Owning a brewery sounds like a really cool thing to be able to do. Brew your own beer. Have friends come and hang out and drink the beer that you brewed. Hang out with people in the community. Maybe watch some games on TV. That all sounds great.
The reality is it isn't that easy. So ahead of our Champions League viewing party held with the good folks at Common Space Brewery, we wanted to get some insight into how they started and what the brewery is all about. To do that, we spoke with Josie Becker who was employee no.2 and is a lifelong soccer fan.
Let's start at the beginning. What's the story and who are the people behind the brewery?
So Common Space Brewery began with two separate events, the first being Brett Knapp and I home brewing on my stove top., We were friends through our mutual love of the LA Dodgers, and when Brett started getting into craft beer he asked if he could be a part of my brew days. He started learning about the beer making process, and wanting a new challenge started thinking about quitting his day job to open a brewery. Around this same time, Brent's friend Ryan Filippini said "hey, why don't we start a brewery" and the two of them started the crazy hard work of putting everything together. They found a head brewer in Kushal Hall, who was moving back to Los Angeles after working as the head brewer of Speakeasy Brewing Company in San Francisco.
Our biggest goal from the beginning has been giving back. We've already held several charity events here, and throughout the process we've maintained the mantra that great beer gives back. This is a dream through which we hope not only to lift ourselves, but our community and those we are fortunate enough to have an opportunity to help.
When did the brewery officially launch?
As a business we launched about two years ago but our taproom has only been in business about three months now. Much of that early time was spent fundraising and finding a location. I was just an advisor as we looked at various South Bay warehouses, finally landing on this gem on a building in Hawthorne. When I was brought in as employee no.2, our half a block building was completely empty. I got to be a part of the team as we ripped things up, strapped things down, and transformed it into the awesome space that it is now. It's been a lot of hard work by some incredibly talented people that I'm lucky to call my coworkers and friends.
What made the South Bay the right place for you guys to open in?
Brent and I are both South Bay natives, so it's an area we know the ins and outs of. We're starting to look at our corner of the northern South Bay with fellow breweries El Segundo, Three Weavers, La Ale Works, State and Ximix and starting to call ourselves the Aerospace Breweries with our proximity to LAX. It's great to see our scene, along with the Torrance and San Pedro breweries, really find a unique voice in the greater beer world. The area is changing so quickly with SpaceX and the outer space missions while there is still the juggernaut of the classic airline industry. It's such a cradle for the way people and goods move in this city, so why shouldn't it be a cradle of innovative beer.
What is your role with the brewery?
I was hired to be a "Jill of all trades" which has changed definition rapidly over the year. I've done everything from drilling holes into concrete to cleaning tanks. Now that we're moving out of construction mode my role is more defined, as the third member of a three person production team with Kushal and assistant brewer Andy Link. They've got the brewery experience, and I'm a student at their doorstep trying to soak in every bit of the trade that I can. When my training is complete I should be our full time cellarist, which isn't bad for someone who was hanging around MLS locker rooms a calendar year ago.
I know you're a big soccer supporter, can you talk about your relationship with the sport?
Yeah so when I talk about soccer, I always mention that I was 9 when the US hosted the World Cup in 1994. I remember I started playing soccer barefoot on my front lawn because there was a piece run about how Ronaldo would play barefoot. Then MLS and the Galaxy launch in 1996 (Cobi Jones 4ever) and Mia Hamm (omgomgomg) and the US women in 1999. It's been such a huge part of my life, and I was lucky enough in 2010 that my eternal love for soccer became my job. I was a freelance journalist for MLSsoccer.com for years after running a glorified fanblog for SBNation. Getting to work closely with Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Robbie Keane was some of my best times. No I get to be a fan again and actually cheer for goals, which I completely forgot feels really good.
Soccer and beer go together quite well. Having worked in the soccer world and now at a brewery, do you feel like there is a natural fit between the two and has the soccer community been supportive?
I think when it is working at its idealistic best, what soccer and beer have in common is community. What makes going to watch a soccer game at a bar with soccer supporters different from any other sport is that feeling of passion and commitment to each other. Whether it's the supporters groups of the Galaxy or what LAFC is building downtown, it's about more than just the sport in front of you. Beer spaces aim for that same feel. You're going to make new friends overtime you're there. I see tons of Galaxy and LAFC gear in the taproom, so I know we've got a natural link between the two communities. Soccer needs gathering spots, and we built one.
What's been the biggest challenge of not only launching a business but also building a brewery?
There are plenty of books on starting a business, but so much of the day to day stuff is just constantly adjusting to a brave new world. Routines aren't really a thing when everyday you're adjusting to some new wrinkle. We built with growth in mind and growing is hard, so there's constantly some new challenge in front of us. Luckily we're all here because that is what we were looking for.
We're hosting a Champions League final viewing party together this Saturday. Can you tell everyone what is planned for the event?
We have a huge projector screen in the taproom, so I've been wanting to have an event like this for some time where the whole brewery is filled with the sounds of soccer pandemonium. We tested it a few times amongst ourselves (Andy is a Liverpool fane and I'm a Manchester City fan), but now we want to see what it's like with a packed house. We'll have some fun things to raffle off, we're offering a discount for anyone wearing a soccer jersey, so hopefully it's a festive atmosphere with the kind of fun folks that Bumpy Pitch parties have been know to attract for years.
If you had to pick one Common Space beer, which one would be your favorite?
Despite my youngling status, Kush and Andy let me write a recipe for a beer that we made and I'm happy to say it's in the taproom. It's a Belgian Wit, which we brewed with blood orange and coriander, that drinks crisp and sweet like a warm spring day out on the green grass fields of the mind. It's great to be able to say "this is something I'd like to drink" and then we just make it. We've got a great saison program, and I'm just falling in love with our interpretation of the style. Belgian beers forever! And Belgian soccer players (love you Kevin DeBruyne)!
When did you fall in love with soccer?
I truly and utterly knew I was head over heels with soccer in 2010 when I was watching the World Cup and London Donovan scored in stoppage time to send the US out of the group stage. I knew I liked soccer before then, I had watched every World Cup, anything I could find on Univision or ESPN, I had watched MLS Cup 2009 - and the bizarre Western Conference final with the blackout - in my Berkeley dorm room on my laptop, but that Donovan goal which caused me to yell so loud came in wondering if I murdered myself - that's when I knew it was love.
Thanks Josie and congrats on Common Space! Can't wait for the viewing party this Saturday!