Wiretap Brewing

Always Listening.

Wiretap Brewing is a micro scale craft brewery in the neighborhood of Lincoln Heights minutes away from downtown Los Angeles. Our beers are available by the can, bottle, and keg both direct and wholesale. Wiretap also imports and sells a boutique line of Italian wines.

You guys had your first operating quarter, stopped being open Thursdays, and did a bunch of other stuff April edition!

Hey great job guys following through on that monthly blog post.
— No one ever.

To those of you checking back on the site (we see you in Google analytics) we’re sorry. If this is your first time here then hey, welcome to Wiretap Brewing, we do blog posts every month!

The reality is that I’ve been trying to figure out what to write -where to start? What’s a good amount of time coverage to talk about? Do I talk about sales? New products? Does anyone give a shit?

You guys had your first operating quarter, stopped being open Thursdays, and did a bunch of other stuff April edition!

From the business ops side Q1 was pretty cool. We did technically start selling in Q4 of ‘17 but I’m gonna wave a magic executive hand and say it doesn’t count. We spent most of Q4 figuring our shit out anyways. Right, so we kicked off Q1 being open Thurs-Saturday and staying open until the grandma hours of 10:30. At the end of Q1 we stopped being open Thursdays.

What happened? Are you guys going out of business? Are you gonna be open other days instead?
— the public

No and no.

We’re a pretty lean crew and rely heavily on process and technology. As such, some of our beers won some awards and more and more places are discovering the liquid gold known as Luchador and our brew schedule took off. It’s hard to run the business, brew, do deliveries, customer appointments, and then, at least on Thursday, also stand in the tasting room another 6 hours. Yes, to all our friends who have kindly copied and pasted all the articles they could find in a google search about how profitable tap room sales are: we get it. Turns out we know how to do math too. But guess what? Wiretap is executing on a business model that focuses on distribution and not just having a cool spot to hang out. We’re executing really well on the distribution part so for the sake of our team having room to breathe we’re not open Thursdays. And we’re not sure we’re gonna open more days either. There, we said it.

What else is good?

We started to focus on having a cadence of events for the days we’re open and it’s been awesome. Last month we hired our first full time salesperson and it turns out she’s a standup comedian both on and off the job and produces a show called Whiskey N Donuts -no apostrophe on the N btdubs- which aptly becomes Beer N Donuts once a month at Wiretap. If you haven’t been to a show yet you’re missing out. We get a food truck/popup, usually have a new special beer on tap, and deck the space out with extra seating and custom lighting. It costs a raging zero dollars to get in.

In addition to comedy we have a roving art show that’s come through twice and features some really spectacular installations which you can see on our walls any time as well as night-of stuff like live paintings as well as raffles. When we first started to partner with local artists and the event organiser we really didn’t know if it was gonna be cool or weird or whatever and it’s been overwhelmingly dope. If you’re into street art, illusionism, multi-dimensionalism, aliens, abstract, tag, or modern art we got it!

Products?

We made new stuff. Real good new stuff. In the rotation now we’ve brought back our classical Kolsch, added a Belgian Saison, an English Special Bitter, oh, and two super cool development beers. The first is in the vein of Luchador but instead a low calorie, Mexican style, beer called Flaca. The second is my quest to re-live standing outside of a Lawson’s in Tokyo drinking some random Japanese beer that I have no idea what it is. Japanese beers, especially Japanese beers brewed in Japan and not the ones you get here in the US are quite (super) malty. Like, most of them are all just really malty. I’m not being mean or making that up. I guess the powers that be have determined the Japanese beer market should be nearly devoid of hop flavor and that’s what the people get and hence that’s what we’re making. No, it’s not a no-hop beer but it’s got some really cool magic that involves Sorachi Ace and rice. The name? Nama Biru. Yeah. That’s how you say “draft beer” in Japanese and I have this great plan to can it so it’ll be Draft Beer but in a can and I think it’s hilarious. Literally no one else at Wiretap thinks that’s a good idea and even accused me of calling it dumb if anyone else did it. We’ll see.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I swear I’m gonna do more posts frequently so stay tuned. There’s a draft of a really cool post on how Wiretap uses technology to manage brew schedules, tank resources, and inventory, but our legal department is probably gonna redline a lot of it.

 

Stay listening.

Who Is Your Daddy And What Does He Do?

Our first post of 2018. No idea why we needed to reference Kindergarten Cop other than its an episode of talk about yourself.

In October we had a triumphant post about finally getting our licenses and moving on with being a business and not some sort of in-flux God-only-knows-whats-next drama. Today's post is sort of a maybe-brief recap of time since then, our commitment for more recurring blog posts, and a look down the rabbit hole.

For those of you who haven't read the stories below this post- we opened in October of 2017. We had a whale of a tale with licenses and waiting for godot and literally got our license on a Friday and opened, somewhat stupidly, the very next day. This post tries to talk about what it's been like for 3 people -all of whom work for Wiretap full time, 1 person who thought two full time jobs was a good idea, and 2 more people who have full time jobs but reserve their heart for the business (yes that's a total of 6 on a good day). To know more about the backstory, people, LA city zoning, and other drama, read the previous posts.

We got our license to sell alcohol on the last Friday in September. Instead of celebrating and getting our ducks in a row we decided to blast on social media a flash opening the very next day. We barely had growlers, there was literally no service bar, and we might not even have had some drywall painted. Dumb.

October was basically Friday and Saturday, noon till about 8. That ran into November and December and we didn't really promote the space much. I think most of it was trepidation over "being open for service" and also part that we dont focus as much on having a "tap room." We have a tasting room and focus on being open for events and times that center on folks trying out our beer and less so being a "bar." Lots of quote symbols in this paragraph, sorry. 

In January we kicked off a new initiative of being open during hours that actually made sense. Closing at 8pm on a Friday or Saturday was kinda dumb; we get that now. So we launched Thursday, Friday, Saturday, open till about 10, opening Thursday at 5 and Fri/Sat at 3. The change was substantial. A lot of neighborhood people and folks from the community loved coming in on Thursday and Friday, and Saturday tended to be more people in the LA area looking for new stuff. That change was great and we look forward to exploring new options -we might look at more stuff in the week or focus on Sunday related things. We also plan on dialing in on the fact that home plate of dodger stadium is 1.18 miles from our front door so we make for a perfect place to pre-game or watch the game; probably less-so post game on account of us and our abuelita hours.

Outside of retail stuff we've made some leaps and gains in the wholesale space which is where we put the bulk of our effort. In October we showed up for the Burbank Beer Festival, in November we ran some of the longest lines at the LA Pizza+Beer fest, and in January we were the only independently owned beer company at the Santa Anita Fine Wine Festival at the Santa Anita Racetrack.  Granted our only companion was Golden Road, it was great to be an independent brand amongst a sea of big names. Outside of events we started to claim some territory as well! We expanded our deliveries from City of LA to include spots in Burbank, South Pasadena, Arcadia Monrovia, and as far East as Upland and as far South as Irvine. A big shoutout to BJ's Brewhouse for picking us up in select locations. 

Finally, when it comes to retail product we've made some more moves. When we first started in October we had one 22oz bottle in distribution which was Luchador at 5%. A fun trivia thing you'll never find documented is that Luchador was originally a 5% session beer -but when we let the yeast fully attenuate became 7%. We decided to rename the variant El Borracho from the game Loteria. However, customers quickly began to sell out on the 7% version so Luchador became El Borracho and kept the name Luchador. As of December we had five brands in retail packs -Echelon, Luchador, CTRL+ALT, Vauxhall Cross, and NSA. Last month we decided to move Vauxhall (English Coffee Stout) and CTRL+ALT (German Altbier) to "seasonal" status which let in Serial Czechnology (Czech Pils) and KryptoKolsch (German Kolsch) into main production levels. We continue to have another seasonal, Cymbopogon, our lemongrass IPA, float in and out of availability.

Up next?

We're delighted to announce:

  • A Red Saison
  • An English Special Bitter which will be a branch from Echelon
  • A German Dunkel
  • A German Ale fermented with a Mexican yeast and dry hopped with a British hop. Lose your mind now we have no idea what it's going to be called.
  • Plus! Some California red wine barrel aged nonsense!

In Retrospect

We're super thankful to be open. We're super thankful to be a City of LA brand. We're super thankful to Lincoln Heights. And we're pleased as punch to bring really good beer to market and continue to grow the brand.

Thank you. Come thru. 

It's so weird to be talking about being thankful to be doing business than crying about some political bs.

You're awesome for reading this far. DM us on IG for a coupon.

It's the ABC edition Round 2

About almost a month ago exactly I worked on a blog post draft with Matt that was meant to be a few things. Most importantly it was some form of a business update considering our last blog post was nearly a year ago when we did a writeup of zoning in the City of LA which actually got us quite a few emails thanking us for details. The business update part was sort of us waiting for a bus that had no timetables. The majority of the post however was a long and detailed story of our experience in applying for an alcohol license with the State of California. It was pretty potent with direct excerpts of email and voice conversations without revealing anyone’s identity specifically (except ours, obviously) and our emotions and reactions to what on paper seemed like sometimes ridiculous situations. We wrote the post, thought about it for a few days, and decided to publish it despite the fact that we were basically evoking a volcano that we lived at the bottom of. At the time of writing it seemed like we were going nowhere and that was a way of both communicating the truth but also somehow emotionally dealing with the at-sometimes immense depression that can be generated by putting a lot of personal time and money into a major endeavour and having it all suspended by a process that is nearly 100% opaque (the opposite of transparent if you’re not a scholar or Photoshop nerd).

 

We published it with a sort of “fuck it” attitude and a number of people read it. The reaction was what we expected -a candid “wow that sucks, guys, sorry” sort of reaction. The post sort of floated out there in the cloud as we fully awaited that shortly one day somehow the ABC would see it, be infuriated, and our nine month process would explode into who knows what. About three days after posting I was riding my bike around 7pm and my phone rang -it was the ABC. It’s after hours for a government job so I’m already thinking shit this is it. I didn’t answer; mainly because I was riding my bike and also because I felt still somewhat committed that what was written was written and if you want to trash can our whole application process because the truth sucked well it wasn’t going to matter if I picked up the phone or not. I got a notification of a 1+ minute voicemail. Great. But within another minute my phone rings again -its the ABC. “Wow,” I think, this is gonna suck. Another voicemail about 30 seconds in duration. And yep, a third call again from the ABC, this time no voicemail. Now you might wonder why didn’t I just answer the phone but you have to understand riding my bike is a medicinal process so to have that interrupted by what has been a source of major anxiety and unhappiness was like sort of suffering another defeat and I figured the ship has sailed anyways so whatever.

 

I get home 20 minutes later and first thing I do is dismount and listen to my voicemails. This has to be the firehose of rage in the first voicemail followed most likely by additional brief rage and sentencing of how our application is completely hosed.

 

It’s not.

 

The first voicemail is an explanation that some other review shit had gone awry and asking if it’s possible to come into the office tomorrow to get one last document so things can move on. The second voicemail was just a followup hoping that I’d answer and that they were working late and hence hoping I’d answer on a third try.

 

The voicemails were the opposite of what I expected and another shooting star of hope that had appeared throughout the months long night of this entire process. Could this actually be concluding? And was the emotional honesty of our blog post worth further compromise? And also was what we said really fair? The answer to is/was the post worth it? No. Several of our friends immediately pointed out the fact that flaming the ABC at this point wasn’t a good idea and they were right but we did have our reasons. But was the multi page essay on dysfunction and failure fair? Probably no as well. People sometimes can only do their job well enough with the tools they’re provided. NASA engineers don’t do calculations with protractors and abacuses; conference calls aren’t recorded with written transcripts, even Amazon has written logic to evaluate whether your unhappiness with a product is worth their time and freight to restock it or you can just have it for free instead. The California ABC on the other hand has very little of this. This is an entirely printed paper process with wet signatures, notaries, and written-in elements. Files are not recorded electronically and then processed through some automation -they are overnighted daily to an HQ in Sacramento where they are again hand reviewed. Additionally, as I learned in my onsite meeting I talk about later, the LA metro office covers downtown LA, K-town, West LA, Santa Monica, Malibu, Venice, all the way south through the beaches to Long  Beach, then east into Inglewood, Compton, Gardena, then back to South LA and literally everything in between. That compromises easily the densest parts of LA undergoing the largest expansion and economic development compared to any other parts of LA.  And how many people have to work the caseload for applications? FIVE. Do they have Salesforce or JIRA or some other tool to automate a massive workload? NOPE. The Department requires them to collect nearly 50 pages (on the small side) worth of printed and hand signed documents to process a single application and that’s for non retail. If you’re a restaurant or public place you could easily double that document load. If there’s any rant to be made in this post it’s that the department expects its employees to process hundreds of applications per month with almost no digital automation infrastructure or modern document tracking systems.

 

So all of the outrage I had experienced re-doing countless documents with minute details and updated drawings or explanations of the space -did our licensing agent want that? Or were they doing that to help complete a process their superiors relied on in order to successfully process licenses? It’s the latter as I’ll explain in my story in a bit but that’s the main reason that original post wasn’t fair and we took it down the day we got those voicemails. We painted a picture that was largely unfair to the individual dealing with our application on account of the process they’re subjected to and this is our take 2.

 

Take 2 version of the story is just a synopsis “Where have you guys been since November of last year?”
— -60 Minutes interview aired 9/10/17

November - Signed a lease

December - Celebrated concluding 6 months of searching for a lease and felt a sense of accomplishment thinking we were really on a roll. Dead wrong. Spent month preparing ABC paperwork thinking we’ve done similar before at another company and it’s gonna rock. More dead wrong.

January - Submitted ABC application. Good story about that one. Got our public notice poster up on the 17th. Matt and I head to EU for 2 weeks of meeting with Dutch, German, and Belgian brewers to learn how much we don’t know about beer.

February - Fingerprints of ourselves, spouses, friends, pets, goldfish, and any other digital records sent to the FBI to confirm we’re not felons. We’re pretty sure they’d know already anyways.

March - Snooze.

April - ABC radio contact: Take a number.

May - Filled out some stuff wrong. Need some pictures for some forms. Hold the line.

June - We’re working on it.

July - We’ll get right back to you.

August - City confused themselves. Confused the ABC. City figured it out.

September - Trade Enforcement.

 

Trade enforcement? City confusion? How, why, where?

At the end of May we had a spell of good news -it seemed as though it was possible our license application was going to move to final approval in Sacramento. We started to ramp some things up, think about production schedules, sorta get our shit together in general. The month of June went by and we heard nothing until just after the 4th of July holiday that there’d be an issue where the City confused themselves on whether we needed a conditional use permit just to sell beer retail in the first place (we think -not sure other than whatever was considered wasn’t needed). Then whether our zoning status as manufacturing was valid. All to conclude that no, we didn’t need a CUP for something and yes we’ve been manufacturing status thankfully since the 70s.

Okay, so that’s figured out- what’s next? Well, the next transmission didn’t come until our previous blog post mid August which leads to the conclusion of the story on why I needed to come into the ABC office.

 

I got into the ABC office around 11am and and sat down in the row of chairs as is the custom because if you stand there like a lost child no one will acknowledge you.

I got into the ABC office around 11am and and sat down in the row of chairs as is the custom because if you stand there like a lost child no one will acknowledge you. I sat staring at the first person at the nearest desk until they finished typing something slowly and they said “we’ll be with you shortly.” I’m just here to see someone. I have an appointment. If they had just asked what I needed the person I was there to see could have been called. Now it makes it look like I was late to an appointment I cared very much about being on-time to. Whatever; 10 minutes later (yes, 10) I was escorted to a conference room. I sat down in a pretty dull room with three chairs at a table and one chair that literally faced a blank wall (I choose one that sat at the table) and noticed a very large pencil holder on the desk filled with a massive array of colors. Like literally any color pencil plus pens and highlighters. I kind of wish I had that selection in my own home sometimes. I thought to myself -what could be the purpose of all these colors? The universe has a sense of humor.

 

I met with our licensing agent and they explained two things. 1) In the detailed photos we’d sent I included one photo of pallets of wine we bought from a vineyard who had their stuff imported by another importer who went out of business and was fronting the warehouse bill themselves in NY. If we agreed to pay the freight we could potentially use that wine for demos on a new import of a new vintage. The ABC saw this and thought we’d illegally imported it. Crisis averted and I’m an idiot for taking a picture of that. 2) The floor layout diagram (Form 257 front if I recall) which had our floor plan needed to have squares drawn around which parts of the building were going to be used for beer production and which parts for wine wholesaling/importing. We’re not allowed to use the same space for more than one license type -the wine must be in a physically separated room from the beer business. And consequently that illustration needs to be colored on the diagram so management and the folks in Sacramento can clearly see that. DONEZO red and blue pencil’d! A nice conversation ensues after and our agent hopes we’ll have our license by labor day (its around August 16th currently).

 

Every night at 12:01am Adam refreshes the ABC license website, Status: Pending. Labor Day comes and goes, Pending. We take off for a week to the UK for a wedding and on Friday the 8th low and behold the status gets a new exception: Trade Enforcement. While this doesn’t sound good it actually is -our application finally made it to Sacramento. Monday the 11th our licensing rep drops us a note asking for a digital version of the color version I did in the office and said Sacramento had told them “within a week” we’d have our license.

 

It’s September 14th. Talk to you all next week :)

 

That was written September 14th, it’s October 3rd, stay tuned for the next installation of what happened in between.