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Craft Brewery Meets Changing Tastes

The national trend toward "buying local" has expanded beyond fruits and vegetables and meat ... to the beverage portion of the meal. Many American beer lovers are turning to small local breweries that produce distinctive brews known as craft beers.

A commuter train rumbles by, just meters from Golden Road Brewing, a brewery and pub in an industrial section of Los Angeles. It was founded two years ago in buildings that once housed a railway switching depot.

Inside, the owners and brewers hold a weekly tasting meeting.

Co-owner Meg Gill says this week's gathering is important.

“This is our first taste of a lot of the barrel-aged beers that we’ve been working anywhere from six months to two years on," said Gill.

Each brew has a distinctive balance of flavors.

Co-owner Tony Yanow varies the mix of malt and hops for every type of beer, sometimes flavoring the brews with coffee or citrus.

It's a multistage process that starts with mashing grain, and straining and boiling the resulting liquid, as Yanow points out over huge German-made vats.

“Basically, you've taken a liquid from here, and the liquid has almost no solid in it at all," said Yanow.

Then the brewers add yeast, and the mixture begins to ferment.

Yanow says craft beers are a small part of the market, but demand is growing.

“It's in a total boom phase, and the number of different types of beers, the number of beer bars, the number of people that drink beer, it just seems to be expanding in every direction," he said.

He says that as beer drinkers develop their palates, beer makers are coming up with new products.

People are really pushing the boundaries right now and finding new and interesting ways to experiment with beer and push the limits of what beer actually is, " said Yanow.

At Golden Road Brewing, there are seasonal beers and brews that promote causes, like environmental cleanup on the Santa Monica Bay. Yanow says that making craft beers is an art and science, and is about connecting with the local community.

Hundreds of small, independent craft breweries in the United States are trying to meet the demand for traditional beers and ales with a touch of something different.