Thursday, July 18, 2024

Long Beach’s newest brewery, ISM Brewing, soft opens today

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ISM Brewing—the brewery that took over the former Beachwood space after the Long Beach brewing legend opted to make The Blendery its sole Beachwood operation in Downtown Long Beach—will be opening its doors to the public for the first time today at 11AM.

A return to roots and a welcomed opened door

Headed by master brewer and owner Ian McCall, ISM’s opening marks the beginning of what will be a full circle in his brewing career: Having started his own career at the very space he is now calling his first business, McCall began brewing side-by-side with Beachwood legend Julian Shrago over a decade ago. Once his skill was up to par, McCall led RIIP Brewing in Orange County to such success— seven Great American Beer Fest medals across his tenure, including a gold for his play on a Belgian-style specialty ale dubbed Tangible Passion—that it wasn’t unheard of Angeleno beer lovers to trek across the Orange Curtain to sip on McCall’s brews.

So to say it is a good thing that the massive brewing space along the Promenade is not being left empty thanks to a smart coordination from the people at Beachwood and a massive investment from the McCall family is an understatement.

“There’s really no way to show how much I love Long Beach,” McCall said. “But this is definitely the best way I can: Good beer, good food, good times.”

And with that, Long Beach sees a return to what many call the golden years of craft beer with ISM Brewing: The time when there was, indeed, a boom in great, independently-owned breweries that were silent (but quite big) middle fingers toward the Big Beer Boys of the industry—but also before the time Heineken bought Lagunitas and trust fund bros created middling breweries out of nothing but boredom and cash.

ISM Brewing represents what craft beer has always been: For the community, by the community.

McCall’s reputation is worthy of the praise—just taste the beer

ISM Brewing has quietly been testing out its product—and that included a private gathering earlier this month that had beers so impressive, I included it on my favorite things list for November.

What was being served? A pilsner (Interloper), an IPA (Western Standard Time), an American amber (Pasts Return), and a New Zealand pils (Lag Rope)—and I was not only ecstatic to try but happily reminded why we are so lucky to have him: Filling the pints of Beachwood’s beer-print is not an easy task, if not a nearly impossible one. If McCall’s beers are as consistent as these inaugural gems, there is no doubt he will continue to hold the flag that waves proudly for Long Beach’s role in continually creating great craft brews.

Joining the aforementioned four brews will be a blonde ale (Bleach Boys), a fruit beer (Peaches for Days), a pale ale (Quaffable at Best), and another IPA (Kiwi Fingers). They will also have two IPAs from Oakland standout Ghost Town, Pale Horse and Inhume.

And yes, unlike Beachwood—who ditched their full kitchen operations and began leasing it out to brands like Proudly Serving—McCall and his team are opening with a fully operating kitchen to pair up with their eight inaugural beers and guest taps.

What to expect? “Food that goes well with beer,” McCall said—and that means things like wings, brisket sandwiches, and more from Chef Alfonso “Fonzy” De Zuniga, who helped Descanso in Costa Mesa achieve its reputation. (Just don’t expect a full-on Mexican menu a la Descanso; a genuinely welcomed sentiment. And I say this not because Mexican isn’t one of the best cuisines in the world but it feels a little too close to Long Beach’s craft beer history: After its trusted owner, Travis Ensling, took a step away as owner of Congregation (the place that basically introduced Long Beach to craft beer), the was a somewhat disastrous shift with its new owners. Congregation went from the apropos burgers’n’craft beer with a tinge of Catholic kitsch to a strangely misaligned cocina with reflective metallic window clings screaming, “BRUNCH!”)

ISM Brewing is located at 210 E. 3rd Street in Downtown Long Beach and will be open Sunday through Thursday, 11AM to 10PM, and Fridays and Saturdays from 11AM to midnight.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

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