King Harbor Brewing Company Celebrates One Year
Phil McDaniel wasn’t looking for a new job when he stumbled upon a ProBrewer.com listing for a new brewery start-up opening in Torrance, CA. In fact, as the former Lead Brewer at The Bruery, McDaniel was in a pretty good place; helping to manage The Bruery’s 10 brewers on an award-winning team. But as his curiosity piqued, he entertained the idea of a change, eventually forging a partnership with King Harbor Brewing Company as Head Brewer.
“I always felt a little emptiness at The Bruery because they were so successful and a lot of that success was built before I was there…it was almost as if I was riding their wave,” McDaniel explains. “I wanted to make my own wave.”
McDaniel’s brewing background started at the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago. After a brief stint at Bootlegger’s Brewery he spent two years on the production team at Stone Brewing before his tenure at The Bruery, and ultimately at KHBC. When asked if he decided to take the plunge in the name of creativity, McDaniel said that it was more about becoming more well-rounded in the beer business as a whole.
“My move to King Harbor wasn’t so much about having the freedom to do whatever I wanted, but more about being involved in something from the ground up,” says McDaniel. “Obviously every brewer enjoys the ability to use their creativity in what they make… but honestly, that’s not a big part for me — it’s about being part of a business in every sense, and growing it together.”
King Harbor celebrated their one year anniversary with a festive parking lot party on Saturday, April 11. The near-capacity event featured live entertainment, games, and generous 12-ounce pours of six specialty beers including their latest collaboration with Telegraph Brewing, a Belgian Pale Ale with Mosaic, Huell Melon, and Hallertau Blanc hops. There were also four unique cask ales including an incredibly bright IPA with orange and grapefruit zest. A limited bottle run of their anniversary ale, Shift 1 (an Imperial Brown Ale with Graham Crackers aged in Whiskey Barrels) was also available for purchase.
Founded by co-owners Tom Dunbabin and Will Daines, KBCH runs on a 15bbl system and currently houses four 30bbl fermenters. While the south bay brewery may seem like a modest operation, McDaniel explains that there is tremendous opportunity for growth, with potential space for up to seven more fermenters in their current space and the long-term options of expansion into neighboring units.
However, his top priority for year two focuses more on quality over quantity. And while brewing great beer is always a top priority, he explains that building systems is just as important.
“I’m a technical guy, a technical brewer,” McDaniel says. “This is why one of my biggest goals is to grow this brewery into a fully legit, profressional brewery that focuses on quality standards and consistency while expanding production.”
McDaniel goes on to explain that many beer drinkers don’t always think about the trials and tribulations a new brewery has in terms of technical work, but that while it doesn’t sound very exciting to the average person, it’s something he enjoys.
“Bringing in the equipment, maintaining consistency, taking care of ingredients and all that…all that kind of stuff is fun for me and is something I look forward to doing.”
KHBC often has eight brews on tap at their brewery’s tasting room and they can be found on tap and in limited bottle runs at craft beer establishments and select retail accounts in the Los Angeles County area via distribution with Artisan Ales. Their tasting toom is only a few minutes away from many other south bay beer destinations and you’ll often see McDaniel in house along with his assistant brewer/cellarman and King Harbor’s jack-of-all-trades, Josh Terry who is often helping out with pilot batches, running the bar, or working as a brand ambassador at various events. My personal recommendations? Try their Abel Brown (which can often be found in a fun one-off version like Vanilla Bean or Coconut) and their single-hop Pale Ale series called The Quest (the Azacca and Mosaic ones were great).