It’s been a long four years for the Long Beach-bred team behind Liberation Brewing Company. When we first checked in with Dan Regan, Eric McLaughlin and Michael Clements in 2014, they were a power trio of marketing, brewing and financial talent still searching for a place to install their dream project: a tiny production brewery with an attached taproom that could serve as a community space and anchor point for the city they love so much.
The team came together organically as the craft beer movement that swept through L.A. County largely ignored Long Beach in the early 2010s.
Regan spent most of his adult life touring internationally as the trombone player in third-wave ska band Reel Big Fish, where he was exposed to craft beer from around the world. Regan met McLaughlin, an award-winning brewer from a culinary family (RIP At Last Café), through his own homebrewing efforts, and then called up Clements, an old high school friend with banking experience and a history of civic engagement (he served as chief of staff for several Long Beach city councilmembers).
After scouring through neighborhoods from Zaferia to downtown for a spot with the right zoning (and price!) for a brewery, the three partners settled into a former discount store on Atlantic Avenue in Bixby Knolls. Despite the city making several alterations to planning and business codes in order to help breweries open more quickly in Long Beach, other players in the permitting process have yet to catch up and a years-long trip to get approval for brewing operations ensued. Liberation Brewing Company (aka LBC, natch) finally opened last month.
Thankfully, McLaughlin is making up for lost time by quickly getting the next great Long Beach beers pouring for the people. While most new breweries need time to dial in their brewing system, perfect their recipes and figure out a good balance for the taplist, the first batches out of the fermenters at Liberation Brewing Company – from the Mostly Harmless Cream Ale to an all-Mosaic IPA — are not only diverse but impressively well-made.
While waiting for LBC to open, McLaughlin took brewing positions at other local breweries and honed his skills by making all styles of beers on brewhouses of all shapes and sizes. (His black saison recipe earned a World Beer Cup award for L.A.’s Ohana Brewing Company.)
At LBC, McLaughlin makes the most of his 5-barrel system, which at only 10 kegs per batch, is the city’s smallest brewery (Steady Brewing, which is smaller, opens soon). Brewing on such a small scale means McLaughlin can try experimental recipes and quickly respond to customer feedback by quickly implementing tweaks on the next batch.
The opening tap list includes a mix of traditional and experimental styles rooted in solid technical brewing, from the nutty John Brown Ale to the already-classic Jackrabbit IPA to Autonomy Amber, made with coffee from Long Beach’s Rose Park Roasters. The Fort Drum Dry Stout is a homegrown Guinness and other hoppy pale ales and IPAs are going to be perfect summer sippers.
Liberation just got approval to sell beer to go (growlers!) and is starting to roll out a healthy calendar of events, including this weekend’s Beer Trolley, a tap takeover at The Social List for L.A. Beer Week and Selecta Thursdays, where you bring your own vinyl and “Selecta Dan” will play it loud.
Liberation Brewing Company, 3630 Atlantic Ave, Long Beach; (562) 354-1542; liberationbrewing.com
Sarah Bennett is a freelance journalist who has spent nearly a decade covering food, music, craft beer, arts, culture and all sorts of bizarro things that interest her for local, regional and national publications.