Deep in LA’s industrial district, east of the train tracks, lies a fresh face in beer, Ohana Brewing Company. Ohana’s mission is simple: to create world class beer 7 barrels at time. The team is comprised of owner Andrew Luthi and head brewer Chris Walowski. Together they operate the small facility off of 23rd Street poised to make everything from pale ales to French saisons. Bierkast was able to get a peak at their facility as well as taste some of their fresh and tasty brews.
Getting the brewery off the ground hasn’t been easy for Ohana. Anyone that has been following their Ohana blog will know that their road to opening and producing beer has been met with serious opposition from the City of Los Angeles. From permitting to health inspections–you name it–Ohana has been through it. Thankfully these issues are mostly past them, and they are producing beer regularly, working on expanding their line-up, and personally driving their beer around town from Downtown to Alhambra, Long Beach, and everywhere in between.
It’s not in the immediate plan to have an open tasting room at their brewery. For now, fans of Ohana will find their beer at local beer centric gastropubs and beer bars. All the usual LA hot spots will carry the beer, including City Tavern, Far Bar, Oinkster, Tony’s Darts Away, Blue Palms, and Beachwood BBQ. The list will continue to grow, but at a restrained and steady pace. A future plan is to have a retail location and tasting room near Alhambra. The idea would be similar to the current Stone extension tap room in Pasadena, where fans can come to buy merchandise, fill growlers, and taste the latest beers on tap.
With Ohana, quality of product is a major focus, as well as everything that goes into making something world class. Sanitation is a must, and they aren’t afraid to get in and get their hands dirty–or rather, clean. If you are familiar with Marc Jilg’s great beers, you’ll be happy to know that much of Ohana’s equipment was procured from the Pasadena based Craftsman Brewing Co. Used equipment typically comes with some elbow grease required, so along with prepping their tanks they are currently looking to update their lauter tun with some new designs that will make the brewery even more efficient.
One thing you’ll notice right when you walk into the brewery is how clean it is. The floors, although on the old side, are shiny, the brewing hoses look brand new, and even the reconditioned tanks have had some serious work done on them. Sanitization plays a pivotal role in the final product, and it’s apparent that they take this fact seriously. The brewery itself has character. With different sized and colored tanks it’s a hodgepodge of brew gear. The 7 barrel brewhouse is small, but it’s very functional. There is a storage area in the back where they currently house their glycol chillers and some equipment. To speed the brew day along they have installed a tankless water heater, and their kettle itself does double duty as a mash tun. This kettle is one of the most unique fixtures in the brewery, as it has an agitating arm that stirs the mash, allowing them to do temperature rests, as well as the boil.
Qualified & Still Learning
Andrew and Chris lead triple lives. They are simultaneously going to school, working jobs, and running the brewery. This is an incredible task, but Andrew and Chris make it work. Chris, who is getting his masters in Biochemistry at CSULB and working at Trader Joe’s in Long Beach, also home brews on the side. He had one of his sours, a dark Belgian strong aged on berries, available for us to try while we were at the brewery, and it was fantastic. Andrew is focusing on the business side of things at CSULA while also working at Sportech Racing. His main focus will be on sales, distribution, and marketing. These guys love to multi-task, which is a helpful skill to have when running a brewery, as they each wear many different hats. At ages 24 and 26, Andrew and Chris are also some of the youngest brewers to own and run a brewery.
Ohana is located on E 23rd street near the train tracks. This is just a stone’s throw away from where Elizabeth Short’s, the Black Dahlia, purse and shoe were found. Aside from being located near one of the most notorious unsolved homicides in the City’s history, the building itself has an interesting past. Before it was a brewery, it was a machine shop. Before it was a machine shop, it was a mortuary and crematorium. The brew kettle is currently positioned over where the old furnace used to be. If Ohana ever decides to make a cream ale or smoked beer, I think they’ll have a few ideas for names. Luckily, the many Tiki gods around the brewery are designed to keep evil spirits at bay, so everyone should be safe.
Drink & Be Merry
Go out and support your local craft brewery this holiday season, and why not start with Ohana? Rampart Pale Ale, Grateful Hophead IPA, Accomplice Belgian Strong, Don Cesar American Amber, and Saison Dubach are all worth your time, and you’ll probably order more. Remember though, Ohana’s releases are limited, so get down to your local watering hole now and see if they’re on tap. You’ll likely see both Andrew and Chris running around town delivery their beers. Make sure to say hello and tell them to keep up the good work. Also keep your eyes peeled for Rhino’s Ruin, an Imperial Double IPA inspired by LA local beer celebrity Alex “Rhino” Rebollo.
*Ohana Artwork and Beer Label by Glenn Sawada and provided by Ohana Brewing Co.