When you run into Kevin Youkilis at his brewery, it’s hard to resist not leading with that.
That being said, Kevin wanted to make sure this wasn’t going to be about him (so we’ll get back to him later) but about his employees —especially Brogan Hunter, head of brewery operations at Loma Brewing Co. I agree with Kevin anyway. It’s about beer, right? Not baseball… So let’s put down the bat and get right down to business.
I sat down with Brogan, 26, and talked brewery, restaurant and coffee. The space is divided into three parts, which all work fantastically well together. Loma Brewing operates on three separate licenses as they are home to a full-blown brewery, a full bar and a coffee shop. Way to utilize the space! Could we call that a home run just for fun? Youkilis and brother Scott originally bought Los Gatos Brewing Co. about 7 years ago and rebranded into Loma Brewing Co. Brogan said they gutted the place and built it from the ground up. “It’s very unique in that we have so many facets under one roof,” Brogan said. “It’s a brewery first, but everything else works so well with the beer.”
They will be celebrating their 3-year anniversary in August and Brogan has been there for most of that. She first learned the ropes under brewer Warren Billups but is now responsible for all brewery operations.
“My history with beer goes back a while,” she said. “I drank beer in college and worked at breweries. I credit that for not totally drowning in student loan debt.” Then Brogan went on to doing consumer marketing for breweries as well as home-brewing. Sitting at a computer all day wasn’t really her thing and she decided “to pivot and go on the production side.” We can definitely get behind that! “I felt like the brewers were my people,” She said.
Brogan is originally from San Mateo but moved to San Luis Obispo for college. She said she originally got into beer when she tried a Firestone Walker brew down there. After getting acquainted with the craft beer scene, she discovered a particular affinity for stouts and german lagers. It’s not something you hear too often on the West Coast, but this must explain why Loma Brewing is home to amazing stouts, pilsners and lagers. More on that later. However, she said their most popular beers are the Appeasement IPA and the Loma Kolsch —probably has to do with the crowd.
“They have been on tap since we opened,” She said. “Our regulars won’t let us drop them.” They rotate the rest of their selection to go with the trends but also experiment quite a bit. Same thing goes for the food. Chef Aubree Arndt just crafted a brunch menu that just made its appearance on top of their regular menu. The coffee shop, however, was only opened in the first part of 2018 and has been an integral part of their business ever since. It first started as a space for private events but is now brewing original coffee that they get from a roaster in Oregon named Brandon Smyth. They are brewing on both sides of the building so to speak. Cool concept!
Where to now? Well, Brogan said they will be focusing on ramping up their distribution by introducing more can options on top of their current draft offerings. This will allow them to broaden their horizons at the distribution level. There is only one small problem. They currently have a 10-barrel operation with five fermenters, most of which is already being utilized for their current consumption in the taproom. I guess they’ll have to think this one through…
For now though, I had the opportunity to try eight of their brews, four of which I was really impressed with (The rest was also very good but more traditional): Loma Kolsch, No Oranges Allowed (American Wheat), Elbow Elbow Grist Grist (Pale Ale), Appeasement IPA, Secret Lover (Red Ale), Dude, Where’s My Chocolate? (Dark Chocolate Stout), Inner Hoppiness (Hoppy Pilsner), and Greek God of Hops (DIPA) (a reference to Kevin’s nickname as a baseball player —Euclis: The Greek God of Walks (although it is to be noted that although he has a Greek last name, Kevin actually has Romanian roots). Inner Hoppiness just got released today and Dude, Where’s My Chocolate? is on its last keg. Take your pick! My picks? Definitely the stout, the hoppy pilsner, the red ale and the DIPA. But that’s just me and I guarantee you, there is something for every palate. If, however, you still think beer isn’t your thing, Bar Manager Chantal Diego and her team will wow you with their cocktails. Yes! Loma Brewing also has a full bar!
Can we get to Kevin already? I mean, not that I think it’s cool or anything but I’m a Red Sox fan (save the comments! You are just jelly) and I get a little excited about the whole idea of a former baseball player opening a brewery. But how do you go from batter to brewer? Well, Kevin said that when he retired from baseball, he did a ton of research about how to operate a brewery. He contacted all the big wigs in the industry from Vinnie at Russian River Brewing to the guys at Harpoon in Boston. This two-time World Series Champion has always been a beer guy and doesn’t care much for sours —or champagne (I wonder how it went for him when all that champagne was flowing in 2004 and 2007…). He and his wife moved to Los Gatos to get closer to his wife’s San Mateo roots about 7 years ago.
Kevin originally got into beer while in college drinking pale ales but is now pitching in (ha!) with creative ideas on the brewery side when working with Brogan. “We want to make sure we maintain what beer should be but that we are also following the trends,” he said. He added that beer is where his passion lies and that he is very fortunate to have people like Chantal and General Manager Dan Reineke who can manage the bar/restaurant side of things. Kevin’s brother was a big part of why they decided on a brewpub rather than a simple brewery. Scott’s background as a restaurateur helped propel Loma Brewing to what it is like today.
Oh and here is an interesting detail. Kevin’s grandfather was actually a bootlegger during the prohibition era. The family finally got into the alcohol business legally! Ha! It only took about a hundred years… but the passion has certainly lived on.
So canning is one of the ways they’ll be expanding. But what else? Kevin said they may be looking into adding an extra restaurant location in the future. Exciting news and lots of work ahead. Be on the lookout.
Did they knock this one out of the park? Well, I think so. This place has a great vibe to it, super friendly staff, a creative food menu… and good beer!
More photos from my Loma Brewing visit: