Little do most new craft-beer geeks know that Irvine was the site of the county’s first production brewery. Twenty-four years later, not only is the city finally getting a second, but it’s also getting the county’s third production distillery at the same time with Left Coast Brewing’s tasting room, smokehouse and distillery. The family at Left Coast, which independently operates out of a large San Clemente warehouse, has had its eye on something a bit farther north for some time.
“The Irvine Co. [has] approached us over the past few years, and we finally made it happen,” says Shawn Hadjis. “It’s the perfect place for shopping, dining and living. . . . My dad, John Hadjis, has been a resident of Irvine for more than 20 years.”
The family isn’t new to running restaurants, with 15 franchised and owned Oggi’s Pizza locations throughout the Southland dating back to 1995. But this is the group’s first endeavor with barbecue and a distillery. With 24 taps, the main focus is getting people to try Left Coast’s beers, which are fresh from the source.
“The distillery was an afterthought, but personally, I’ve always wanted to make spirits, so my cousin and I finally convinced Uncle George to make it happen,” Shawn says. Longtime Left Coast brewer Jim Clarke will be brewing and distilling on the new system, which will offer both specialty beers and spirits for guest sampling, as well as custom cocktails.
The new location, which created around 40 new jobs, also offers Kansas City-style barbecue from executive chef Jason Tsiames, a Lenexa, Kansas, native. “He’s also Greek like us—sort of a distant relative,” Shawn says, laughing.
Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest. When not writing about, photographing or filming beer, cocktails, and food, he can be found talking trash while playing video games under the name “OCBeer.”