Over the past year, while visiting many of LA’s reputable craft beer establishments, I began to notice the name Ohana Brewing Company popping up on a steadily increasing number of tap lists and in craft-centric conversations around town. With so much buzz surrounding a brewery in its infant stages, I knew I had to get the inside scoop on this family operated brewery. Though Ohana officially began its brewing operation just one year ago, they have wasted no time establishing their presence in the Los Angeles beer scene. Available at more than 30 bars and restaurants, this small brewery seems to be, dare I say, the underdog of the LA beer scene.
“We’re really happy with how far we’ve come. It’s taken a lot of work.” owner Andrew Luthi told me while touring their brewhouse. “The name Ohana came from my mom when we were brainstorming company names. We have family that live in Hawaii.” Ohana, which means family in Hawaiian, definitely sums up the feeling you get when you meet the Ohana team. Andrew, who is only 25 years old, might be the youngest owner of a brewery to date. “We’ve been making home brews in my house for years. I’ve been planning this for a long time, but my family definitely helped.”
Andrew was kind enough to invite Jeff and I to tour their brewery, which is nestled among the industrial warehouses and scrap metal yards south of Downtown Los Angeles. You might think it strange to find a brewery in this neighborhood, but the location adds to its charm. “The warehouse belonged to our family, but wasn’t used to make beer.” The Ohana website describes them as “ultra-small” and they aren’t kidding. With only a seven barrel capacity brewing system, which they purchased from Craftsman Brewing Company in Pasadena, it truly is amazing how much beer they are able to get to market. Yet, the future seems to be full of potential growth. “We’re still working. And brewing.” Whatever the size of the operation, the key is that they are making quality beer, and people want more.
“You want a beer?” Andrew asked. “Absolutely,” I said.
We sipped on Live and Let Rye, a pale ale made with rye, as we walked around the brewery. Chris Walowski, the head brewer, was there rocking his rubber shoes and working hard on the next batch of Ohana beer. “I”m working on my masters in biochemistry,” Chis said. “I started as a home brewer. There is a science and art to it. I’m happy I found this place.” Apparently Chis is great at making sours and Ohana is currently working on a batch that the staff of Beer Guy LA are anxiously awaiting to try.
“I’m delivering three days a week, and all over Los Angeles,” Andrew said. Though my first sip of Ohana was at the delicious, heavy metal burger joint Grill ’em All in Alhambra (where Jeff reviewed their Hill Street Hefeweizen), I have seen their brews all over town. “You want to try some Big Walowski?” Andrew asked. He poured us a small taster of their stout. It was full-bodied with a great roasted malt character. These guys might be a “Fresh Face in Beer,” as their slogan reads, but they are continuing a tradition of craft beer that seems timeless and, especially with a bad economy, all the more important to acknowledge. Your car, your television, your phone, and your shoes might be made some place far far away, but with places like Ohana planting themselves wherever there is space, maybe even next to a scrap metal yard outside of Downtown LA, your beer can be made right here. You’ll know who’s doing it. The faces behind it. You’ll know the artists. With the hard work they’re putting into their brews, I’m sure they’ll continue to grow.
Everybody starts out somewhere, and for Ohana that’s in an odd neighborhood next to a scrap metal processor, but they have definitely found their spot in the LA beer scene. “It’s still in the idea stage, but we’re planning on bottling in the near future,” Andrew said. I’m sure they’ll do it, and when they do I’ll hopefully have a few Big Walowskis in my fridge to come home to after a long day. Until then, be sure to try some of Ohana’s beer, like Makin’ Moves IPA or the newly released Rhino’s Redemption double IPA. Visit their website, follow them on twitter, and like them on Facebook to get the latest info on what’s fresh out of the brewery. For now I’m glad we were able to visit them at this stage. Keep up the good work Andrew and Chris!