Let’s just say the aroma floating in the air at the Scholb Premium Ales brewery and taproom in Torrance is enticing. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is, but it smells delicious and immediately arouses a thirst for a cold beverage.
“That’s the Belgian Ale,” Scholb owner and brewer Jason Kolb explains. “When it’s first brewed, it’s just sugar water—the yeast hasn’t [yet] turned the sugar into ethanol.”
Jason’s passion for brewing is evident. He exudes excitement as he talks about his craft, using adjectives like “dank,” “hoppy,” “malty,” “roasty” and “citrusy.”
But what’s interesting is how he merges an unbridled creativity to play with different flavor variations with a very process-driven, systematic approach. He is both the artist and the scientist, interchanging the roles depending on what stage of creation he’s in … which makes sense, given that Jason is a beer lover at heart and a chemical engineer by trade.
“I worked for Chevron for 16 years,” Jason notes. “I did process design and troubleshooting … it was pretty fun. But making beer is a lot more fun. And I’m more independent too. You can start your own business making beer. You could never start your own boutique refinery—that would cost about a billion dollars.”
After roughly a year of brewing at home, finalizing his business plan and locking down funding, Jason opened the doors of his brewery and tap room, catering to South Bay beer aficionados for the past two and a half years. “The tap room is open five days a week. When we’re not open, or during the day, I’m brewing,” Jason says.
With eight brew kettles maintaining a consistent rotation of the bar’s 17 taps, Scholb’s large industrial space boasts plenty of communal seating with an open and airy floor plan that is both kid- and dog-friendly. Regularly scheduled food trucks make it an ideal spot to settle in for bite. But it’s the hoppy brews that keep patrons coming back.
“The Tall Dank and Handsome is our most popular [beer]. It’s hop-flavorful but not that bitter,” Jason notes. As Scholb’s most favored brew, it also grabbed the attention of two beer enthusiasts at Southbay magazine.
“Jared and I are the beer guys in the office,” Charles Simmons says with grin. As the director of digital at Moon Tide Media—Southbay magazine’s parent company—Charles and Moon Tide’s group publisher, Jared Sayers, were nominated by their fellow team members to aid in formulating a custom brew.
After reaching out to some local vendors to partner with as a beer provider for Moon Tide’s events, Danielle Price, Moon Tide’s marketing manager, got in touch with Jason at Scholb. “They basically offered to make us a custom beer,” Charles notes. “So Jared and I made an appointment to go over to the Scholb brewery before they opened one day.”
“Coming up with new beers is really just a fun experience. You can’t calculate the flavor and there’s no right answer anyway, so you just go with it.”
For two guys with a well-established palate for hoppy ales, the opportunity to participate in the process of creating a custom beer was almost too good to be true. And Jason was the perfect guy to guide them through the process.
“He’s super-scientific,” Charles notes. “He definitely knows his stuff. He’s got this background as a chemical engineer, so when it comes to ratios and proportions and how different pieces work together, he was great to work with. At no point did I feel completely out of my depth. He did a great job making the whole process understandable.”
When it comes to the step-by-step process of brewing, there’s little variation. “Brewing has been around for thousands of years,” Jason explains. “So the basic process is the same. But the attention to safety, efficiency, being sanitary and having consistent procedures really helps eliminate any errors or off flavors. It helps eliminate variations in the product.
Eliminating a lot of those variables and knowing the process is going to be consistent allows me to have more fun with the flavors.”
In other words, as Jason puts it, “Brewing is 90% in the operations … or more”—not just for quality control but for safety, efficiency and conservation. “In the oil industry, the safety culture is a lot more prominent because it’s a lot more dangerous. But I’ve really brought that over to brewing because even though it’s not flammable, you’re still dealing with boiling liquids. And then efficiency really comes over too. There’s a lot of lean manufacturing—things that big industries do—that I really apply. My time is valuable. [I want to] make things as efficient as possible and eliminate errors. When you make it more efficient, it’s more fun and it looks effortless.”
But it’s more than just time Jason saves by operating this way. “You can design your [brewing] system to reuse a lot of your water, and you can reuse the heat,” Jason says. “A lot of breweries do intergrade, but you [also] see a lot that at the end of their brewing cycle pour all the hot water down the drain. They’re losing the heat and the water, whereas I recover that. It’s something a lot of breweries could do, but it’s not a huge priority so they don’t. That’s valuable energy to save.”
By having a process that Jason, quite literally, has down to a science, he’s able to devote more time to experimenting with new flavor variations. “Coming up with new beers is really just a fun experience,” he says. “You can’t calculate the flavor—and there’s no right answer anyway, so you just go with it.”
And that’s exactly what he did with Charles and Jared. “[Scholb] is just a really cool spot for hanging out,” Charles says. “[Jared and I] went there before the tasting room opened and sat with Jason. He basically just said, ‘OK, what do you guys want to do?’”
The goal was to create a beer that would have a widespread appeal at future Moon Tide events while still catering to the palates of the more established beer drinkers in the crowd.
“He said, ‘OK, well what kind of flavor profiles do you guys like? What do you enjoy?’ And we began to piece together this beer from other recipes and hops he had on hand,” Charles says. “We even tasted stuff at different points of the brewing process to get an idea of what it tastes like before it’s fermented.”
The point at which certain flavors reveal themselves not only occurs during the brewing process but also in the temperature at which the finished brew is enjoyed. For the final Moon Tide Ale, hints of flavor continued to reveal themselves long after production.
“The most interesting part when you drink it is you get a lot of the citrusy grapefruit flavors from the [Scholb] Plan B IPA. [But] if you drink it slow enough, the last bit—when it’s a little warmer—you get the dank flavors from the Tall Dank,” Jason notes. “It took me like a year to have one that was warm enough—because I would drink it fast because it was so good—and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s where those flavors went.’”
Charles describes the ale as having “a hint of pine. It’s not very malty. It’s super-crisp and clean on the finish and really citrusy up front.” And people love it. It’s been well-received at Moon Tide events—there’s even a permanent keg on tap at the office.
As for Jared’s and Charles’ experience as amateur brewers, it was a positive one. “How could you not have fun tasting a bunch of well-made beers to come up with something for yourself?” Charles muses. “It’s not like Jared and I would be able to go and brew our own beer, ever. A huge part of it was Jason steering us in the direction, asking questions, suggesting things, and us being like, ‘Yeah, we really like the sound of that.’”
The result: Moon Tide Pale Ale. Thanks guys, sounds super-tasty. See you at Scholb.