The Riip Beer Company in Huntington Beach
A brewery finds a home
Imagine a boozy equivalent to delivery pizza: a phone call, a wait and, suddenly, craft beer – award-winning craft beer, in fact – delivered right to your front door. In 2014 brothers-in-law Ryan Rasmussen and Ryan Hopkins started doing exactly this when their Riip Beer Co. began making its door-to-door deliveries in Huntington Beach via a 1931 Helms Bread truck.
With no power steering or power brakes, the truck was difficult to drive but was an icon for the area and the company. It also became part of a mission. When Rasmussen and Hopkins bought the truck from Dennis Midden, the former owner of BrewBakers in Huntington Beach, Midden asked the pair to make the truck and their brewery staples of the area. Rasmussen, with family ties to Huntington Beach stretching back to the days when his grandfather would bake clams on the beach, was up to the challenge.
But then a series of fiascoes and mountains of paperwork delayed the licensing and opening of the brick-and-mortar location. The old bread truck and its inspiration to deliver beer turned out to be a secret to the fledgling business. Essentially, the truck helped the brothers-in-law get their beer out and build their brand without incurring the risks that would come from starting the business out of a permanent store.
Huntington Beach beer lovers caught on quickly, and the rest of Orange County followed. Riip’s flagship Dan K IPA won gold for best beer at the Taste of Huntington Beach, deliveries mounted, and establishments and customers outside Huntington began asking for special orders. Riip moved into kegging its beers for bars and started bottling and distributing to select Orange County shops.
Now Riip has finally cleared the hurdles and plans a mid-October opening of a tasting room on PCH in Huntington Beach that will double as a home-brewing supply shop.
The vibe, Rasmussen says, is “old school.” The tasting room has a custom-distressed wood and metal bar that the brewers helped build, with vintage photos of Huntington Beach lining the walls. The aim is to be a place where customers can “grab a beer, grab home brewing supplies, maybe take a growler to go, and talk to us about brewing,” Rasmussen says. “It’s a very casual environment.”
That intimate relationship with customers and the product stretches to Riip’s brewing process, which employs only a three-barrel brewing system at Riip’s brewery on Saturn Drive. Most breweries brew on a minimum of seven to 15.
“I think one of the good things about us is that we’re still small and boutique,” Rasmussen says. The extremely small batches, he says, result in a “hands-on” and exact method.
Riip’s ability to make its new tasting room a “stomping ground” for beer experimentation is also a byproduct of the nano-system. Delivery, Rasmussen says, limits Riip’s ability to dally with new recipes, because each batch needs to have a demanded destination. But a tasting room gives them room to play with limited-batch beers.
“I don’t want to be a place where every time you come in there’s the same beer lineup,” says Rasmussen. One of his ideas: taking the brewery’s flagship beers and brewing them with varying hop additions.
“I want to give people the ability to be connoisseurs and be able to figure out profiles on their own,” he says.
But the brewery has, and continues, to leave its appeal open to all audiences. Its flagship Dan K IPA, for example, was crafted to emphasize “crispy, floral and dank” components with minimal bitterness so that even non-IPA lovers could embrace the drink (which they have, according to Rasmussen).
For non-hop heads, Riip’s collaborative coffee stout, Wake’n Bake, brewed with beans specially selected by nano-roaster Stache Coffee Co. out of Oceanside, and its other beers – which include a Mexican chocolate stout, other IPAs and a blonde ale – are meant to appeal to nascent craft beer fans and connoisseurs alike.
Rasmussen says he envisions a bigger production facility in the future while holding onto the nano one, and possibly an outpost similar to another Orange County beer landmark: San Clemente’s Pizza Port.
“Every time I go into Pizza Port, it’s completely packed and all the people have a smile on their face,” says Rasmussen.
The venue, he says, appeals to families and older craft beer fans, a crowd that Rasmussen believes has yet to be tapped in Orange County.
As for now, he says, “we want to get the word out there, and we want people to try our beer.”
Riip beer can be ordered for delivery and is sold at Costa Mesa’s Hi-Time Wine Cellar, Bradley’s Fine Wines & Spirits in Tustin, Hollingshead’s in Orange and Main Street Wine Co. in Huntington Beach, among other stores and bars. Riip Beer Co., 17214 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, 714.248.6710 :: riipbeerco.com
Two More Hip Hops - Beach City Brewery
At Beach City Brewery in Huntington Beach, craft beer meets life surfside via the brewery’s laid-back atmosphere and sand-like textured walls. “You feel like you’re at the beach,” owner Glenn Closson says.
Closson homebrewed under the Beach City name for two years before he opened his Huntington location in 2014. “We had to find a nice, laid-back beach city for the name and the kind of vibe we were putting out,” he says.
Beach City’s beer lineup matches its atmosphere. Its core brews of Pierside Pilsner, Hang Five IPA and PCH Pale Ale are crisp sippers great for casual beer fans and days full of surf and sunshine. Its seasonal beers are serious enough to please craft beer aficionados and newcomers alike. It has included the popular Ruski Noir, a hefty Russian imperial stout with flavor notes of chocolate and coffee, as well as a Sunuva Beach brown ale and Crimson Typhoon imperial red ale. Beach City entered those latter two beers in this year’s Great American Beer Festival in Colorado.
Beach City plans to open a tasting room and concession stand in March, complete with a menu by SeaLegs, at Bolsa Chica State Beach in Huntington Beach. It distributes cans of its Pierside Pilsner to assorted shops and grocery stores in Orange County and will soon can and distribute its other two core beers too.
7631 Woodwind Drive, Huntington Beach, 714.842.9160 :: beachcitybrewery.com
Artifex Brewing company
At Artifex Brewing in San Clemente, brew lovers can get a taste of craft beer close to the shore while still enjoying the characteristic, neo-industrial setting of a craft brewery.
According to Tom Cordato, one of the founders of Artifex, the location is a place where locals tend to congregate on weekdays and craft beer lovers come on weekends, a fact explained by its combination of accessible beers (its flagship IPA, No Name, is frequently compared to Ballast Point’s popular Sculpin) and esoteric ones. Its black lager (schwarzbier), Dark Helmet, won a gold medal at the 2015 San Diego International Beer Festival and is
what Cordato refers to as a “beer drinker’s beer.”
“It’s very smooth and full-bodied,” he says.
Cordato opened Artifex Brewing in San Clemente with his son, Nicholas, and his son’s friend, Johnny Johur (a former brewer for Pizza Port in Solana Beach and Mother Earth Brew Co. in Vista) in 2014 after 30 years in the restaurant and retail businesses.
After adding Chris Gort, a brewer who had worked at Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido and Backstreet Brewery in Vista, Artifex started churning out everything from its hop-forward flagship IPAs – No Name and Ahab – to a hibiscus cream ale, oatmeal stouts, red ales and lagers. It also does single-hop IPAs and double IPAs and is looking at barrel-aged stouts, porters and sours.
Artifex is working on expanding its production and is hoping to begin packaging in bottles or cans by the first of the year. Its tasting room is open seven days a week.
“We’ve become a local destination – kind of a local hangout,” says Cordato.
919 Calle Amanacer, San Clemente, 949.429.7805 :: artifexbrewing.com