Brace yourselves — the breweries are coming. It’s been more than two years since the city of Long Beach decided to streamline the application and permitting process for new beer makers, and the next wave of local homebrewers-gone-pro is starting to roll in. First up is Long Beach Beer Lab, a husband-wife-run combo production brewery and bakery in the Wrigley neighborhood that has served their signature pizzas and sour beer at occasional sneak previews all summer.
With backgrounds in the biomedical industry (him) and French pastry making (her), the concept makes it one of the most unique new breweries in the region. It’s also one of the most homegrown. Levi Fried grew up in Long Beach but left at 17, eventually studying biochemistry and microbiology both domestically and abroad. He started brewing his own beer while doing a residency in the Middle East; his mother brought him some examples of California craft and he knew he’d never find anything similar in conservative Israel, where he and his wife, Harmony Sage, were living.
As recently as 2015, Fried was operating one of Israel’s only craft breweries, Righteous Brews, out of his garage, experimenting with wild yeast and imported hops while collaborating with Sage on underground beer pairing dinners meant to expand Israeli palates.
Righteous Brews was getting ready to open a larger facility in Jerusalem when a trip home that same year changed everything. Long Beach had made it easier to open a brewery, and a family friend owned an empty warehouse that could make a nice storefront on Willow Street. Would he like to open his fermentorium here instead?
Fried and Sage moved their family back to the U.S. and started building out their own personal laboratories — a kitchen with a room-sized imported oven for her and a 10-barrel brewery filled with Kosher wine barrels for him. Sage began cultivating wild yeast from local fruit for a new sourdough starter (follow her on Instagram at @lbbread!). Fried became an active member of the local homebrew club and has won multiple awards for his fruited Belgian-style sours, which get their funky tartness from airborne organisms and take months to mature.
“I used to take bacteria and animal cultures and made medicine out of it. Now I take bacteria and sugar and make beer,” Fried said during a recent visit. “I just built my own lab and you get to taste the results.”
If you’ve never had one of Fried’s beers, start with Long Beach Beer Lab’s flagship, a tart farmhouse ale called Milk the Moustache. Made in collaboration with another local homebrewer, Jules Gutierrez from Crude Brew Crew, it’s an entirely barrel-fermented, easy-drinking beer equally at home on a dinner table or at the beach. It comes in a rotation of fruited versions (Milk the Peach was recently on tap) and also gets used to add a touch of nuance to other beers, like the Rustic Wit.
Long Beach Beer Lab also makes clean beers (aka those not infected with delicious sour-beer bugs), including a hazy pale ale made in collaboration with Laguna Beach Brewing (LB, meet LB!), a crushable blonde ale and a dry stout, appropriately named Chocolatey. Expect the brewery’s first bottle release — a boozy bourbon-barrel-aged sour stout infused with grape must called Bro.Obscurite — around the time of their August 31 grand opening.
By then, a replacement oven (the first one had a manufacturer’s defect) should also be fully installed, and Sage’s incomparable menu of sourdough breads (used for everything from soup-dipping to Berliner weiss-making), bubbly vegetarian pizzas (with a hint of pilsner malt), traditional Israeli appetizers (hummus, pickled things, etc.) and playful desserts (vegan doughnuts, anyone?) will be back up and running too. For now, check their sneak-peek hours online, drink a flight of Fried’s calculated laboratory experiments and don’t leave without trying Sage’s Beer and Ice Cream dessert, a heavenly combination of alcoholic Bro.Obscurite ice cream (made by Long Beach Creamery) with a homemade oatmeal cookie and chocolate drizzle — all served with a side pour of the complex 14.5% ABV beer itself.
518 W Willow St., Long Beach; lbbeer.com
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.