Our first stop on the Discover Torrance tour was to Red Car Brewery & Restaurant. It’s a sensory experience from the moment you enter the building (which has a story of its very own). Whether you are first attracted by the friendly and passionate nature of owners Bob and Laurie Brandt, the wood and leaded glass interiors, or just the experience of being inside a craft brewery, you will be taken with Red Car. And that’s even before you taste the unique brews or the scrumptious food.
I know what you are thinking, “But Patricia, you don’t drink beer.” It’s true. I’m not a beer drinker, but my partner in crime on this trip, Andy, does. And you know that he has thoughts!
The Brandts were early on the now “hopping” Torrance beer scene. In fact, when asked about the early days, Bob relayed that “everyone questioned our sanity at first.” But with substantial help from the City of Torrance in 2000, they were able to acquire the building and take on the renovations required to remake the 1928 Pacific Telephone and Telegraph building into their vision. As we discovered, the “building is one of the last remaining examples of Spanish Colonial architecture in [greater] L.A.” So staying true to the original structure was important to them. Renovations have kept the wood, exposed brick and arched windows, and they have aded a division between the brewery side and the restaurant with a combination of rustic and industrial pieces. The glass division between the two sides has the appearance of leaded glass, and it’s a lovely homage to an earlier age.
When we arrived, Bob Brandt, the master brewer, had just begun his 883rd batch. While he has 20 years experience at different places around the city, the inspiration initially came from a home brewing kit that was given to him after his undergrad years studying Mandarin. But the passion for brewing appears to be in his blood. All the beer served at Red Car is made on the premises. It’s a small batch brewery – approximately 220 gallons a go. And he experiments with seasonal and other flavors, like pumpkin (but using actual pumpkin, not flavoring) in the fall.
As you can see from their website, if you like English style brews, Red Car may be for you. The barley, wheat and hops are all English (though the hops are occasionally mixed with domestic hops for special mixes). We got a sneak peek at the mash, and it was actually pretty exciting to see how it all comes together.
And now Andy’s scoop on the five tastes we had:
It compares favorably to other light beers. It has more flavor than you would expect and more character, and it’s perfect for people who prefer light beers, or need a gentle introduction.
Pumpkin Ale (Available seasonally)
It’s not overwhelmingly sweet, as you might expect of a fruit beer, and they use real pumpkin – and you can tell. It’s a nice beer, and puts you into “fall” mode.
Big Red Ale
This was my favorite! It had notes of coffee and chocolate. It was dry, but had a pleasant effervescence.
South Bay IPA
This is Red Car’s biggest seller, and accounts for 50% of what they make. It’s very strong at about 9% alcohol with a hint of bitterness at its base. It’s flavorful with a lot of character, and I can see why it is popular.
South Loop Porter
It has similar notes as the Big Red, but it has more chocolate flavors. If you like Stout or Porters, it is as good as you can get – not as thick or syrupy as many others I’ve tried.
But our trip to Red Car did not stop there. We sat down to lunch in the now packed dining room, and really got a sense of the friendly, fun atmosphere that permeates the place. This is no small degree to the fact that it has a real community presence. Laurie Brandt explained that they make concerted efforts to get involved in charity events, festivals and other community building events – and not just one or two a year, but on a monthly basis. Watching Laurie greet customers by name and visiting tables, you really do see that their investment goes beyond business interests. It’s not just marketing, it’s a real passion for this duo.
On Laurie’s recommendation, we started with the fried pickles and big German pretzel. I have to give a special recommendation to the pretzel. It reminds me of the true German village pretzels I used to have growing up in the Mid-west, and as I write this I wish I had one right now.
Andy and I got the Motorman Bacon and Cheese burger. Truly a great burger! The food here is not an afterthought once they sell you beer – it’s quality cuisine that you would want to try even if you aren’t drinking. From the various salads and sandwiches we saw around the table, everyone was enjoying ample portions, and nothing but exclamations of appreciation were heard.
And, of course, there was apple dessert (paired with the Porter). Don’t resist. It’s well-worth the extra gym time.
If you are looking for a comfortable spot that is welcoming to drinkers and non-drinkers alike, this is a great option. You can choose to hang out and chat, or watch their big screen TVs that are placed around the room. Come in for a tasting and try a flight of their current handcrafted brews, or buy a growler of something that has already caught your fancy. And take a moment to chat with Laurie and Bob Brandt – their love for Red Car, and for the City of Torrance, may just inspire you to embark on your own new venture.
Red Car Brewery & Restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner (and later on Friday and Saturday nights) at 1266 Sartori Avenue, Torrance, California 90501.