Long Beach has long been a city for beer lovers. Bars like Public Beer and Wine Shop and Congregation Ale House boast enviable rotating beer lists; shops like Stateside Crafts stock rare finds and, of course, Beachwood’s innovative beers and coveted guest taps attract plenty of local and non-local connoisseurs.
This year, though, brings a craft beer explosion—with at least three breweries slated to open this year (including one in Signal Hill). The first of those three, Long Beach Beer Lab, hit the ground running with some soft opening events over summer and now operates regular hours Thursday through Monday.
Located in Wrigley, Long Beach Beer Lab (518 W. Willow St., Unit A) exceeds expectations in a big way. Guests step through a nondescript storefront into a beautiful space with high wooden ceilings—giving the impression of being inside of a barrel. The aroma that occupies the building is a mixture of freshly baked bread and the casks that line the drinking and eating area. Colorful, ornate kaleidoscopes—reminiscent of microscopes—sit atop each table, unique touches handmade by the beer lab owners’ uncle.
The owners, husband and wife Levi Fried and Harmony Sage, are a brewer and baker, respectively. They describe the new business as a true passion project years in the making. “It’s a way to combine our passions and skills together under one roof—which is a dream,” Fried said. “I get to do what I love; she gets to do what she loves, and we get to share it with people who love it.”
Unlike many brand new breweries, the beer at Long Beach Beer Lab is mature in more ways than one. Levi has not just been a homebrewer since 2008, but he also brewed professionally in Israel, where he attended medical school. “At the time, there wasn’t going to be craft beer in Israel, so I had to make my own,” he said. “I have a background in microbiology, pharmaceuticals and drug development. So it was kind of easy to pick it up.”
Fried’s talent and knowledge of bacteria and yeast is evident in the tap lineup on any given day. While the beer list rotates, from the pale ales and the IPAs to the sour ales and the stouts, everything is delicious to outstanding. “I don’t have a favorite beer or a favorite style, just a favorite way of doing things,” he said. “I like complex fermentation, so I like beers that involve that—things that are not so standard.”
For example, the Sour Mama “Exbeeriment” No. 1, a Berliner-style sour ale that the beer lab tapped recently, gets its tartness from sourdough starter; the beer is fermented in a port wine barrel with blueberries and grapes. It’s mouth puckering initially, then mellows out with the lingering fruit flavors.
The Milk the Mustache is a tart farmhouse ale barrel fermented with a mixed farmhouse culture, the taste of which is light, not too sour with a little of the signature farmhouse funk. Fried said the Milk the Mustache is one of the brewery’s staples that will likely stay on tap consistently.
Although not as complex in their methods, the brewery’s LB 4 LB, or “pound for pound” is an unfiltered pale ale that’s well suited for hop lovers; and the Chocolatey is a stout that tastes like its namesake, with notes of dark chocolate and roasted malt.
Just as memorable as the beers is the food at Long Beach Beer Lab. Sage, once a pastry chef at the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta, showcases her artistry with dough through a menu of pizzas and small plates. Pizza arrives hot from the oven, with freshly made sourdough that’s the right mix of fluffy and chewy, and crisped along the bottom.
For dessert, don’t miss Sage’s Moroccan doughnuts—deliciously dense, moist bites of dough that have been seasoned with Chinese five spice and sugar, served drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauce made in house. Also on the sweet side is a beer ice cream the lab made in collaboration with Long Beach Creamery.
Sage said she may add sandwiches to the menu soon. “Ingredients depend on the season,” she said. “I’ve been trying to get a lot of my produce from Long Beach Farms. Whatever I can’t get from them I get from the farmers markets; I also work with Ingardia Brothers.”
The lab also has a membership program called the Lab Rats. Members are entitled to limited beer releases, special events and other benefits. “Breweries are getting a little bit pretentious,” Fried said of his decision on the name of the program. “I call our club the Lab Rats because, let’s face it, you’re going to be here all the time. And you’re a lab rat because I’m experimenting on you.”
The couple added that distribution and direct sales of beer and bread may be in the plans but, for now, they are getting their bearings and ensuring they can control quality while continuing to make the products they love.
“Every week we’re experimenting,” Fried said. “There will be new beer every week—forever. Maybe you won’t see the beer that you loved last week every again. But that’s the lab—you do an experiment, and hope you can repeat it. You just keep going.”