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Consistent and Solid Beers at Belmont Brewing

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One of the oldest brewpubs in Southern California, having opened over a quarter of a century ago, is still brewing along.

  Located in Long Beach, Belmont Brewing Company is still going since 1990, having survived the rise and fall of the microbrewery trend in the 1990s.   Helping it is its oceanside location, situated up against the Pacific Ocean in the Belmont Shore area. Adjacent to the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, Belmont Brewing Company (BBC) is a pleasant place to enjoy some suds.

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The brews that BBC has to offer, in addition to their nine guest taps, are solid, reliable, crisp ales.  Their brewer, who prefers to go simply by his last name, Blackwell, considers their beer to be “consistently, reliably, delicious.”  As opposed to many breweries that brew a wide variety of beers, BBC offers five year-round beers and 1-3 seasonals at any given time.  “People get what they're expecting,” says Blackwell, and, “if they're a regular, they get exactly what they expect every time.”  Having a standard core of beers and a small amount of seasonal beers predates Blackwell, who has been with BBC since 1999, when they had four regular beers on-tap and a seasonal. With more equipment, they were able to offer a fifth year-round beer. BBC has a 7-barrel kettle, two 14-barrel fermenters, two 7-barrel fermenters, five 7-barrel bright tanks, and two 14-barrel bright tanks, yielding 1,000 barrels a year.

 

The five year-round beers, which Blackwell describes as “simple, straightforward ales,” are Marathon (4.5% ABV), a blonde ale; Pale Ale (4.5% ABV), a deliciously hoppy pale ale dry-hopped with Citra hops (as a professed Citra fan, this is deliciously Citra-y) that has a low alcohol content which allows the hops to come through; Top Sail (5.5% ABV), a classic amber ale which is balanced between the bitterness of the hops and the sweetness of the malt, and a popular style when the brewery opened; Long Beach Crude (6.5% ABV), a roasty coffee stout (named after an actual type of petroleum); and their most well-known beer, their Strawberry Blonde (4.5% ABV), which appeals even to people who don’t consider themselves beer-drinkers.  “I strive for crisp, refreshing, and dry,” Blackwell pointed out.

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For their seasonal beers, they currently have Chocolate Blonde, which is the Marathon with cacao nibs added, the addition of which makes for an easily drinkable and delicious beer.  They also have a Hop-Head Redemption (6.2% ABV) on-tap, which is their red ale.  When Blackwell began brewing, he would brew up Hefeweizens, Belgian beers, and porters for the seasonal beers.  Blackwell always makes sure to have a Hefeweizen available for the July 4th weekend.

 

However, with the IPA craze happening over the past several years, IPAs have become the year-round constant seasonal beer, with a different recipe served up every other week.  Some times of the year, they cycle through IPAs even more quickly, due to the increased demand. They even offer double IPAs 4-5 times a year. For the naming of the IPAs, he goes with a very functional sequential numbering system.  For instance, currently on-tap is 1636 IPA (8.2% ABV), which is reflective of it being the 1,636th IPA he has brewed there. “I decided I couldn't keep up coming with cute names for IPAs every three weeks,” said Blackwell. Normally, they have a new IPA on-tap every 16 days, but sometimes, they need to refresh with a new IPA on a 10-day cycle, thus it could get exhausting to come up with new names so frequently.

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One of the nifty things that BBC offers is the easy ability to create blends of beers, which is not dissimilar to Ballast Point.  For instance, if you like a hoppy amber ale, you can take some of the Top Sail and some of the Pale Ale to create the Pale Sail. Other common blends include Topathon, which mixes the Marathon and the Top Sail and Penny Fogger, which mixes the Top Sail and the Long Beach Crude. Of course, you can mix other of their beers, as well.

 

As with many breweries, customers can order a taster set to try all of their beers to get a better sense of them.  However, Blackwell points out, that “most people are creatures of habit” and once someone likes a particular beer, they tend to order it again. 

 

One of the fascinating aspects of Blackwell is his longevity at BBC.  Following a couple years brewing in Arizona (which followed years of homebrewing), he began brewing at BBC in April 1999.  And he has no plans to go anywhere: “I would like to work here until retirement,” he said. In his brewing, he strives “for crisp, refreshing, and dry” in that he provides a lot of oxygen for the yeast. He, himself, likes dry beers.  He also likes to educate customers on beer, which is bolstered by his training, which includes a masters degree in education.

 

With the rise in craft beer culture in the country in general, and Southern California, in particular, BBC has benefited. With more customers finding various breweries in the area and visiting them, “people are discovering those guys”, says Blackwell, leading them to also find BBC.  For instance, “we’ve gotten overflow from Ballast Point” since their opening this summer. Just like Ballast Point, which is positioned looking out over the Pacific Ocean, so, too, is BBC, which, in addition to its indoor seating, also has 140 outdoor patio seats.

 

One issue that customers will discover is the dearth of parking adjacent to BBC. However, not far away is the parking for Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, which usually has spots open. Also, many of the customers come either walking or by bicycle, since they are in the Belmont Shore area and also have a lot of regulars.

 

One of the great facets about BBC is the affordability of their beers, especially during happy hour, when house beers are $4 a pint and $13 a pitcher, which takes place 3-6pm Monday-Friday, 3-5pm Saturday-Sunday, and 9pm-close every night. For house beers, growler fills are $10.

  

 

After visiting BBC recently, I can understand how it can generate regular customers and it’s definitely worth checking out for those curious about craft beer in Long Beach.

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Guest Thursday, 27 April 2017

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