Monday, June 17, 2024

Trademark Brewing celebrates five years of brewing’n’community (mechanical bull included)

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Trademark Brewing—after opening in an old auto shop after four years of searching for a home for their brewery—will be celebrating their fifth anniversary come Saturday, June 1.

How did Trademark Brewing come to be?

Owners and husband-and-wife team, Sterling and Ilana Steffen scouted the space next to the Packard Building all the way back in 2015, seeing the former auto repair shop as a future home to an open floor brewing concept where the brewing process and the drinking process are seamlessly brought together thanks to a glass wall. Their thoughts at the time? Think Stumptown in DTLA, but with hops, a buzz and a mint green-like floor that fits with the brewery’s overall minimalist aesthetic.

Come 2017, the pair signed their first check—tens of thousands of dollars they had saved up—to wait two years to open, just before the pandemic. With ceilings sandblasted, trusses painted, skylights installed and beers brewed, Trademark Brewing formally opened in June of 2019, some six years after the pair began planning it.

“I feel pretty fortunate to have opened with solid, respectable beers,” Sterling said. “But over the last few years our brewing has really hit its stride.”

How Trademark Brewing went from good beer to award-winning beer

Sterling is right: The brewery opened with some decent beers—but over the past year or so, head brewer Kane Christensen has churned out what are easily the space’s best brews. And that excellence hasn’t gone unnoticed: Trademark Brewing won in the Coffee Beer category, scoring the bronze for its Morning Drive brew at this past year’s World Beer Cup, joining only one other Long Beach brewery—ISM Brewing—in scoring a medal.

The beer is a phenomenal example of a coffee beer without being a coffee beer: Dedicated to the city’s annual Grand Prix, Kane uses Ethiopian coffee beans to create a rather crushable brew that has hints of coffee rather than being a cold brew with alcohol and fizziness. And in all frankness, likely deserved a high medaling—but that is neither here nor there.

Kane—a long-time Pizza Port alumni and “die-hard West Coast IPA aficionado” in the words of Sterling—has been responsible for Trademark’s uptick in respectability amongst the beer community, something Sterling himself recognizes.

“With Kane on the team we’ve recently picked up some new medals—including a Gold for A La Playa at the California State Fair,” Sterling said. “Kane is a very talented brewer, an outstanding leader, and he’s brought a lot to Trademark Brewing to level-up our beer with thoughtful innovation, a calculated process, brewing improvements, creative recipe development…”

Kane—along with fellow brewer Danny Jimenez who has been at the brewery since day one, making his way up to brewer alongside former brewer  Valerie Adee—are “responsible for making basically every drop of beer these days. It’s very rare that I still get to brew. The team is killin’ it,” Sterling said.

So what is different about Trademark Brewing since the days before COVID—and where is the future heading?

Everything is different.

For Sterling, his words mark an emphasis that it isn’t just the brewing that has hit its stride, but the overall aura of the massive space: More and more community events—like Chef Chad Phuong’s wildly popular annual Cambodian New Year celebration to hosting a symposium for this year’s upcoming L.A. Beer Week—and with it, a deeper connection to the community, have driven the brewery forward.

“The brewing has hit a groove I’m really proud of,” Sterling said. “We’ve found our zone and we’ve leaned into a core lineup, along with a ton of seasonal and celebratory brews that I’m really happy with. Our taproom and hospitality have evolved and we’ve really found our place in the Long Beach beer scene, the Washington Neighborhood, and the greater L.A. market.”

And the changes? Sure, Trademark brewing wishes for more parking but other than that, is truly looking toward the future, especially when it comes to distributing their cans and kegs—and yes, potentially another location

“We recently signed on with Scout Distribution and our distribution footprint has exploded,” Sterling said, “While we’re still keeping our beer as local as possible, it’s amazing to see how quickly the new distro has changed our business—including expanding our sustainability efforts to make more delicious beer while using less water, power and natural gas than virtually any small craft brewery in California. I’d like to see the taproom continue to evolve and improve—’adequate’ is not a concept we choose to adhere to—and we look forward to more collabs and possibly another location.”

So what to expect at Trademark Brewing’s 5th anniversary rodeo showdown?

It’s simple and free (but a RSVP with the link below is appreciated to gauge attendance): Expect some grub from Shady Grove Foods and Arenita (a taco-meets-seafood-and-vegan-grub joint). Line dancing and mercy. A triple-dry hopped West Coast IPA by Kane playing with Beyoncé’s “Cowboy Carter” as an inspiration. And yes, a giant ass mechanical bull.

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“Events:  Community involvement has always been one of the pillars of our vision for TMb. “Beer is about community and occasion. It’s not just the liquid, it’s the reason to come together and share time with your people (and meet new people). We don’t just brew beer, we create occasion. Opening the taproom for the myriad of events we host is a blast, and we look forward to surprising and delighting our regulars as well as welcoming new faces to the brewery.

Trademark Brewing, located at 233 E. Anaheim St., will have their 5th anniversary rodeo showdown party on Saturday, June 1. For your free RSVP, click here.

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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