Interview with Brian Waters of Figueroa Mountain Brewing

Last month, big beer news hit Los Angeles with Figueroa Mountain moving into manage four locations around the city previously held by Tony Yanow’s Artisanal Brewers Collective

I emailed brewer Brian Waters some questions about himself, hops and FMB in L.A.

1. What is your brewing background and history?

Before I was brewing I was working as a video editor for an online publication/events company. The company unfortunately went out of business. I freelanced for a while, but found that video editing was no longer terribly satisfying. In the meantime, my cousin received a home brew kit as a wedding gift, so he and I and his wife made a one-gallon batch of a West Coast IPA. It actually turned out pretty nice. I continued to make beer on my own until one day I saw a job posting for an assistant general manager position at a brewpub that was opening up in Hancock Park. I sent them a resume and cover letter telling them that I wasn’t interested in the AGM position but if they needed an assistant brewer I’d love the opportunity. Two weeks later the head brewer hit me up and the rest is history. I started as a draft tech and worked my way up.

2. Which brewer or brewery is your brewing role model?

That’s a question that has too many answers! We are spoiled for choice just here in LA alone. For now I’ll go with a few SoCal locals: Green Cheek, Highland Park, Enegren, Societe, and Burgeon make outstanding stuff. But there are so, so many others home and abroad that I love and whose beers I look to for inspiration. 

3. Will the Los Angeles breweries have a different guiding principle than the main brewery in Buellton? Will it be clear that beer is an L.A. brewed one vs a Buellton one?

The goal for the beer brewed in LA is the same — to brew outstanding, high-quality beer. Each of the spots will have its own flair, and will focus on producing consistent, exceptional brews. All of our bartenders will know which beers are brewed on site and which are brewed at the mothership in Buellton. 

4. How much freedom will you have to pursue seldom done styles at the Broxton R&D brewing system?

We are lucky to have the freedom to pursue whichever styles we like. However, it will always be a balance of brewing fun, experimental beer, but also brews that people are interested in drinking. We probably won’t make any grodziskie or chicha. But who knows, we may get a little out there and do something like a Kentucky Common. 

5. Is there a new hop varietal or new malt has you excited to try?

There are a few hops that I’ve had my eye on. They aren’t necessarily new, but I’ve yet to try them. HBC 586, Vista, Eclipse, and a couple of French varietals. Can’t wait to get my hands on them! 

6. Is there a beer style that to you is quintessentially L.A.?

If I had to choose only one I think I’d go with a hoppy lager. I think some of the best producers of the style are right here in town, and it’s exciting to see more and more breweries put their best versions forward. 

7. Will there be experimentation with new old world lager trends like side pours, slow pours and milky pours? And what is your take on these trends?

We are definitely going to have a couple of side pour handles at the Lagerhaus! We are super excited to take a deep dive into a style that we love. Each of those trends has their own value, and while I consider myself more of a Hladinka kind of guy, I do also really love a slow pour. 

Drinking in Another State

Last Friday, what was unofficial became official when Roe V Wade was overturned despite most of the country not wanting to change.

Beer is For Everyone has jumped into action with a beer to work around this very bad, no good decision. You can read all of the details HERE.

Everyone who thinks that women should, oh I don’t know, have the right to choose will need to band together to create a giant work around to render this anti-justice moot.

Past Breaking News (Part 2) – West, East and Far East

How’s this for beer business water cooler talk…

Sapporo U.S.A., maker of the number one selling Asian beer brand in the United States, and Stone Brewing, one of America’s largest and most innovative craft beer brands, have reached an agreement for Sapporo U.S.A. to acquire Stone Brewing. Supporting both business’ long-term growth strategies in the U.S. market, the transaction is expected to close in August 2022. “

Could this work? Sapporo already controls Anchor and aside from can label designs that are a little plain, seem to be in the same craft brewing pecking order as they were before. But though Stone has slipped into seltzers and brand extending Buenaveza lagers, it is still primarily a hop house something Sapporo is decidedly not.

Sapporo does seem to have a California heritage brewery soft spot. Stone is a world brand despite the pullback from Berlin and having both a West Coast and East Coast brewing operation has benefits. Though if I signed on to brew at Stone and I was suddenly making Sapporo for a living, it might be stunting creatively.

For some, the past bold statements from Greg Koch and initiatives to keep craft independent will be “flip flop” fodder for semi-humorous tweets but to me…

The big question that I fall back to is that despite the relative security of a stable parent company, what happens if Stone doesn’t generate money at the clip required. What happens then? Or what if Sapporo decides five years down the road that they want out of a hyper competitive California and U.S. beer market?

As with Anchor Brewing, only time will tell if the two can work together. Maybe Sapporo, Stone and Anchor can do a Hoppy Holiday lager for Christmas.

Relax, Don’t Worry. Learn About Homebrew

Some may consider having a building at a prestigious university named after them proof of a life well led. But I would argue that having brewing equipment named after you is even better.

Which leads to a fundraising campaign as brewing legend Charlie Papazian explains, “Metropolitan State University of Denver plans to name their 3 ½ barrel brewing laboratory after me. The Charlie Papazian Brewing Education Lab.

In effect they are commemorating the role that homebrewers and beer enthusiasts like you and I have played in making the world a better place for the enjoyment of beer. Who would have thought that! I enjoy being involved with initiatives that help assure great beer for the future.”

Buoy Beer Building

Scary images from Buoy Beer in Astoria, Oregon..

It makes me think about the sexy topic of infrastructure. I have been lucky enough to visit Buoy a couple of times and the combo of beer and river view is amazing but when the Columbia is surging it becomes scary.

And with a business that is capital intensive already, improvement checklist items for days, weeks and months can be pushed. This collapse is probably not due to that but it is a wake up call to make sure everything is, pun intended, ship shape.

Delayed R.I.P. – Cellador Ales

Most closures spool out over a month or two, but in the case of Cellador Ales, the end date is further on the horizon 12/31/22, but no less sad for the Los Angeles brewing scene.

This will allow everyone to trek out and have a final wild ale ir purchase tickets to their L.A. Beer Week festival.

What struck me about the announcement was this section..

But…something I can’t quite put my finger on has been rippling through the industry in 2022; It has unexpectedly been the toughest year since the pandemic started, for us, and apparently many other small breweries.

Makes one wonder when the other closure pennies are going to drop.

Thoroughly Modern Maui?

The uncertainty swirling around Modern Times. Closing locations. Receivership sale rumors. All that caffeine from the roaster have led to this point where a potential buyer comes from the island.

Since this is a San Diego story, I direct you to SD Beer News for the full lowdown HERE. With any sale, you hope the new owner will be good stewards going forward. I get to see how that goes with my two favorite sports teams as Chelsea has just been sold and the Trailblazers are in the owner courting phase.

But Modern Times has hit the jackpot with Maui Brewing who are big in the industry and well respected. Now we wait again for news.

and Chill

From the department of like us cause of causes and not our actual product comes…

Coors Light’s new ad campaign, “Chillboards”. Debuting in Miami it is a  rooftop billboard shown to decrease temperatures in Florida apartments. The “chillboard” is painted with a white roof coating that can reflect 85% of sunlight, but don’t talk to much science or DeSantis will outlaw it.

Is this cool, yes. Does it move the climate change needle, maybe a little. Is it just marketing? Certainly. Maybe they could team up with their family of breweries to paint the roofs of their brewing plants.

Rue the Moonlight

Time for some inside the business of the beer talk, good news, I promise.

Patrick Rue, the founder and former owner of the Bruery and now in St. Helena with his Erosion Wine label along with his family, have acquired the 1/2 share of Moonlight held by Heineken through Lagunitas Brewing. Sounds like an NBA draft trade, right?

Moonlight founder, Brian Hunt, keeps his half of the brewery which has done a few more collaboration beers that we in SoCal have been lucky enough to get because his beer is stellar.

Hopefully, this will be a better strategic partnership.

Ship It

We have, in the last few months, heard many stories about shipping containers. Why are they falling into the sea with fancy cars inside, how they are made into homes and why they ain’t getting unpacked fast enough to get us that un-needed item quickly.

Well, could you make one into a brewery?

This blog post details (in detail) how to use that space for brewing. Now, I have seen some micro breweries such as Highland Park when they brewed in Highland Park but, wow, this looks tiny. But maybe at that small scale with one person, it could work.

Though you might need a second container for cold box and taproom.