By Jake Armstrong
In a city with no shortage of potential mascots, longtime Venice bartenders John Binder and Christian Warren sure had their work cut out for them.
Friends for two decades and beer lovers for even longer, the pair wanted to not only craft a beer that captured the often intense diversity of Venice, but also settle on an icon that would do just as much.
They skipped over Rollerblading troubadours, sword swallowers and drum circles and settled on one rare breed that’s lived through Venice in all of its forms: the canal ducks, perhaps one of the beach’s earliest inhabitants.
Binder and Warren, who over the years have tended bar together at Hal’s Bar & Grill and James’ Beach, named their enterprise Venice Duck Brewery with hopes of injecting a little taste of Venice into the burgeoning craft beer movement that has taken hold nationwide.
“We just wanted to create something that really represents Venice,” said Binder, president of the new Venice Duck Brewery, which rolled out its first keg this week.
The brewery’s first release is Dogtown Duck, a piney and pungent West Coast IPA with a hearty backbone of Citra, Simcoe and Zythos hops. It hit the taps at James’ Beach on Sunday and the crowd drained the first keg in less than two hours.
Next up is Venice Duck Agave Blonde, which will rely on the sweet syrup for character instead of the more traditional honey – a decidedly Westside choice of ingredients, Warren said. Stoner Duck, a Hemp seed brown ale, Lone Duck, a Belgian abbey ale, and Lucky Duck, an American wheat beer, are soon to follow. Warren and Binder plan to have a tasting room open in Venice in about a year, available real estate providing.
The brewery gets its name from a strange but possibly true story. After a party at the canals years ago, one of Binder and Warren’s friends fell asleep on the sidewalk. When he awoke, he found himself covered in ducks sharing his warmth to beat the morning chill. The image stuck and Binder and Warren decided on using a Venice duck – with shades, sleeve tattoos and a wallet chain, of course – as the icon of their brand of brews.
Warren, owner of Melody Bar & Grill in Westchester, and Binder, who’s tended bar at James’ Beach for the past 17 years, say their love of craft beer helped them bond as co-workers and has been with them most of their lives, sometimes through necessity.
“My friends wouldn’t let me in the house if you could see through the beer,” joked Warren, CEO of the brewing company.
Venice, like the rest of the country, is in the middle of a craft beer boom. The Venice Beach Beer Company opened in 2012 and Firestone Walker Brewing, one of the state’s largest craft beer producers, is looking to open an office and restaurant and possibly a brewery in the Venice area.
Craft beer in the United States is in the middle of an unprecedented surge in popularity. Craft beer production increased 15 percent by volume and 17 percent in retail sales dollars in 2012, according to the Brewers Association, a nonprofit trade association representing the majority of American breweries.
“More breweries are currently operating in the US than at any time since the 1870s,” said Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, in a 2013 midyear report on the state of craft brewing. “With each new brewery opening, American craft brewers are reinforcing the US’s position as the world’s most diverse brewing nation. It’s a very good time to be an American beer lover.”
Beers of a Feather : The beach’s own Venice Duck Brewery waddles into a busy beer scene
By Jake Armstrong