Meet the Man Trying to Bring Long Beach Its Next Brewery, Liberation Brewing Co.

LiberationBrewing

More than six years before the craft beer boom, local brewer Eric McLaughlin long held an interest in brewing his own beer. Having moved to San Francisco for film school, the former Lakewooder-now-Long Beacher was surrounded by NorCal’s vast craft beer scene, from Russian River Brewing to Lagunitas, in addition to beer bars like Toronado in the city that served nothing but locally crafted brew.

His driving desire has brought him here, where he—along with partners Danny Regan and Mike Clements—are hoping to take his brew skills to the next level with Liberation Brewing Company (LBC—acronym very much intended to represent). They hope to join Beachwood Brewing, Belmont Brewing, and Rock Bottom as the fourth production brewery in Long Beach.

“We are currently looking at locations in Cal Heights or the Zaferia District,” McLaughlin said. “We’re gonna initially start out small—3.5 barrels—as long as the demands are met, then we would love to expand to a 10 or 15 barrel system as soon as possible.”

McLaughlin01McLaughlin’s talents in home brewing were honed entirely auto-didactically. His love for cooking and flavors—a factor that drives many into both loving beer as a complement to food as well as inspiring one’s inner brewer—drew him toward the idea of creating beer. Reading forum after forum on Beer Advocate, he created his first beer, a Belgian strong dark. In the words of McLaughlin, everything that could go wrong did go wrong: under pitched yeast, no temperature control on any level, and a complete lack of finesse.

Brew after brew, over and over, failure after failure, McLaughlin learned from his mistakes and continued his uphill journey toward being a bona fide brewmaster. Soon enough, he had built up enough genuine talent that Ohana Brewing in Los Angeles offered him a job.

The 7 barrel system at Ohana wasn’t immediately handed over to McLaughlin, who was willing to do any form of dirty work—from shoveling grain to general house cleaning—as long as it meant working at a commercial brewery. Many home brewers mistakenly think that everything they brew in their tiny 5-gallon batches can simply translate into micro brewing with massive equipment—a mistake that McLaughlin didn’t want to make.

“I’ve been [at Ohana] since August,” McLaughlin said, “and it’s been a genuinely great adventure because it taught me that simple is better. I’ve only recently started brewing hoppy beers—I wasn’t really into it at first because a lot of brewers just throw a ton in and leave out the complexity—but I’m doing a lot of saisons. Even when it’s cold outside, they’re awesome—and they pair well with food.”

McLaughlin02The dirty work paid off: after submitting some recipes, Ohana permitted McLaughlin to brew. And for Ohana, the choice to allow him to experiment proved fruitful: McLaughlin’s black saison garnered the brewery a silver medal at the World Beer Cup, a win over which McLaughlin noted he was “still in disbelief.”

The accolades have driven McLaughlin ever closer toward the goal of making Liberation a reality, where the trio of McLaughlin, Regan, and Clements [pictured left] hope—City permits permitting—to have an end-of-the-year opening.

“I love Long Beach,” said the Bluff Heights resident. “And I can’t wait for its beer scene to explode since it’s coming up on its own. There are things in San Francisco I miss but I am so glad I ended up in Long Beach.”

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