The minds behind the award-winning Beachwood Brewing are preparing to expand on their historically hoppy hustle, looking now to the spirit world with plans to open Long Beach’s third distillery early next year.
“We’ve been interested in doing spirits for a long time,” co-owner Gabriel Gordon said in an interview. “It’s kind of a natural evolution for brewers.”
The company has taken over the former Liberation Brewing Co. location at 3630 Atlantic Ave. in Bixby Knolls and plans to open a 24-tap tasting room for its beers on Friday. The brewer would strictly sell beer for about six months, Gordon said, as it awaits its distilling license.
Ultimately, the focus of the business will be spirits, but Gordon said the company will brew small batch—about seven kegs’ worth per run—specialty beers on site. The tap house will mostly serve beers from the company’s Huntington Beach production facility as well as its Downtown Long Beach brewpub and the Blendery, its other Downtown operation that focuses on barrel-aged sour beers.
After tossing the idea around for a while, Gordon said the group finally applied for a distilling license during the coronavirus pandemic. The team got halfway through the process but could not decide on how best to utilize its existing space.
The first option was to reconfigure the Blendery operation, Gordon said.
“We were trying to figure out the biggest size we could get without completely decimating the space that’s needed for barrel aging our sour beers,” Gordon said, adding that coronavirus negatively impacted the sales of the Blendery beers.
Then the pandemic began to wane and sales picked up, and the team did not want to reduce production for the spirits experiment, he said. But when the crew at Liberation decided to cut its losses and close up shop after business slowed throughout the pandemic, the landlord emailed Gordon, and Beachwood had its distillery location.
When Liberation permanently shuttered, brewing equipment was left behind, which will be used to manufacture various spirits, Gordon said. The distillery will not produce brown spirits such as whiskey, focusing instead on vodkas, gins and rums.
“As much I love bourbon and whiskey in general, brown spirits are a really long-term investment,” Gordon said. “It would be a decade before I made anything that’s remotely as delicious as what is already out there.”
Gordon said he and his team, including brewmaster and co-owner Julian Shrago, plan on using the expertise they have gained operating the Blendery in Downtown when creating their spirits.
“We’re quite good at blending—using strange fruits and herbs and spices and whatnot in our sour beers,” Gordon said. “We’ve become proficient at extracting those flavors and concentrating them … and so infused spirits should be right in our wheelhouse.”
Beachwood does not have its spirit recipes honed yet, Gordon said. The facility should be licensed to distill in about four months, he said, which coincides with when the commercial still is slated to arrive on site.
With a license and still on hand, the recipe fine-tuning should take about two months, he said.
Once the recipes are ready and the company has its first batches of spirits ready for sale, a full cocktail program will be added to its menu of 24 beers. The facility also will manufacture its own mixers, including tonics, ginger beers and bitters, Gordon said.
The company plans to produce enough of its spirits to sell in the tasting room and over the counter of the Bixby Knolls location. Based on demand, however, Gordon said it would be easy to scale up production.
There will also be food for sale on site, Gordon said, noting that the company will start by bringing in food trucks and pop-ups. In the future, the team has plans to build a “really small” kitchen, he said, which would then allow the team to serve outside wine and spirits as well.
“All that is very long term,” Gordons said. “In the short term, we’re just hoping to create a nice environment for the people of Bixby to come and drink really good beer, and hopefully be a welcome part of the neighborhood.”