Torrance’s newest craft brewery is offering the thirsty public an alternative to the norm. No, we aren’t talking about the latest in the hazy/juicy IPA realm. Instead, what Yorkshire Square Brewery offers is a true opportunity for beer drinkers to appreciate the roots of English-style cask conditioned ale at its best.
Owner Gary Croft hails from Leeds in the heart of Yorkshire. He was successful in teaming with brewer Andy Black, who, along with Croft’s son Sam, will bring traditional-style cask conditioned hand-pulled ales to Southern California. The decision to open the brewery was in part stimulated by Sam Croft’s desire to become a brewer.
Black gained local notoriety a few years back as the premier brewer for MacLeod’s Ale Brewery, when that brewery opened in Van Nuys. Many consider him to be one of the most talented real ale brewers on this side of the pond. His ales, while more sessionable on the lower end of the ABV scale, still possess an amazing amount of complexity, balance and flavor, with just the right amount of carbonation. Black is back and once again producing the gems we have thirsted for in his absence.
Black grew up on the East Coast, where he developed an affinity for British-style ales while attending college. That led to homebrewing and eventually to developing professional aspirations. Unlike most contemporary brewers, his interest was in brewing real ales, traditional UK-style naturally carbonated cask conditioned ales. He moved to England to study the craft and hooked up with MacLeod’s after returning to the US. He fine-tuned and developed his techniques during that run. After MacLeod’s, he brewed for a time at El Segundo Brewing Co and consulted with other brewery startups, most recently two real-ale startups, Inland Wharf Brewing in Murrieta and Yorkshire Square.
Gary Croft spoke about Black’s previous consulting role and the time he wrote the job description to assist with hiring a talented pro-brewer. “He wrote the job description for me and it was great.” Croft recounted getting home that night and thinking that Black’s job description was more of a self-description. “So I called him up and said, “You’ve just written that job description for yourself. Do you want to work here?” Black initially turned him down, hesitant to take on all of the work involved with a startup. He had also been considering returning to the East Coast. Croft surmised that declining the position was likely more related to the necessity to commit long-term to assisting with the success of the business without much to show for it in the end. So, he offered Black a piece of the equity and they were able to reach an agreement. As an equity partner, Black and Croft now share the common goal of making Yorkshire Square a destination. “We are just going to do it right. We are going to brew the beer and hopefully will have enough people to drink it so we can keep brewing it. We will listen to feedback and will try and develop a great beer program. I think Andy has an incredible ability to make terrifically good beer.”
As you enter the pub section of the brewery, the rustic wood for the bar top and bar front came from repurposed lumber taken from the 1947 era sub-ceiling taken down during the remodel. The 22-foot-long picnic table on the patio was also crafted from those ceiling beams. The space imparts the flavor of an English pub. The stonework on the bar and fireplace has that flair. At the bar, Yorkshire Square has opened with eight half-pull beer engines. These beer engines are used to dispense cask conditioned beer. Unlike typical CO2 infused taps, beer engines are used to pump the beer into the glass while introducing a proper aeration. The pump cylinder and lever arm handle deliver one half-pint per pull through a swan-necked spout. Pints served will more closely equate to imperial pints in size, and, unlike many pubs and breweries, a half will be a true half at half the price of a pint. Yorkshire’s number of beer engines will likely grow to 15 so that a large variety of ales can be offered, including guest beers from time to time. Since this establishment will also offer food, licensing allows beer from other breweries to be sourced and served.
The starting lineup included Early Doors, a traditional pub bitter; The Tenant, a British-style pale ale; and Wuthering Stout, an oat stout. These were offered during pre-opening sessions and would soon be joined by Little Nipper, a golden ale; Hurley Burley, an American brown; and The Drift, a traditional dark mild. Yorkshire Square had its soft opening on April 19, with initial opening hours Wed. through Sun.
The beers are being brewed on a brand new 10-barrel Rocky Mountain Vessels brewhouse. A local pig farmer picks up the spent grain from the brewing process. Croft looks forward to eventually serving products produced by that same grain, sausages made from pork that has eaten Yorkshire’s spent grain and gravy made from its beer. For now there are no Yorkshire Squares employed in the brewing process, but there may come a time when they are added to the process.
In deciding on location, Croft’s desire was for accessibility and to provide a feeling that was a bit more upscale that just an industrial space. The location at 1109 Van Ness Ave. possesses adequate parking, is in the vicinity of Old Downtown Torrance and is situated right across the street from Honda with its 3,000 employees. The nearby Toyota headquarters will soon be vacated by its staff of 4,700 moving to Dallas, but word has it that Google may be moving in.
Brewery hopping in the area is very easy. Monkish and Smog City breweries are just about a mile north. Longstanding Red Car Brewery and Restaurant is just a couple of blocks south on the opposite side of Torrance Blvd.
Three Weavers Brewing Company has experienced tremendous growth in its three years in business. Founded by Lynne Weaver, she teamed early with award-winning Brewmaster Alexandra Nowell in crafting their shared vision of bringing impeccable beers to the public. This all takes place in an unassuming industrial warehouse in Inglewood 1031 W. Manchester Blvd.. Three Weavers already graduated from a 15-barrel brewhouse, doubling to 30 barrels, and has been utilizing a centrifuge for quite some time. Coupled with a talented brewer, a centrifuge can assist in improving efficiencies and beer consistency across the board. A large adjacent space has been procured and will soon house a new Innofill DVD 30 canning line from KHS. It will fill 250 cans/minute and supplement Three Weavers’ GAI bottling line, which fills 50 bottles/minute. Space additions in progress will increase Three Weavers total size to 33,000 square feet including brewery, cellar, warehouse, tasting room, offices and packaging.
On the day this reporter visited Three Weavers was releasing Magnificent Voices Collective Gose, its International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day/Pink Boots Society Big Brew. Proceeds from this well-made gose-style beer went to assist funding of Pink Boots Society scholarships.
Nowell began her professional brewing career in the San Francisco Bay area, first at Novato’s Moylan’s Brewing Company in 2010. She moved on to Drake’s Brewing Company in San Leandro where she stayed until April of 2013. As Drake’s lead brewer she was recruited to join Southern California’s Kinetic Brewing Company. During her brief time at Kinetic she was successful in earning two bronze medals at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival for Potential Blonde, German-style Kolsch, and for Torque in the Session Beer category. In late 2013 Weaver was successful in having Nowell join her team and assist with the building and opening Three Weavers. World class honors would once again be forthcoming for Nowell with the 2016 World Beer Cup competition. WBC gold was awarded for Blood Junkie in the Imperial Red Ale category.
Seafarer Kolsch is on tap as one of Three Weavers’ core beers. On the hoppy side of the spectrum you can expect to be satiated by a number of IPAs and other hoppy brews. Two collaborative IPAs were on the board during this visit, Young Grasshopper, a hop satisfying session IPA brewed with Chapman Crafted of Orange, and The Messenger, an American IPA recipe that incorporates Bhudda’s Hand fruit for an extra citrus pop. Nowell originally brewed this beer with Noble Ale Works’ Evan Price prior to Three Weavers opening for business. It has become a seasonal collaboration with Noble since that time. This year’s version incorporated fresh yuzu and was dry hopped with Citra, El Dorado and Galaxy. The dark side was also well-represented. The approachable Hounslow Porter at 5.5% ABV provides a full flavor dimension in a mild overall package. Southbounder Coffee Stout, at 7.1% ABV, wakes things up via integration of Northbounder Coffee Roasters coffee. Three Weavers core imperial stout, Midnight Flight, is also available for those wishing to take the 9.5% plunge.