Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Quick take on Loma Brewing

Loma Brewmaster Warren Billips
(Loma Facebook photo)
I finally got the chance to check out Loma Brewing, which opened a few weeks ago in downtown Los Gatos. It's at the site of the old Los Gatos Brewing Company (LGBC), and brothers Scott and Kevin Youkilis who purchased LGBC have totally changed the place. Gone is the traditional, dark wooden interior and in it's place is a more contemporary, industrial looking place, complete with bare wood and concrete. Scott is a culinary trained restaurateur, while Kevin recently retired from a ten-year Major LEague Baseball career, which including making three All-Star teams and playing on two World Series winning teams before turning his interests towards beer.  

The Youkillis brothers hired former Heretic Brewing's Warren Billips as their Brewmaster. There were five Loma beers on tap the night my wife and I dropped by and sampled all of them. We started with the lager, which was was fine, and the Berliner Weiss, which worked, though it lacked a little punch. It got a lot better from there. We both thought the roasty Dry Stout, the tropical Pale Ale and the flavorful IPA were all excellent. Sorry, no complex tasting notes. When I'm out with my wife, I put my notebook away. I asked our waitress what hops were used in the Pale Ale and IPA and she struggled to answer, promising she'd check with someone and get right back to us. To my astonishment, a few minutes later, none other than Brewmaster Warren Billips himself drops by our table and says, "I heard you had some questions"  So we got to chat with Warren for a few minutes about his beers.

Warren's a young guy with a long, blond beard that puts the band members of ZZ Top top to shame. His approach to brewing is rather unique in the Bay Area. With so many area brewers trying to one-up each other with big aggressive flavors, it's rather refreshing that Warren favors a lot of traditional styles, his favorite being Kolsch. How many West Coast Brewers would dare say "Kolsch" is their favorite style?    

But Warren uses newer, unique hops with plenty of flavor without hitting you over the head with a lot of bitterness. The Pale Ale tropical notes come from new hop varietals developed in Germany that rarely show up in the United States. His IPA uses El Dorado and Mosiac, hops that aren't unfamiliar to beer geeks, but still are rather recent developments.  (Magnum hop are used for bittering in both beers.)   And in a time where brewers are routinely putting out IPA's with 100+ international bitterness units (ibu), give Warren plenty of kudos for brewing an excellent IPA that checks in at only 50 ibus.  A brewer who's isn't trying hard to impress you with his creativity, executes well, and still creates a lot of new and interesting flavors anyway is a rare thing. It turned out the Lager and Berliner Weiss at Loma were Warren's first commercial attempts at these difficult to brew styles, so it's a safe bet those Loma brews will only get better.

We had dinner there and I'm not a restaurant critic, so I won't say too much. The food was good and I'd certainly recommend it to others. Loma seemed to specialize more in shareable small plates, salads, and flat breads than traditional dinners. There were only four dinner sized "large plates" on the menu so the menu seemed a bit limited to me, but then maybe I'm just out of touch. They seem to be positioning Loma as an after work or late evening hang out place.  At least that's my non-restaurant critic take on things

As for the beer, I'm looking forward more of what Loma's Warren Billips has to offer. Loma will be mixing up their line-up, with an Oatmeal Stout and Oktobestfest coming online in the near future. Loma Brewing, the new kid on the South Bay brewing block is off to a really good start.

The brews of Loma in soft candle light

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