Lead Shot

Step aside big boys, make room for the micros

Side barWritten by Erin Newman |

Photos by Joan Pahoyo

The beer industry has grown—and grown up—since the days when enjoying beer meant cracking open a can of Schlitz.

The explosion of craft beers—brewed in small batches with experimental flavors—is a welcome change of pace from the “tastes great, less filling” lagers that dominated the scene for decades. What’s the appeal? They’re fun, and not only because of their higher alcohol content. You may have no idea what a Stagecoach Stout, Torpedo Extra IPA or an Arrogant Bastard Ale tastes like, but it’s sure to be an adventure to find out. The creative labels on craft beer bottles are also engaging—browsing the shelves at any specialty beverage retailer is an experience in itself.

Most brewers offer their versions of lagers, ales, pilsners, stouts and IPAs, each one unique in style and different from other brewers’ interpretations of a particular style. And then there are the seasonals. After quenching your summer thirst with crisp, cool, citrusy lagers, reach for flavorful, substantial and toasty ales and ambers when the fall chill sets in. Spicy harvest and pumpkin varieties also come out to play every autumn.

There’s always something new to explore, and that’s part of the ongoing appeal of the movement.

Specialty or “craft” beers began bubbling to the surface in Britain in the 1970s, with microbreweries—emphasizing flavor, quality and brewing technique—popping up in the U.S. in the decades following.

Brewpubs, selling a variety of imported and local craft beers on tap and in bottles, became all the rage in the 1990s and early 2000s, followed by today’s explosion of microbreweries. These brewers approach beer making as a science, and many aim to bottle and distribute their products.

It’s the sharing of knowledge that helps get microbreweries off the ground. Brewers establish a strong local customer base by offering tours, tastings and other events that can help make their brewery a social hub. The microbreweries also aim to foster a festive atmosphere, offering good food and live music. Showing off their wares at regional brewery festivals spreads the word, too.

Craft beer drinkers tend to be upper-middle-class professionals with some disposable income—the millennial generation in particular has embraced the new brews as an affordable luxury.

Although brewers compete with each other, they are a tight-knit community, sharing ideas to keep the craft beer movement going. Small brewers need to band together, as tapping into the consumer base of craft beers has become a hot commodity with big brewers such as MillerCoors and Budweiser, which have been quietly snapping up and distributing craft brands including Shock Top and Blue Moon.

According to the Brewers Association, the average American lives within 10 miles of a brewery. The thousands of authentic independent microbreweries are bountiful, producing tastes for every palate.

And when it comes down to it, it’s the taste that counts. Developing an affinity for these artisanal beers can become an ongoing adventure, pursued through tastings offered at local microbreweries and craft beer pubs. Learning the lingo helps identify the category of beer and the range of flavors that most tickle your taste buds.

Set aside an evening for chatting with a brewer about his methods and comparing flavors with friends and family while nibbling on tasty food pairings. Finding out what resonates comes easy after an evening of savoring these carefully crafted brews.


Einstock Breweries

Jack Sichterman, with his wife Katie, was inspired to brew Einstök in Iceland because of the purity of the water there


Spotlight on Einstök Brewery

By Ela Lindsay

Jack Sichterman had an “ah-ha” moment during a trip to Iceland in 2009 when he visited a natural water source there. “The purity is incredible—it’s the best on the planet,” he says.

And thus was born the Einstök Brewery, the brainchild of Jack, a Westlake Village businessman who grew up in Milwaukee and says he has beer in his DNA. The veteran advertising executive started the venture about five years ago with David Altshuler, a lawyer and owner of a Napa Valley-based winery; Icelandic brewmaster Baldur Karason; and Bernard LaBorie, founder of a luxury water brand there.

Although the craft beer industry was already taking off at that time in the U.S., there were no breweries in Iceland.

“Five years later, we’re now the No. 1 craft beer in Iceland and the No. 1 alcoholic beverage export,” Jack says. “It’s a unique, exotic craft beer with definite local roots.”

The Einstök Brewery provides beer to more than eight countries, including the U.S. It can be found close to home at the new Pearl District restaurant and at Public School 805, both in the Conejo Valley.


Pop quiz with Jack Sichterman

Is there any kind of beer-drinking etiquette?
Frankly, I’m not a big fan of the “wine-ification” of beer—the notion that you have to drink it out of certain glass in a specific way. Beyond that, enjoy the amazing diversity and quality that is out there. Buy someone a beer they may have never tried. And drink responsibly—craft beer is not about getting drunk, it’s about enjoying great, complex flavors that were crafted together and about joining in this really amazing global community.

What’s your favorite way to drink a beer?
The ways and places to drink beer are as diverse as the number of breweries out there. It’s as good enjoying drinking at home with (wife) Katie as it is being out at a craft beer bar, trying something new with a bunch of strangers.

Do you have a favorite beer-related scene in a movie?
Two come to mind: 1. The roof scene in “Shawshank Redemption,” which really captures the joy of a cold beer on a hot day. 2. The scene in “Old School” where Will Ferrell drinks from a beer bong and ends up streaking through the quad by himself. Classic idiocy.

When did you taste beer for the very first time?
I don’t remember exactly when, but I remember my dad letting me have a sip of his Pabst Blue Ribbon—when it was still brewed in Milwaukee. It was delicious and I remember a sense of pride that it was made in our hometown.

Spotlight on Enegren Brewing Company

By Ela Lindsay

Enegren Brewing Company Photo 1

Chris Enegren, front, brewed his first batch of beer in his dorm room while a student at Loyola Marymount University. Behind him Nick Brown mans the equipment.

Chris Enegren brewed his first batch of beer about 12 years ago on a stove inside a dorm room at Loyola Marymount University. Equipped only with a home brew kit, the mechanical engineering major began what he thought would just be a fun project.

Early attempts ended in mediocre and sometimes even terrible brews, but that didn’t stop him. He used his engineering knowledge to build a better brew system. That passion eventually gave birth to Enegren Brewing Company in Moorpark, a craft brewery he runs with younger brother, Matt, and college buddy, Joe Nascenzi.

Chris Enegren and Joe, now both 31, were teammates on the LMU lacrosse team. When Chris moEnegren Brewing Company Photo 2ved to an apartment in 2005, he needed somewhere to put his custom-built brewery. Joe offered his home and garage near the LMU campus.

That garage passion has grown into a full-fledged, 7,000-square-foot, 465-gallon microbrewery in Moorpark, which features a variety of beers in an unassuming tasting room.

—Darleen Principe contributed to this story

444 Zachary St., Ste. 120, Moorpark
(805) 552-0602

Pop quiz with Joe Nascenzi

Is beer your personal drink of choice?
Yes, there is no better way to unwind after a hard day’s work than with a good beer.

What’s the best way to drink a beer?
With friends and family. In a pinch a friendly stranger works well too.

When did you have your first beer?
Sometime in college, I think it was a Coors Light. It was pretty bad. I do remember my first Belgian beer—it was a La Fin Du Monde at 3 a.m. in New York City. It was the best thing I had ever tasted.


Pop quiz with Chris Enegren

What’s your favorite beer cheer?
“Ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit” which translates to “cheers to good health of your drinking companions and the state of warmth and friendliness associated with drinking with friends.” My brother and I picked it up at Oktoberfest in Germany; it really encompasses what we’re trying to do at our tasting room.

Is there a beer-drinking etiquette?
Yes. Beer is about enjoying life with friends, not trying to act sophisticated.

What’s the best way to drink a beer?
After a long day of work or after a big win from anything from nailing a big presentation at work to winning a kickball game. Beer is the ultimate reward. You don’t go out for a chardonnay after, you go out for beers!



Institution Ale Company

Brothers Shaun, left, and Ryan Smith run Institution Ale Company with their father, Roger.

Spotlight on Institution Ale Company

By Ela Lindsay

Roger Smith and his sons, Ryan, 30, and Shaun, 27, turned a fun weekend hobby into a full-time endeavor when they opened Camarillo’s first brewery and tasting room in the summer of 2013.

What began with a home beer-making kit seven years ago has grown into Institution Ale Company, which serves American-style ales along with year-round craft brews and some seasonal ones.

Each member of the Smith family plays a role in the business: Dad Roger designed and constructed the brewery, his wife, Sharen, takes care of finances, Ryan is the main brewer and Shaun handles the business.

The Smith family’s love of handcrafted brews began in 2008 when Ryan and Shaun lived in San Luis Obispo. The brothers attended Cal Poly there and regularly enjoyed craft beers at local breweries.

Their goal is to produce “world-class beers,” he says. That will mean becoming a packaging brewery that’s regional and then expanding statewide.

438 Calle San Pablo, Unit I, Camarillo
(805) 482-3777

Pop quiz with Shaun Smith

What’s your favorite food to pair with beer?
Any type of barbecue.

What’s your beer of choice?
I appreciate and enjoy all styles of beer.

Do you have a favorite game you like to play while drinking beer?
No, I drink beer to enjoy the flavors of the beverage itself.

Do you remember your first beer?
Not sure when I had my first craft beer, but yes, I enjoyed it immensely in comparison to the macrolagers I’d had before.


Cyrena Nouzille opened Ladyface Ale Companie in 2009. Behind her, brewmaster David Griffiths.

Cyrena Nouzille opened Ladyface Ale Companie in 2009. Behind her, brewmaster David Griffiths.

Spotlight on Ladyface Ale Companie

By Ela Lindsay

Longtime home brewer Cyrena Nouzille, and her husband, Jean-Luc, entered the microbrewery business in 2009 opening Ladyface Ale Companie, Conejo Valley’s first craft brewery.

With the help of brewmaster David Griffiths, the business has bloomed into a casual European-style brewpub with award-winning handcrafted ales including seasonal, barrel-aged releases and boutique wines and spirits.

The dining concept is inspired by the Nouzilles’ love of Belgian beer and French brasseries. “The menu’s anchored around seasonal produce, harvests and farm products that are sustainably and locally grown,” Cyrena says.

Ladyface’s executive chef, Adrian Gioia, “is a beer-loving, fine-dining refugee from Boston by way of Seattle,” she says. “He likes to cook with beer, pair food with beer, and drink beer. Did we mention he’s a beer lover?”

—Stephanie Bertholdo contributed to this story

29281 Agoura Road, Agoura Hills
(818) 477-4566

Pop quiz with Cyrena Nouzille

Is beer your personal drink of choice?
Yes, as long as it’s a good quality beer. Life is too short to drink crap.

What’s your favorite food to pair with beer?
How do you choose one? There is a saying, “What grows together, goes together.” Think bread (whole grains), cheese and beer. Spicy foods are an easy A+ for beer. Give me a cherry cheesecake and a sour Kriekbier any day.

What’s your personal favorite beer?
Answering that is like choosing a favorite child. That said, while I do appreciate all beers, I always return to rustic farmhouse and sour styles.

What’s with the foam?
A foam head on beer is important to enhance the aroma experience of the beer because those esters permeate from the carbonation leaving the liquid. . . . Foam is beer, after all. It will settle as your glass warms in your hand and leave a beautiful lace pattern.

Is there a beer-drinking etiquette?
Beer is best enjoyed with the company of good friends. You may be your own best friend if it’s a really special beer!


Local Scene

Microbreweries and Craft Beer Pubs

Bottle & Pint 1714 Newbury Road, Newbury Park (805) 795-2254, www.bottleandpint.com » Newbury Park now has its own hotspot for local craft brews.

BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse 3955 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Westlake Village (805) 497-9393 6424 Canoga Ave., Woodland Hills (818) 340-1748, www.bjsrestaurants.com » An established presence on the local beer scene, BJ’s offers award-winning beers and a huge menu of innovative grub in a family-friendly atmosphere.

Brendan’s Irish Pub 30315 Canwood St., Agoura Hills (818) 874-9400 1755 E. Daily Drive, Camarillo (805) 383-4100 495 Ventu Park Road, Newbury Park (805) 498-5050, www.brendans.com » Grab a pint of Guinness and a tasty bite from the pub menu while you throw a round of darts.

Darryl’s Couch 795 Camarillo Springs Road, Camarillo (805) 389-8947, www.darrylscouch.com » Play pool while trying a variety of craft beers.

Draughts Restaurant & Bar 398 N. Moorpark Road, Thousand Oaks (805) 777-7883, www.draughtsrestaurant.com » A sports-bar experience but with better beers—31 draughts on tap—make Draughts worth the visit.

Public School 805 120 N. Promenade Way, Westlake Village (805) 379-3909, PS805.mediamass.com » A classic “gastropub”—high-quality beers on a rotational basis with tasty brunch, lunch and dinner offerings.

Tavern 101 28434 Roadside Drive, Agoura Hills (818) 991-7227, www.tavern101.com » Live music and innovative American classics pair well with a variety of craft beers in a rustic atmosphere.

Twisted Oak Tavern 30105 Agoura Road, Agoura Hills (818) 735-0091, www.twistedoaktavern.pub/ » What was known as the LAB Brewing Co., and which still produces the LAB’s tasty beers, has reopened with a tavern-style menu.

Yard House 501 Collection Blvd., Oxnard (805) 981-8707, www.yardhouse.com » For those who love to make choices, the Yard House carries hundreds of craft and specialty beers on tap and an equally sizeable menu.

Sample the Suds

Learn by tasting at brewhouses or at one of the many local beer fests throughout the year.

May 2 Hamburger & Hops Music Festival The Collection at Riverpark, Oxnard (805) 628-9588 www.hamburgerandhops.com

June 13 Surf ’n’ Suds Beer Festival Ventura Harbor Village 1583 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura (805) 684-4428, Surfbeerfest.com

August 15 Carpinteria Surf ’n’ Suds Carpinteria State Beach, Carpinteria (805) 684-4428 Surfbeerfest.com

August 27 Kiwanis Brew Fest Conejo Creek Park North 1379 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks www.tobrewfest.com

California Beer Festival Mission Park, downtown Ventura californiabeerfestival.com/ventura

October 10 Moorpark Beer Festival Moorpark College 7075 Campus Road, Moorpark moorparkbeerfestival.com

BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse BJ’s, a leader on the craft brew scene before it became trendy, hosts regular tasting nights organized around a general theme and paired with five-course dinners. The brewers’ stories and tidbits about how the beers are made, in addition to delicious dishes and one great beer after another makes the evening a festive experience. www.bjsrestaurants.com/beerdinners

Ladyface Ale Companie Attention local girls: the Ladies at Ladyface club wants you! Come to a women-only social group, centered on beer tastings and food pairings. Guests can enjoy mouthwatering beers paired with tasty bites in a sumptuous setting. But Ladyface doesn’t discriminate against men—everyone’s invited to brewery tours and beer release events. www.ladyfaceale.com