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Drinking in a Dystopian Storybook: An Inside Look at Shadow Grove Brewing in San Fernando

When the LA Beer Cats slink our way over to a new beer production facility, we often ponder an important question: What’s the philosophy behind your brewery?

We’ve heard some great answers from past brewers, but Ron Dembowski of San Fernando’s brand new Shadow Grove Brewing may have given the most fitting and succinct one yet: Dystopian Storybook.

It may sound a bit strange, but once you see the enchanted forest-style branches rising from the tops of the booths, swing the metal custom ornate door knockers, or order their Hefeweizen, the Fragments of Scarecrow, well… it all starts to make sense.

It’s unknown to Ron and Tom just who resided in the downtown San Fernando location prior to them, but the unknown seems fitting for the two former homebrewers who met over a game of darts at Van Nuys’ own British-style pub, Macleod Ale Brewing Co. For one, they definitely didn’t know they would be opening a brewery together. And while not much was known when we came in, we can decidedly say this is like a story you may not know yet, but you definitely want to be a part of. A Victorian fairytale with a 7 bbl system; you can sip these sudsy stanzas.

Ron Dembowski, co-founder of Shadow Grove, always gravitated towards British sensibilities; whether perusing the profile of UK Artist @SimonJCurd, who would come to design their art, or enjoying a Samuel Smith ale. Perhaps the Poe-laden gothic horror elements then derived from Ron’s experience managing horror attractions in Detroit for a good chunk of years.

Either way, Ron fell in love with beer, Ron decided beer cost too much, Ron started homebrewing, and Ron discovered his perfect brewery in Macleod, as the story goes. Then suddenly, pages of lore started to spill out of his head, developing a whole universe for a place that didn’t even exist. He knew he wanted to make his own beer on a grander scale (and a more fantastical one at that), but how to do it? It was pretty simple: “Go big or go home”.

Luckily Ron had Tom Clark, Shadow Grove’s more stage-based half, who came from a background in theatrical performance and design. Tom and Ron quickly figured out that they meshed not just as friends and dart compatriots, but as business partners too. Coming of age around Kalamazoo’s brewery sanctuary (Bell’s, anyone?), Tom got an early taste of what craft beer could be; and it was just as storied as the plays he cut his teeth on. His experience was in regional theatres and working in set design, construction, and lighting – settings that required equal parts innovation, flexibility, and expertise. Turns out, Tom would have another opportunity to flex those skills when he and Ron took the lead on taking Shadow Grove Brewing from a dirt pit surrounded by concrete to a wonderland made of blood, sweat, and beers.

Shadow Grove Brewing is an ambitious blend; a high-concept showcase of gorgeous, gothic art, a darkly innovative theatrical staging, and beer that’s just as thoughtful as the taps it’s served under. The last building allowed in the downtown district, we applaud the city of San Fernando for granting this slot to one of the most interesting and story-driven breweries we’ve seen in a long while. There’s a code for these beers, and we cannot wait to learn them over time. Each symbol, animal, art, and decor have a meaning. But we’re probably not even scratching the surface. The fact is, Ron and Tom are building a universe of beer, and we can’t wait to pursue them all.




2 thoughts on “Drinking in a Dystopian Storybook: An Inside Look at Shadow Grove Brewing in San Fernando”

  1. Shadow Grove Brewery Sounds like an amazing mysterious place to definitely hang out! I personally know one of the owners Ron and he’s always been by far the most inventive creative people I know! Can’t wait for the Grand Opening!

    1. Thank you so much Deb! We agree that Ron and Tom’s vision is one of the most unique backstories of a brewery we have heard in a long time. We can’t wait to see what comes from them and hope you can make it to the grand opening.

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