When life hands you quarantine, make quarantine beer. Torrance’s beloved Smog City Brewing Co. realized that in this uncertain and difficult time for the service industry, they would need to adapt, and quickly. That’s why in a no-waste maneuver they launched Quarantine Machine yesterday.
Mayor Garcetti’s closure of bars, breweries and dine-in restaurants rocked Los Angeles—and now the rest of California—and while the order is a necessary safeguard against the spread of coronavirus, it’s left thousands of service-industry professionals without jobs, and with excess product.
In the case of Smog City, the closures created around 70 barrels—or 2,170 gallons—of surplus beer.
“It’s been the worst four days of my life,” says co-founder Laurie Porter, “but I’ve been exchanging emails with other brewery leaders out in the market, and I think something that’s really interesting about being an owner is that when there’s a crisis, you go into problem-solving mode, so all day long you spend a lot of time looking for opportunities that are outside of your normal scope.”
Smog City, like all other L.A. breweries, is now closed, halting production and shuttering its three taprooms. Some beer makers are still managing to sell what they have in stock via pickup and delivery services, but when you brew specifically for bar and restaurant draft lines—and then those deals dry up, and you don’t have the capability to mass-package thousands of gallons—where do you turn?
For Porter and the rest of the Smog City team—including her husband, the cofounder and brewmaster, Jonathan Porter—it not only meant small-batch packaging the excess beer into 32-ounce crowlers, but putting a positive spin on some of their most hellish days as a brewery.
One of their surplus brews, From L.A. Wit Love, already struck the right chord, but their remaining 40-or-so barrels of a new Loral-, Simcoe- and Mosaic-hop IPA, Daily Breeze, would need to rebrand, fast—especially considering a fresh IPA’s shelf life clocks in only at around three months.
“I wanted transparency for this beer,” Porter says. “I wanted to say, ‘This beer had another life before everything changed, and we all now have these lives.’”
The team settled on Quarantine Machine, a name sensitive to the pandemic, given that the virus can be deadly, but still funny enough and prescient and tied to the realities many in the industry now face. Now the IPA with notes of tangerine, candied lime, bubble gum and blueberry has a whole new purpose.
Smog City had to adapt its prices, too, and its handoff system: Today marks the first day of local delivery for the brewery, and the Quarantine Machine can be purchased on special for your own quarantine beer needs, at three crowlers for $25—which normally cost $13 to $15 apiece; this won’t make the brewery much profit, but at least it’s moving the product.
“Just making the beer costs a ton of money: the labor, the raw goods,” she says, “and if it just goes down the drain because a fresh IPA sits for three months, it’s a travesty.”
Soon you’ll be able to find kegs of Quarantine Machine at all of their taprooms; simply call your chosen location to place an order, whether it’s at the main brewery and taproom in Torrance (310-320-7664), its neighboring sibling taproom (310-791-1015) or in Long Beach (562-269-0531).