Family-Run Left Coast Is the Only O.C. Brewery to Distill Spirits, Too

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Photo credit: Ralph Palumbo

 

Distilling in Orange County wasn’t the first priority at Left Coast Brewery, which was started by the family that owns Oggi’s Pizza. But Tommy Hadjis, son of the company’s founder, now makes several spirits.

Why did a brewery start making spirits?
During the recession, things had slowed, and my father asked if I would take charge of the brewery. We’d been talking about distilling. … We thought we could master both. It was about continuing to be creative.

How do you juggle ingredients for brewing and distilling?
We can use recipes for beers that we already make, adjust the alcohol, and take out the hops. Our grain comes pre-milled from the Pacific Northwest and Canada. We also get malt from Germany.

Which spirits does Left Coast make?
We make gin, vodka, and a Captain Morgan-style spiced rum; we recently bottled our first clear rum. The vodka and gin are made from corn. The rum is brown sugar—we produce the sugar water in the brewhouse. We’re in the process of making a single-malt whiskey. An agave spirit, tequila, is next on our list of things to play with.

What do you see for the future of Left Coast?
It’s more difficult to operate a distillery. If you’re small like we are, it’s fun. If you are trying to build a name, getting out to the market competing with the big boys … being huge is not in our immediate plans.

What’s the biggest difference between the brewery and distillery?
Hand-bottling. We’re filling every single bottle one by one through a funnel and hand-labeling. It’s not like a bottling line at the brewery. Everything is by hand, super crafty.

By The Numbers

Distillery Size
40 square feet (roughly)

Capacity
50 gallons per run

Yield Per Run
110 bottles

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