As the white waves of the mighty Pacific Ocean splash onto the shore across the Pacific Coast Highway, James Shaft and his crew behind the bar hurries to keep up with the rush of customers on a warm Saturday afternoon in Huntington Beach.
A Pilsner goes here. An IPA goes there. A Coconut Porter. Another IPA.
“There’s 24 beers on tap, always,” Shaft says, pointing to the lighted menu above the row of taps. “We have a beer for anybody who comes in here.”
A few moments later, a man wearing a baseball cap, looking as if he’s just come from the beach, plants himself at the bar and surveys his options.
“What’ll it be?” Shaft asks him.
There isn’t an immediate response. When the customer finally brings his eyes from the menu, he answers, “You have like every beer known to man.”
Welcome to The Dudes Brewing Company.
Soon, Santa Clarita beer enthusiasts will have their chance to face off with The Dudes’ something-for-everybody menu when the emerging California brewing company opens its fourth location near The Cheesecake Factory at Valencia Town Center. The Dudes expects to welcome its first customers by the end of January, with a grand opening party scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 17.
Located in a revamped space at the corner of Town Center Drive, with an old English-style brick front, big windows, and communal and bar seating, The Dudes join a local brewery scene that includes Pocock Brewing Company, Wolf Creek Brewery and Brewery Draconum but that still seems too small for the size of the city.
“The area is thirsty for craft beers,” says Toby Humes, The Dudes’ founder and owner.
From traditional brews to its Juicebox Series featuring peach, pumpkin and orange to its soon-to-be released barrel-aged offerings infused with whiskey and other spirits, The Dudes is built to quench every thirst.
Want a kick? The Double Trunk, a 9.4-percent double IPA, has “mad hops” and is “definitely not for the timid (drinker),” according to The Dudes’ promotional material.
Looking for something easier? Go for the 4.5-percent Mexican Cerveza, the lightest of the company’s brews.
How about a unique taste? Try Grandma’s Pecan, a 6.2-percent brown ale that’s “chock-full of toasted pecans followed by a rich, full-bodied finish.”
The most challenging aspect of visiting The Dudes might just be picking a favorite. Even Humes, the man who launched the company in 2013, doesn’t have a straight answer.
“You love all your kids the same, right?” he says with a laugh.
After singling out three of The Dudes’ IPA offerings – The Double Trunk, the 6.9-percent CalifornIPA and the 5-percent Most Excellent – Humes quickly adds, “But, sometimes, I’m in the mood for a good, clean Pilsner, or a Mexican beer with a lime.”
And, dude! Beer will be joined by its best friend, pizza, at the brewery’s Santa Clarita location. It’ll be the first of The Dudes’ locations to make and sell pizza, though Humes says the idea was initially developed as part of the company’s plan to open in Hollywood.
The Dudes’ menu will include six primary pizzas, plus two specialty offerings, all crafted with Italian flour, a proprietary dough blend, fresh mozzarella and a scratch tomato sauce, Humes says. The company plans to pursue gluten-free and vegan options, too.
“The owners are gonna make the pizza as good as the beer,” promises Patrick Lugo, The Dudes’ vice president for marketing and advertising.
The company’s decision to add pizza was a no-brainer. At its existing locations – in Huntington Beach, Thousand Oaks and Torrance – The Dudes hasn’t prepared food but has always welcomed patrons to bring their own snacks or order delivery.
“We’ve seen a lot of pizza come in the door,” Humes says. “I mean, it’s pizza and beer. Even the Italians drink beer with their pizza!”
While Humes expects pizza to boost the company’s brand, it’s the beer – of course – that will lead The Dudes’ ambitious business strategy.
The Hollywood Boulevard location is scheduled to open in the spring, along with another location in Santa Monica, as The Dudes aims to double its production of 10,000 barrels a year ago.
To fuel such growth, Humes says the company will continue to use “beer as a canvas” to create new tastes in the brewing process and allow for regular changes to its lineup of beers at all locations.
“Beer drinkers want more. They want more flavors, more complexity,” he says. “Even our regulars ask us, ‘Whatcha you got new?”
Back in Huntington Beach, Shaft bounces from one customer to another, retreating every few moments to fetch another brew from the tap.
A Double Trunk goes to a blonde-haired woman at one end of the bar, a Schnitzengiggle to the man at the other end.
“It’s winter,” Shaft says later. “It’s supposed to be the slow season, but we’re not slow.”
There is, apparently, no offseason for good beer.
At a glance
What: The Dudes Brewing Company
Where: 24250 Town Center Dr., Ste. 190, Valencia
When: Planned opening by end of January. Regular business hours will be 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday.
On the web: www.thedudesbrew.com