Two new craft breweries have opened within a mile of each other in El Segundo’s evolving light industrial Sleepy Hollow neighborhood west of Pacific Coast Highway in the last week.
Surfridge Brewing Co., owned and operated by experienced restaurateurs Steven and Jennifer Lieberman, who have run Santa Monica gastropub West Fourth and Jane for the last decade, opens at 4 p.m. Friday at 137 Nevada St.
Car-themed Upshift Brewing Co., owned by self-described gearheads Steve Behar of Hawthorne and brewer Eric Pearce of Redondo Beach, opened last weekend at 339 Indiana Street, just a block off PCH and within sight of Mattel’s headquarters. It’s a two-minute drive — or half-mile stroll — from Surfridge.
“I just really wanted to be in Smoky Hollow,” Behar said. “It’s just a great area with older buildings and a good vibe. There’s a lot of automotive-based (industry) around here.”
Indeed, at Upshift you feel like you’re having a beer — names include Big Block Brown Ale and P-R-N-D-L Pale Ale (get it?) — in a comfortable garage, which you pretty much are; the modest 750-square-foot taproom is a former motorcycle repair shop and has a maximum occupancy of just 49.
License plates — from every state — are hung behind the bar.
Automotive memorabilia line the walls.
And a dirt bike — the two dirt-biking buddies decided to found a brewery in part to share Pearce’s home brews he would bring along for a post-ride thirst quencher — sits by the roll-up doors, part of a rotating automotive-themed display.
The additions have significantly upped the brewery density in compact El Segundo, best known for the high-octane, India Pale Ale hop bombs produced by El Segundo Brewing Co. Three Chiefs Brewing Co., also brews craft ales out of the R6 Distillery, a block or so away from Surfridge.
The new additions exemplify a neighborhood in transition, close to the small city’s walkable urban core — it’s often dubbed Mayberry — but also home to corporate headquarters such as the Lemonade Restaurant Group that sit next to grittier car repair shops.
It was that small-town feel that drew the owners of Surfridge to El Segundo, where they eventually hope to relocate to raise their seven-year-old son.
The couple scouted light industrial locations throughout Los Angeles for two years, seeking a production facility to make their own craft brews they could also showcase at their Fourth Street tap room, known for its more than two dozen rotating tap handles.
Surfridge is named after the well-known abandoned housing development west of Los Angeles International Airport that today is a 302-acre nature preserve filled with sand dunes that’s home to the likes of the endangered El Segundo Blue Butterfly and rare burrowing owls
But Surfridge, the restored wildlife habitat, is off limits to the public.
Surfridge, the brewery, is most assuredly not, although it took years of restoration work to get it ready for opening weekend (there is no large exterior sign, so look for an small, understated one that reads simply “beer” if you go).
The 1,500-square-foot tap room is designed to be a welcoming space with two long wooden bars, two couch areas, a long banquette with comfy cushions and an adjacent dog-friendly patio ideal for taking in sunsets. Both bars and banquette also boast plenty of plugs for the battery-depleted who want to check in on Facebook or Yelp.
The interior of Surfridge Brewery, which opens Friday in El Segundo. (Photo by Andy Lopresto).
The brewery’s tagline: “Extending our family. One beer at a time.”
“We wanted a place where people, as soon as they walk in, they feel relaxed,” said taproom designer Jennifer Lieberman. “A place that people can gather to have an experience and make a memory.”
The 20-barrel production brewery will have plenty of small batch brews, one-offs and seasonals, said Steven Lieberman. There are, after all, 30 taps behind the bars — with plastic handles recycled from debris collected during beach clean-ups — so there’s plenty of capacity for experimentation.
Surfridge’s opening in the same area as Upshift should create even more of a buzz about the community’s brewery scene and benefit both breweries, Behar said.
“We’re happy they’re opening so close to when we did because it will drive even more business to El Segundo,” he said.