What I’m really loving right now is driving ten minutes to any one of several new breweries popping up all over greater Los Angeles. After finally recovering from LA Beer Week, we headed out this weekend a few miles eastward on I-10 to check out Federal Brewing, South El Monte’s first brewery. Only open roughly a month, FB has already expanded from two to five brews on tap, offering tastings, pints, grumblers and growlers, all within the confines of a spacious taproom featuring a view into the brewery.
Co-owner Kevin Ogilby chatted with us in between serving pours to a steady stream of visitors, while his partner Diego Benitez was flying behind the bar doing the same.
Flights in hand, Kevin walked us through each beer in depth: Guera, a blonde ale; Rio Bravo, the American Wheat (I usually avoid wheats, and I was surprised to take a growler home of this puppy); Wolverine, their very popular amber ale; Pioneer, a red ale I will be taking home next time; and lastly Bronco, a Belgian Pale Ale. My palette must be improving and distinguishing subtleties better, as the breadth of taste-difference between these five was deep and vast, each one with such potent personalities while all being drinkable and stable. I asked if they were planning on any infusion-style ales, and while somewhat interested, Federal Brewing plans to stick to sessionable, traditional ales before bringing in occasional infusions. With five taps running, three more brews are forthcoming to bring the total to a potential eight. Ogilby reports customers are pushing them to keep all available. He remarked, “we’re gonna have to cut at least one of ’em, so someone’s gonna be sad.” A glance around the full taproom suggests they’ll be just fine. A while out from now we can also expect to see a porter and an IPA balancing out their line-up.
Ogilby and Benitez, both chemists, have actually hand-made their fermenters and tanks, and showed off their new hand-made bar-front to be installed this week. All that money-saving DIY-knowhow allowed them to have opened a lot sooner than originally expected. The resulting look is an homage to their surrounding community – a rustic, industrial appeal, nothing intimidating or out of place. Wooden picnic benches supply ample seating for guests and barstools are a maybe in the future. I plan to visit often and watch the young brewery take shape and develop its personality. And of course to drink their beer.
As much as chemists-turned-brewers might arouse a quip about Breaking Beer, Ogilby claims that reference is “still a little funny” to them as he showed us around the brewery, side-stepping all that science-y stuff. A large chill room already had a lot of empty kegs sitting in wait, a good sign for this well-placed brewery. The rest of the equipment was having a rest before the next brew day and a lone whiteboard displays their brew schedule, resembling a table of elements and ending with positive tasks of “Have Beer” and “Go Home.”
The Federal Boys are the only two running the joint seven days a week, and while they may be busy hustling behind the bar, they can spare a moment or twenty to tell you anything you’d like to know about their craft. Be sure to catch one of their exceptionally-priced pints or growlers when you can.