Scott Francis weaved through cubicles and filing cabinets, describing the bustling new brewery and food counter that will soon replace the empty offices next to Santa Monica’s first and only craft brewery.
He opened a door and stepped into a cavernous warehouse, where he gestured to the ceiling some 30 feet above.
“Our new brew system and canning line will completely fill this space,” said Francis, the president, CEO and co-founder of Santa Monica Brew Works. “The fermentation tanks will reach all the way up there.”
The 18,000 square foot space that biotech company Agensys vacated in 2018 will allow the company to more than double its output and start selling its signature beers — 310 Blonde, IPA, WIT, Xtra Pale Ale (XPA), PCH Golden Milk Porter and others — throughout California, Arizona, Nevada and a to-be-announced international market without having to open a production facility outside of Santa Monica, Francis said.
“When you visit our brewery, you’re sitting among the kettles and tanks that produced the beer you have in your hand,” he said. “We want to spread our brand, and at the same time we want people to be able to come here and feel proud that they’re enjoying a beer that’s made in the city they live in.”
Although the company’s beers are now ubiquitous in local stores, a Santa Monica-based brewery was unprecedented when the company applied to open Santa Monica Brew Works in 2013.
“The city initially didn’t know what to make of us,” Francis said. “But to their credit, they kept an open mind, trusted us and granted us a license to brew.”
City officials subsequently added a number of limitations to the company’s permit for the Tasting Room, which opened in 2016.
“They wanted to ensure that we were a special tasting room rather than an everyday bar,” Francis said. “We were happy the project was approved and didn’t mind the limitations. We wanted to be a good corporate neighbor.”
The Tasting Room has since become a popular destination for people who live and work nearby, Angelenos venturing west on the weekends, and travelers from all over the world. To accommodate its growing customer base, Santa Monica Brew Works will add a 75-seat weekend beer garden in March, serving patrons from 11 a.m. until dusk. The company will then open a new wing of the Tasting Room with 63 seats and a walk-up service bar.
The entire facility will extend its hours starting this Friday. It will open an hour earlier on weekdays (5 p.m.), an hour earlier on weekends (11 a.m.), and close an hour later on Sundays (9 p.m.).
The company plans to bring in an existing restaurant that will serve burgers and pizza as well as vegan, gluten-free and healthy options. Customers will be able to bring food from the food counter to the Tasting Room or take it to go.
“It’s unfortunate the food trucks we love so much will no longer be stopping by,” Francis said. “But with the greater volume in the Tasting Room and our desire to offer food to the neighborhood all day long, we had to make the change.”
The Tasting Room will also offer gluten-free beer, wine, kombucha and an occasional guest tap featuring other independent craft breweries.
“We’re going to stay true to who we are and what we’ve done in the past, but we’ll be able to do it with a little more room and more options for our customers,” Francis said.
When the expansion plans went before the city’s Planning Commission last week, it was clear times had changed — the commission approved the proposal and praised the brewery for adding a community gathering place to the formerly industrial area between the Expo Line’s 17 Street/Santa Monica College and 26th Street/Bergamot stations.
“Credit to the city and Planning Commission for recognizing the importance of a communal space for the neighborhood,” Francis said. “I love walking out into the Tasting Room and seeing a complete representation of the area — we’ve become a hub of the community and couldn’t be prouder.”