A bright craft beer spotlight shined on the city of Long Beach last year when its newest brewpub, Beachwood BBQ and Brewing, won the title of Best Mid-Sized Brewpub in the country (after only two years in business!) at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival.
And before the end of the year, another attention-grabbing brewery will be hopefully opening in the International City–Long Beach's first production brewery and taproom, replete with an award-winning brewer, a former ska-scene king owner and an acronym that would make even Snoop Dogg proud.
Liberation Brewing Company (aka LBC) grew out of former Reel Big Fish trombonist Dan Regan's homebrewing efforts, which started during a touring lull in 2007.
"I discovered craft beer early," Regan says of how his passion for craft beer was fueled by his longtime career as a professional musician. "When you join a band at 16, you get exposed to beer at a pretty young age. And usually, there are financial barriers to drinking craft beer, but for us it was all free. We could request Sierra Nevada or whatever and the cost didn't matter to us."
His touring schedule was not optimal for a homebrewer, though, and the few batches per year were made in fits and starts, with fermentation scheduled around time in the van. But the married father of two quickly began to see craft beer as a viable business opportunity, one that easily aligned with the do-it-yourself model he had put into practice with his independent band.
"The only business model I know is being in a punk band and starting at the bottom and naturally growing from there," he says. "We started Reel Big Fish from nothing and we were very DIY, taking records to distributors' houses and negotiating our own record contracts. That's how the best breweries start too."
As the only Reel Big Fish member to grow up in Long Beach, Regan started scheming of how he could open a small brewery in his hometown. He connected with Eric MacLaughlin, a Long Beach-based homebrewer who is currently making beer (and winning awards–his saison won gold at this year's World Beer Cup) for Ohana Brewing Company in L.A., and called upon a numbers-savvy high school friend, Michael Clements, to oversee the financials.
In November, after 20 years as "Dan from Reel Big Fish," Regan stopped playing for the Orange County ska stalwarts. He has been scouting for the right light industrial space to house Liberation ever since. The exact location–near the airport, in the Zaferia District and Downtown are all possibilties–is still undecided, but they hope to have somewhere by the end of the summer so they can open by the end of the year.
Wherever LBC lands, however, Regan says the team wants it to be an anchor point for the community. They envision a tasting room and five-barrel nanobrewery where locals can commune, drink, eat from food trucks and get growlers to go. In a city with three brewpubs, it would be the first production brewery and tasting room to get Long Beach's approval, and possibly the first to take advantage of brewing-friendly legislative policies, details of which the City of Long Beach is still hammering out.
"We wanted to make a Long Beach brewery. We love this town and love the people," Regan says. "We don't want to be from L.A. I toured the world and came home and I can safely say this is the best place in the world."
To stay up to date about Liberation Brewing Company's progress, visit facebook.com/LiberationBrewing