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We're Exploring LA County's 88 Cities. Here's Your Guide To Torrance And All Its Breweries

Map created by Angelica Quintero

Los Angeles County has 88 cities, and KPCC/LAist plans to explore them all. We're recruiting listeners and readers to take us to the neighborhoods they live in and love. From Long Beach to Lancaster, follow our journey here and on the radio with Take Two.

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TORRANCE: 'THE BEER-MUDA TRIANGLE'

Torrance is just northwest of Long Beach, mostly landlocked but with an arm that juts out to reach the Pacific Ocean.

It was named for Jared Torrance, whose development company designed the city in the 1920s.

That company planned it with industries to the east and homes to the west. That way, winds blowing from the Pacific wouldn't push industrial smoke into people's windows.

But nowadays, it's not the winds that are brewing in the city — it's beer.

Friends Dylan Gee, Zach Trevino and Luke Buckley drink at Strand Brewing in Torrance. (Photo by Andrew Cullen for LAist)

With 11 breweries, Torrance has the highest concentration of them in the region, according to the L.A. County Brewers Guild.

All that growth happened in less than two decades, so to find out why, we took a trip.

OUR GUIDE: PHIL JOHNSON

Torrance resident Phil Johnson poses for a portrait with a van he uses to transport customers of his brewery tour company. (Photo by Andrew Cullen for LAist)

Johnson is the owner of SoCal Brew Bus, which gives tours to breweries around L.A. County

Years in Torrance: four

Favorite thing about Torrance: "The entire craft beer culture in L.A. is relatively new. We're talking 10 years old. But it's all really happening right now, especially in Torrance."

EXPLORING THE CITY'S BREWERIES

Map created by Angelica Quintero

1. HOW IT BEGAN: RED CAR BREWERY AND RESTAURANT

Before Red Car opened in downtown Torrance in 2000, there were no brew pubs or breweries like it in the city.

But co-owners Bob and Laurie Brandt saw the effect that one can have on a community.
"Have you ever been to Denver? Have you ever been to Oregon?" Laurie Brandt said. "It's a catapult to reviving downtown areas."

But a brew pub was a foreign idea to the then-leaders of Torrance, who thought the Brandts would open a bar that would bring trouble.

"We had to basically meet with the mayor and every city council person available," she said. "They were super helpful once they were on board."

Red Car Brewery co-founder Bob Brandt shows off a batch of beer in progress. (Photo by Andrew Cullen for LAist)

Red Car Brewery co-founders Bob and Laurie Brandt in the production area behind the counter of the brewpub they established in 2000.

It was the first of its kind in the city: A place that both brewed beer and served it to patrons.

Much of the brew is made right behind the bar in several stills and barrels no higher than a bartender. The smell of fermenting barley wafts from one wood-lined container, while several R2D2-looking steel vessels pump finished beers just feet away to the taps.

Red Car feels very communal on the other side of the bar, where on a recent afternoon coworkers and families with small children all gathered to eat and drink.

And it laid the groundwork for creating a beer scene in Torrance, which Bob Brandt said is now "loosely referred to as 'The Beer-muda Triangle.'"

Red Car Brewery founders Bob and Laurie Brandt. (Photo by Andrew Cullen for LAist)

2. HOW TORRANCE CAME TO LOVE BEER: STRAND BREWING

Strand was the first production brewery in Torrance when it opened in 2009, meaning that it didn't just make beer but also distributed it in stores throughout SoCal.

When they were looking for a headquarters, the co-owners struggled to find an ideal space: a big industrial building where the brewing could happen, but with an address close to residential areas so Strand could stay near the community.

Because it was founded with industries in mind, Torrance seemed to fit that mold.

The tasting room at Strand Brewing Co. in Torrance. (Photo by Andrew Cullen for LAist)

"They understand that a semi-truck may roll down the street at 5 a.m. with grain," said co-owner Rich Marcello. "I don't think you're really going to get away with that two blocks from the strand in Manhattan Beach."

However, Marcello and his business partner Joel Elliott faced skepticism from the city's leaders, just like Red Car's owners did nine years prior; the alcohol license is different for a production brewery that has a tap room to serve beer, versus one for a sports bar or nightclub.

"Biggest part for us was to convince them that weren't trying to circumvent some system by opening up a bar," said Marcello.

Brad Couey cleans kegs at Strand Brewery in Torrance on May 30, 2018. Strand provided the momentum that pushed Torrance to become the beer mecca it is today. (Photo by Andrew Cullen for LAist)

To the city, a bar would bring a different character to the neighborhood than what most might want.

"Torrance prides itself of being a big-small town, and usually that comes with a family association," said Torrance planning manager Danny Santana.

But the city took a chance on Strand and other breweries.

Strand Brewing founder Rich Marcello discusses his beers with Take Two producer Leo Duran. Photo by Andrew CUllen for LAist)

The brewery opened in an expansive 30,000 square foot warehouse where about a dozen picnic tables line one side. The rest of the space is taken up by about 15 large steel stills, pallets of beer ready for shipment, a grain mill and more.

Strand quickly became a community meeting space despite being tucked away in an industrial park.

"When I really, really realized [the city's minds] had changed, though, it was about a year later," recalled Marcello. "I got a phone call from one of my friends in the city and they said, 'Hey, we want to congratulate you. You won an award for enriching the community.'"

It didn't stop there. When breweries like Smog City were searching for a home, Marcello tipped them off that Torrance would be a good place to set-up.

"I had been looking up and down the westside of L.A., Hawthorne, Westchester, El Segundo," recalled Laurie Porter, cofounder of Smog City, which eventually opened in Torrance in 2013. "The city is both fair and business friendly and we feel very fortunate to be there."

It helped that it can take just weeks for a brewery in Torrance to get the right permit versus months elsewhere in the county, and so their numbers have snowballed from there.

"Strand was the first to open a tap room in Torrance," says Phil Johnson. "Since then, we have eight other production breweries that have followed them in the last nine or 10 years."

3. TORRANCE'S BEER FUTURE: ZYMURGY BREW WORKS

Zymurgy Brew Works employee Rick Wirsing measures the specific gravity of a hefeweizen beer to determine the alcohol content. (Photo by Andrew Cullen for LAist)

One of the newest breweries in the city is Zymurgy Brew Works. It's more of a microbrewery because beers are made in 15 gallon batches.

How it really stands out is that customers can come and work with a brewmaster to make their own beer on-site. Two to three weeks later, they come back to bottle their fully fermented brew to take home. Then it'll be fully carbonated and ready to drink three more weeks afterwards.

"Overall people have been satisfied," said Zymurgy owner Bill Baker. "They make their own custom labels and that's really fun. So it really becomes their own beer."

Baker says opening Zymurgy was easy because the city was very supportive.

"Torrance was the only place that truly understood what we were trying to do," he said.

Zymurgy Brew Works founder Bill Baker at his brewery in Torrance. (Photo by Andrew Cullen for LAist)

The openness to breweries has created a critical mass of them in the city, and that has put Torrance on the map.

"People are starting to notice on a bigger stage about where Torrance beer is fitting in," Phil Johnson said.

FIND EVERY BREWERY IN TORRANCE

1. Red Car Brewery and Restaurant, 1266 Sartori Ave., Torrance
2. Strand Brewing, 2201 Dominguez St., Torrance
3. Zymurgy Brew Works, 22755 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance
4. Smog City, 1901 Del Amo Blvd., Torrance
5. Cosmic Brewery, 20316 Gramercy Pl., Torrance
6. Monkish Brewing Company, 20311 S. Western Ave., Torrance
7. The Dudes Brewing Company, 1840 West 208th St., Torrance
8. Yorkshire Square Brewery, 1109 Van Ness Ave., Torrance
9. Absolution Brewing Company, 2878 Columbia St., Torrance
10. Scholb Premium Ales, 2964 Columbia St., Torrance
11. HopSaint Brewing Company, 5160 West 190th St., Torrance

MORE TO LOVE IN TORRANCE

Editor's note: A version of this story was also on the radio. Listen to it here on KPCC's Take Two.


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