Art of 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 beers.

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.  

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