Los Angeles Ale Works signed their lease at Ivy Station in Culver City in 2018. Four years later, they’re finally opening up, with a 25-tap bar, decked-out tasting room, and 800-square foot patio.
The new space, which opens this Thursday, is steps from the Culver City Metro stop on the Expo line – in fact, the trains pull in and out of the station within view of the patio.
It wasn’t an easy journey for the Ale Works team – plenty of Los Angeles breweries, Indie Brewing and Modern Times, for two, have been forced to close or scale back operations since the pandemic hit. Others, like Mumford, have placed expansion plans on hold as a result of the pandemic. Very few have been able to expand during this time – and LAAW co-founder Andrew Fowler considers the brewery lucky to be able to do this at all.
“This is without a doubt the forever project,” he explained. “We were extremely fortunate to have a landlord that was understanding of the situation and worked diligently alongside us. Without that, we would have thrown in the towel a few years ago. It just wouldn’t have been a viable project.”
Once they sorted out the lease, the time was ripe for an expansion, both from a beer – and a people – perspective.
“We’re excited for the opportunities that this will provide our team,” he told me. “We have a lot of long-tenured employees that we want to grow with us. The more we grow, the more our employees can grow. That’s a super important piece to our puzzle.”
Two of their 25 lines are dedicated nitro lines, which will sport a New England-style double IPA and a stout to begin. And though LAAW primarily cans lagers and IPAs, the new location, Fowler said, “will provide an opportunity to expose more people to all of the wonderful styles that don’t make it out of our tasting room.” This includes kegs of a hoppy red, a grisette, a fruited sour, and a saison, amongst a bunch of, naturally, various IPAs and lagers.
Culver has been on the team’s radar since they were looking for an original space back in 2016, eventually opening their flagship Hawthorne brewery in early 2017.
“We were looking for something centrally located, walkable, bikeable, and with access to public transportation – not the easiest to find in LA,” he continued. “This particular location hit all of those with the bonus of having a well-respected developer with big plans behind it.”
The space, designed by architect Ryan Tyni, is long and narrow. On one side is the bar, and roll-up garage doors line the longest wall, carefully plotted to capture the Westside breeze (when it blows). “Too many places in Southern California are crammed indoors when we have the weather to be outdoors year-round,” Andrew said. “The great irony of this is that the post-pandemic trend is for outdoor and open-air spaces.”
The expansion doesn’t come without its challenges. First and foremost, there’s the issue of brewing capacity. “Our production team has done an amazing job maximizing our output without compromising beer quality. That said, there is not too much more beer we can squeeze out of our brewhouse,” Fowler explained.
Filling out all those taps and a beer fridge on a consistent basis adds a significant amount of pressure to the brew team and their Hawthorne brewing system, as the new location doesn’t have one of its own. Though they initially had plans for a turnkey takeover of Indie’s old space in Boyle Heights, that deal fell through earlier this summer. Instead, they’re now in the process of expanding their brewhouse and adding fermentation vessels in Hawthorne.
As far as what else is in the future, Fowler had a hard time looking beyond the long-awaited opening. But he is sure that the development will play a key role, particularly being on the Metro line. “In the fall we’re looking forward to being a jumping-off point for folks heading to USC, Lakers, Kings, and Clippers games. Grab a beer and a bite of food, then jump on the rail line. Doesn’t that sound better than sitting on the 10 Freeway and dropping $50 on parking?” He added that he hopes to host a beer festival on the Ivy Station lawn, along with the building’s other tenants.
Los Angeles Ale Works Ivy Station opens today, August 11, and will be hosting a grand opening party tomorrow. Ivy Station has a parking structure with 90-minute parking validation, and the space is 21+ only, due to Culver City Municipal Code, although that may change in the future, according to Fowler.