Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson
When I first moved to Southern California at
the turn of the millennium, I lived on the west side of Los Angeles.
The Inland Empire was more of a concept to me than an actual place.
I wondered whether there ever had been an
actual emperor, out there on the eastern frontier.
Now I am more familiar with the Inland
Empire, especially with its excellent and growing craft beer
community. Most recently, I headed east to visit Wicks Brewing
Company just off the 91 in Riverside.
Founded in 2013 by Ryan Wicks and his father
Brad, Wicks Brewing is one of the largest brewpubs in the Inland
Empire. Wicks has 16 taps, a rotating guest tap and bottle list, and
one of the few brew on premises systems in California.
Wicks Brewing invites people to become
brewers themselves. Customers can brew a variety of beers from an
extensive list of house recipes, or can offer their ideas and Wicks
will develop a custom recipe. The brewing process takes about three
hours, and staff will monitor beer during the 3-4 weeks of
fermentation between brewing and bottling. Wicks’ graphics team can
also help you create custom labels for your creation.
Born in Riverside, Ryan attended UC
Riverside, and brewed beer for the first time at BrewBakers in
Huntington Beach about seven years ago. Brad, along with some of the
office employees of his construction company, would brew beer in one
of their back offices(office brewing rather than home brewing?).
These are the seeds which eventually grew into Wicks Brewing.
Ryan particularly favors IPAs, and their
potential ability to showcase a tremendous range of flavors in
various hops varieties. “They can be fruity and juicy, or loaded
with flavors of citrus or pine. It’s an incredible range of flavors
that can be presented!”
The day I visited Ryan at Wicks Brewing they
were tapping a cask of Paladin, a well-hopped pale ale that has won
gold at the Los Angeles International Beer Competition two years in
a row. The special cask was fermented with added grapefruit zest.
Wicks was also highlighting Founders Brewing
in Grand Rapids, Michigan that day, along with their own food and
Wicks Brewing often has live music, though
they have needed to cut down their performance schedule for the last
six months because it is difficult to fit the band into the tasting
room on Friday and Saturday nights. The are looking to be able to
expand their tasting room, which would allow them to bring back more
regular live music.
Ryan is partial to reggae rock and
California surf music to brew by. An eclectic sound which is both
energetic and peaceful at the same time brings out the best in his
brews. Like the flavor combinations of his IPAs, his music is a
fusion of different styles that is not bound by the confines of any
one style, can transcend their limitations, and showcase the best
qualities each brings to the table.
In addition to their beer, Wicks Brewing
also serves food. Ryan’s favorite pairing is probably something
spicy, probably Mexican, along with the bitterness and aromatics of
an good, honest West Coast IPA. Still, he cannot deny the potential
of a medium rare filet with a robust porter or stout. “We really are
spoiled in today’s marketplace. There is such a diverse range of
great local beer available, as well as fresh locally-sourced food.
You can consistently find great pairings that encourage an open mind
when contemplating what you order each time you try a new local
restaurant or brewpub.”
While Ryan loves what Wicks Brewing is
doing, he would not choose another favorite California craft
brewery. “It’s impossible to pick a single brewery! There are so
many great beers, and brewers, that it’s exciting to taste the
latest offering from each.”
I asked Ryan about how craft brewing in
Southern California, and he was consistently optimistic. “It is
growing at a rate never seen before, which can be a double-edged
sword. You have new brewers being pushed to continually innovate and
create new brews, and styles, which is changing the landscape of the
entire beer industry, not just locally but worldwide. With this
constant introduction of new, often experimental brews, it becomes
the responsibility of each brewer to ensure these products reflect
the best in craft brewing.”
When I asked Ryan what his goals were for
Wicks Brewing, he told me they have not changed since the day they
opened their doors. Wicks Brewing is focused on bringing great craft
beer and food to the Inland Empire, and helping build the local
craft beer community.
Wicks Brewing is located at 11620
Sterling Avenue, Suite C in Riverside. Their website is WicksBrewing.com.
Greg Richardson is a leadership and
organizational coach, and a spiritual life mentor, in Pasadena,
California. He is passionate about craft brewing, listening, and
monks and monastic life. Greg is a recovering attorney, executive,
and university professor. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and
he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk.
You can email Greg at StrategicMonk@gmail.com.