Who doesn’t love being among the first to taste a beer no one else has tried yet? I certainly do and recently got the opportunity to do just that. In December, MCCHG (Market City Caffe Hospitality Group), the company that owns and operates Morels in The Palazzo and D.Vino and Dragon Noodle at Monte Carlo, opened its own brewery, Verdugo West Brewing Company. Its beers were debuted at the group’s Las Vegas restaurants on April 23, just one day before I was granted the distinction of being the first local journalist to sample them.
The new brewery was preceded by the group’s Vanishing Point Winery in Napa, which after selling 550 cases in 2010 has now grown to an output of 5,500 cases. MCCHG co-owner Chipper Pastron says, “My partners and I have been in the food and beverage industry for more than 40 years and we’re passionate about offering excellent products and services to our guests. Our winery’s success led to thinking about doing the same thing with beer.” Now, after a five year planning process, the company’s steam-powered 15-barrel brewery is open in Burbank under the direction of Christopher Walowski, who brings several years of professional brewing and consulting experience for some of Los Angeles’ top craft breweries, including Smog City Brewing.
The tasting began with Wax Wing Blonde Lager, named for a bird that eats fruit and becomes intoxicated after coming across fermented berries. But at just 5 percent ABV, this easy drinking, clean tasting, nicely balanced beer is enjoyable and sessionable.
The 8.2 percent ABV Brass Jar Hoppy Amber Ale, though, is quite stronger and brings malt notes of caramel and toffee matched with earthy Columbus and Chinook hops.
What Plane? Oatmeal Stout is named for how Burbank grew out of the aerospace industry and as secret planes were tested, residents were known to look up and marvel at what unidentified plane passed overhead. This brew delivers a character of roast, baking chocolate and espresso rounded out by a silky body and complements of oatmeal.
Trustworthy IPA’s name alludes to it being a beer you can count on to be a solid West Coast IPA. It’s not too bitter, but a representative of the style that lets the citrusy hop flavor dominate. It weighs in at a respectable 60 IBUs (international bittering units).
Currently, the beers are available exclusively at the group’s three Strip restaurants, with the four core beers on tap at Morels, all but the stout at D.Vino and exclusive to Dragon Noodle is Gigil, a 4.7 percent ABV pilsner made with puffed jasmine rice. (Pronounced just like “giggle,” in Tagalog, gigil is the irresistible urge to pinch something cute.)
MCCHG is in the process of securing other accounts throughout the Valley via its local distributor, Johnson Brothers, so don’t be surprised to see these new beers popping up elsewhere around town.