really excited,” Trilles, the founder of the blog and Meet Up group Craft Beer Long Beach, says.
Trilles heard the news, in 2015, that the city of Long Beach was loosening regulations on new microbreweries and decided to track their progress with a website and affiliated social media accounts as a hobby.
The policy change has since helped increase the number of beer makers in the area from three to about ten, all of which (and then some) will be pouring at the first ever Craft Beer Long Beach Festival, being held this weekend at Rancho Los Cerritos.
In addition to Beachwood BBQ & Brewing – consistently ranked among the best brewpubs in the world – Long Beach is home to Timeless Pints (technically just inside the Lakewood border), Ballast Point in the Marina and the brew-your-own bar in Bixby Knolls, Dutch’s Brewhouse.
Over the summer alone, two new breweries opened their doors: Long Beach Beer Labs and Signal Hill’s Ten Mile Brewing. At least four more are still in the planning stages.
“We’re still not San Diego or anything that big, but it’s a start,” Trilles said.
Many of these new-wave breweries are centered around Bixby Knolls, a business-friendly enclave that is allowing storefronts on its main drag to become breweries. Some are even starting calling the neighborhood Brewery Knolls.
Dutch’s Brewhouse, which operated as a low-key beer bar and restaurant for the last year, is now using its small brew-your own system to make its own beers; Liberation Brewing Company (LBC!), started by Dan Regan from the ska band Reel Big Fish, is going in down the street; and longtime homebrewers Ambitious Ales just purchased the former Tuttle Camera building on Atlantic Avenue near Carson Street.
On Anaheim Street near Long Beach Boulevard, Trademark Brewing and Hog Canyon Brewing are both moving through the permitting system. Though their systems are not up and running yet, Hog Canyon and Liberation will be contract brewing beers so they can participate in the Craft Beer LB fest. “The one thing I love is that the camaraderie between new breweries is awesome – they’re like family,” Trilles says.
The fest marks the first time that the 12 Long Beach-area breweries will come together in one place, with a lineup that also includes affiliates like Congregation Ales (the brewery is at the bar’s Azusa location), and Smog City Brewing, which has its first satellite tasting room at Steelcraft in Bixby Knolls. Think of it as a large-scale version of Trilles’ Craft Beer LB Meet Up group, which started by accident last year. He decided to reserve the Craft Beer LB Meet Up name in case he ever wanted to use it alongside his other properties, but the notice accidentally went public and within days, over 100 people were interested in attending some kind of event.
Trilles works hard to make each Meet Up not just a drunken gathering of craft beer fans, but an educational experience. He coordinates with the bars and breweries to have representatives present to guide the group through a tasting, where people can try something new, ask questions, and learn a bit in the process. Similarly, the Craft Beer LB Fest will be an intimate affair (limited to 500 people) where attendees can taste through local beer and get to know the growing number of local brewers.
“I can’t wait for Long Beach to be the next beer destination,” Trilles says, “the kind of place my wife and I would go to when we were first exploring beer.”
Craft Beer LB Festival is on Sat., Sept. 23 from 1 p.m.-5 p.m. at Rancho Los Cerritos, 4600 Virginia Road, Long Beach. Tickets are $20 for 10 tasters. Available here.
Sarah Bennett is a freelance journalist who has spent nearly a decade covering food, music, craft beer, arts, culture and all sorts of bizarro things that interest her for local, regional and national publications.